By Amy Virshup
Published in The New York Times: December 20, 2007
Anyone looking through publishers’ catalogs might be convinced that the book industry has dispensed with December, as many companies go straight from the blockbusters of November to the take-a-chance books of January. Still, a small group of authors (including a Nobel Prize winner and a couple of perennial best-seller writers) dare to hit the shelves this month. In a couple of cases the books listed below aren’t officially published until January, but they’ll be in the stores before the new year.
T IS FOR TRESPASS
By Sue Grafton
387 pages. A Marian Wood Book/G. P. Putnam’s Sons. $26.95.
By Nadine Gordimer
178 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $21.
In this slender volume of stories, history is the uninvited guest. Whether it is an aging white academic and former anti-apartheid activist searching for his relatives, who may be black, or a widow trying to fill in the blanks of her dead husband’s life, Nadine Gordimer’s characters are haunted by what has come before. As Frederick Morris notes to himself in the title story, “History’s never over; any more than biology, functioning within every being.” (Ms. Gordimer’s biology point is perhaps made in the book’s second tale, which is told by a tapeworm.) Ms. Gordimer won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991; this is her 11th volume of stories.
By Eric Weiner
329 pages. Twelve. $25.99.
Eric Weiner, a correspondent for National Public Radio, has spent most of his professional life (including several years at The New York Times) covering misery: war, natural disasters and the like. For this book, his first, Mr. Weiner tried something different — happiness. “With our words, we subconsciously conflate geography and happiness,” he writes in the introduction. “We speak of searching for happiness, of finding contentment, as if these were locations in an atlas, actual places that we could visit if only we had the proper map and the right navigational skills.” Mr. Weiner’s own navigational skills took him to places as far-flung as Qatar (living proof that money doesn’t buy happiness), Iceland and Bhutan in search of joy.
By Steve Berry
473 pages. Ballantine Books. $25.95.
By James Grippando
326 pages. Harper. $24.95.
After taking a break from his Jack Swyteck series, James Grippando returns with another tale featuring Swyteck, a defense lawyer in Miami, and his best friend, Theo Knight, a former gang member, falsely convicted death-row inmate and now owner of Sparky’s Tavern (“a true dive, but it was his dive,” as Theo thinks to himself). Theo’s life seems to be on track, until Isaac Reems, one of his former gang compatriots, shows up at Sparky’s, fresh out of prison. (“I put myself on the early-release plan,” he tells Theo in the course of robbing him.) But who is going to believe that Theo had nothing to do with the jailbreak? Certainly not Andie Henning, the F.B.I. agent who just happens to be Jack’s former girlfriend. Both Mr. Grippando and Cornelia Read are members of the Naked Authors blog group.