Harry Potter and 'Deep Throat'
This year's summer reading will be magical and mysterious
By Todd Leopold
(CNN) -- This summer, we're off to see the wizard -- and "Deep Throat," Walt Whitman, John Irving, a few vampires, some sharks and an unhappy San Francisco family.
Yes, summer days are almost here again (by the marketing calendar, they began last month), and with that long-lasting light comes a longing for page turners, thick biographies and plain old good reads. This summer, there will be plenty of books that fit the bill.
The most anticipated of the bunch arrives July 16 with the sixth book in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."
As usual when it comes to J.K. Rowling's teenage wizard, plot hints are few and rumors are many. Rowling has revealed three chapter titles -- "Spinners End" (Chapter 2), "Draco's Detour" (Chapter 6) and "Felix Felicis" (Chapter 14) -- and has long said that the books will get deadlier as Harry grows up at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
But here are a few things you can bank on: Harry is another year older, his life gets more complicated, Voldemort draws closer and the tale is a little darker.
Another thing you can bank on is, well, the bank. Scholastic, Rowling's American publisher, is issuing a first printing of 10.8 million copies, by far a record. By comparison, the last Harry Potter novel, 2003's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," was issued with 8.5 million copies, the average John Grisham novel earns a 2 million-book pressing, and Bill Clinton's "My Life" -- a best seller last year -- received a first run of 1.5 million copies.
Scholastic probably won't have to worry about many returns, however. "Phoenix" sold more than 12 million copies, and "Half-Blood Prince" has been No. 1 on Amazon.com's sales list since the book was announced several months ago.
If you're looking for something with teeth, several new books have earned early plaudits -- including two that bite hard.
"The Historian" (Little, Brown), the debut novel by Elizabeth Kostova, concerns a teenage American girl who stumbles on an old book in her father's library. The book, it turns out, is somehow connected to the infamous Dracula who terrorized Europe in Bram Stoker's classic novel. Except Dracula appears to be real, and the girl and her father have a link to the old ghoul. Kostova earned a hefty advance from the publisher and a large sum for movie rights, but so far reviews have said the book lives up to the hype.
Dracula, however, has nothing on the great white shark. Susan Casey went in search of the vicious sea creatures in one of their native habitats, a string of wind-whipped rock outcroppings called the Farallon Islands, about 25 miles west of San Francisco. (Indeed, the islands are considered within the city limits, though good luck ordering a pizza there.) In her book "The Devil's Teeth" (Henry Holt), Casey offers the story of her travels among the sharks, offering sharp prose and pointed observations about her fishy fellows.
Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel, "The Historian," has earned rave reviews for its spin on the Dracula tale.
Elmore Leonard's new novel, "The Hot Kid" (Morrow), is set in the 1930s and features Leonard's typical thrilling-brisk dialogue and a plot about a young lawman in pursuit of a hardened criminal. An Associated Press reviewer called it Leonard's finest book, which is saying something, given that this is the old master's 40th novel.
Both Lisa Scottoline and Michael Connelly have made names with their crime series. In Scottoline's newest, "Devil's Corner" (HarperCollins), prosecutor Vicki Allegretti goes in search of a killer and then finds out that a series of murders in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood may be related. In Connelly's latest Harry Bosch novel, "The Closers" (Little, Brown), his Los Angeles detective hero attempts to solve a cold case.
Real-life mysteries can grab as much attention as fictional stories, and the mystery of "Deep Throat" -- recently revealed to be former FBI No. 2 Mark Felt -- will get a book-length treatment by one of Throat's secret-keepers, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. According to the June 13 issue of Newsweek, Woodward's book on Watergate and Throat -- whose title was not revealed -- will be published in July. The magazine reports Woodward's book has been "in the works for months."
The summer of 2005 also features a number of so-called "literary" novels, works with aspirations above beach read.
The most prominent of the bunch is John Irving's "Until I Find You" (Random House), an 848-page doorstop due in mid-July, mere days before the 672-page Potter. In Irving's latest, the actor Jack Burns -- a child abandoned by his father -- grows up through relationships with older women and a Hollywood career, with the memories of his childhood never fading.
Other standouts include:
Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down" (Riverhead), about four people who converge at the same place to commit suicide;Michael Cunningham's "Specimen Days" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which takes place in three distinct eras, features three metamorphosing characters and is imbued with the spirit of poet Walt Whitman;Umberto Eco's "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" (Harcourt), in which an amnesiac book dealer only recalls what he has read, and attempts to reconstruct his life through immersing himself in memorabilia in his old family home;Melissa Bank's "The Wonder Spot" (Viking), a coming-of-age first novel by the author of the story collection "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing";And the short story collection "Follies" (Scribner), a new compilation of stories by Ann Beattie, the author of "Chilly Scenes of Winter."
"A Long Way Down" concerns four people who have to come to terms with their lives.
A handful of memoirs, histories and biographies also have gotten a good jump on summer.
Perhaps the most talked-about is Sean Wilsey's "Oh the Glory of It All," in which the author details his wealthy San Francisco upbringing, which was torn apart by an ugly divorce and -- if we're to believe Wilsey -- an even uglier stepmother. The book has earned raves for Wilsey's writing, as hard, pure and painful as a jewel in a shoe.
Also earning plaudits are David McCullough's story of the American Revolution, "1776" (Random House); Orhan Pamuk's elegant memoir-history of his native city, "Istanbul: Memories and the City" (Knopf); "Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer" by Scott Eyman (Simon & Schuster); James Frey's "My Friend Leonard" (Riverhead), his follow-up to "A Million Little Pieces"; and "The Perfectionist" (Gotham), Rudolph Chelminski's true story about a brilliant French chef who killed himself trying to keep up with the best of his profession.
Finally, two graphic novels deserve note. Daniel Clowes' "Ice Haven" (Pantheon) is an interrelated series of comic strips, deftly tying life in a plain and strange town with the exploits of 1920s murderers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. (Leopold, incidentally, is no relation to the writer of this article.) And "The Acme Novelty Library" (Pantheon) is a collection of the ever-precise, ever-wonderful Chris Ware's work from the "Acme Novelty Library" periodicals.
Ware's work, incidentally, doesn't come out until September 20, as summer turns to fall. But what better reason to make the season last a little bit longer?