NEW YORK – The hot books this summer are as varied as the shades of the sea, but book sellers agree that Nicole Krauss' "The History of Love" is at the top of the sand pile — after "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (search)," that is.
Written from the perspective of an aging Jewish man, "The History of Love (search)" (W.W. Norton & Company) also involves the misadventures of a 14-year-old girl named Alma Singer. It is being lauded by authors and booksellers alike as witty and original, with all the page-turning elements of a good summer beach read. "Love" is the second novel for Krauss, wife of author Jonathan Safran Foer.
"'History of Love' is going to be very popular, because of the characters and the oddness of the setup," said Sessalee Hensley, fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble. "It's good, solid writing that you can just devour."
Of course, the runaway hit of the summer will undoubtedly be "Harry Potter," which comes out in July. Scholastic, Inc., the U.S. publisher of J.K. Rowling's (search) fantasy series, has announced a first printing of 10.8 million copies of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the largest such printing for a hardcover release in this country. The previous record holder was "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which came out in 2003 with a first run of 6.8 million.
"Summer is our best selling period. We get three solid months of sales and with a 'Potter' book coming out it, figures will be really great," Hensley said.
Another beach bag must is by first-time author, Elizabeth Kostova, called "The Historian." The story is about a young girl who discovers her father's dark secret and sets out to find him in Europe when he goes missing. Publisher Little, Brown and Company, of course, is hoping the book will replicate the success of another tale about a quest, "The Da Vinci Code (search)" (Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group), by Dan Brown.
"It's that same wonderful blend of history and real thrills," Sophie Cottrell, assistant publisher at Little, Brown, said of Kostova's book. "People are going to fall in love with this novel this summer. It delivers a fantastic read."
"The Da Vinci Code," published in 2003, has sold more than 17 million copies around the world and has been translated into 44 languages. It continues to be on lists of best sellers, and Doubleday has not set a date for a paperback release since the more expensive hardback is selling so well.
"Da Vinci Code" editor Jason Kaufman is taking a chance on first-time novelist John Twelve Hawks and his book, "The Traveler," said to be a hybrid of the "Matrix" and "Lara Croft" films. But the novel may become equally as popular because of the mystery surrounding the author. Hawks is a recluse who lives "off the grid," communicates with his editor using a voice scrambler and refuses all interviews and will not be photographed.
As usual, the masters of mystery, suspense, thrills and crime have some fast-paced pages for summer readers, from Michael Connelly's "The Closers" to Elmore Leonard's "The Hot Kid" to "Harry Potter."
"People love mysteries," said Margaret Maupin, a book buyer for The Tattered Cover, an independent book seller in Denver. "They are good to take on vacation, or relax with on a hammock in the back yard."
Prolific thriller writer James Patterson is publishing two books this summer, "4th of July," part of his series about a women's murder club, a group of professional San Francisco women who solve crimes, and "Lifeguard." Both are from Little, Brown, as is "The Closers, the latest from best-selling crime author Michael Connelly. His hallmark character, Harry Bosch, is back in Los Angeles, working on the unsolved murder of a 16-year-old.
"Everybody likes to give themselves a break, even if it's a guilty pleasure," Hensley said. "You may appear to be reading Umberto Ecco, but you'll sneak and have James Patterson inside the cover."
"The Inside Ring" (Doubleday), by Michael Lawson, is a mystery set in the White House. "Third Secret" (Ballantine Books), by Steve Barry, concerns the election of a new pope, and "Double Cross Blind" (Doubleday), a debut novel by Joel N. Ross, is a spy novel set during World War II.
Literary staples John Irving and Isabel Allende both have novels out this summer. Irving's "Until I Find You" (Random House) is about an actor named Jack Burns. Allende has fashioned another historical fiction work, this time called "Zorro" (HarperCollins), about the legendary swordsman. Adriana Trigiani continues to move away from Big Stone Gap with her latest novel, "Rococo" (Random House). Melissa Bank, author of "Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing," has written "The Wonder Spot" (Viking Adult), centered on a sardonic, self-deprecating woman.
"This book is every bit as good as 'Hunting and Fishing' and it really touches your heart," Hensley said of Bank's work. "You really have to try not to cry, you are that moved."
For those who prefer Brit-Lit with their sunscreen, Nick Hornby, author of "About a Boy" and "High Fidelity," has "A Long Way Down," (Riverhead), about four people who come together on New Year's Eve at a London bar famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. Tilly Bagshawe's "Adored" (Warner Books) centers on the formidable Siena McMahon, who yearns to be a star.
"Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk has "Haunted" (Doubleday), which charts the trials of a group of aspiring writers brought together for a three-month writer's retreat in an abandoned theater.
In nonfiction, booksellers recommend David McCullough's "1776," the story of those who marched with George Washington the year of the Declaration of Independence. The book was based on both American and British archives.
"109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret Society of Los Alamos" (Simon & Schuster), by Jennet Conant, is about the team that built the first atomic bomb. "Moneyball" author Michael Lewis wrote "Coach: Lessons on the Game of Live" (W.W. Norton), about coaching little league — and about the important values in life.
Sylvester Stallone has written "Sly Moves" (HarperResource), the "Rocky" actor's guide to staying fit. Other celebrity reads include "Elvis by the Presleys" (Crown), written by Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley and other surviving members of the singer's family; Nicole Richie's "Rock & Royalty" (Regan Books), about her life as a pop culture princess; Brooke Shields' opus on portpartum depression, "Down Came the Rain" (Hyperion); and Goldie Hawn's memoirs, "A Lotus Grows in the Mud" (Putnam Adult).
"Goldie Hawn is one of the few comic actresses with an Oscar, her career started when she was just a child, she has a life story worth talking about," said Edward Ash-Milby a nonfiction buyer for Barnes & Noble.
Booksellers have hopes that Jane Fonda's "My Life So Far" (Random House), and Bob Dole's "One Soldier's Story: A Memoir" (HarperCollins), both out in April, will continue to sell.
Meanwhile, as Peter Benchley's "Jaws" did decades ago, journalist Susan Casey's "Devil's Teeth" (Henry Holt & Co.), about great white sharks, is guaranteed to scare people right out of the water.
"What's a summer without sharks?" quipped Ash-Milby. "If they're not in the news, at least we can read about them."
And "Everything Bad Is Good for You" (Riverhead), by Steven Johnson, about how pop culture is making the world smarter, will likely give some an excuse to stay inside with their TVs.
In paperback, Random House is publishing the new "Star Wars" book, "Revenge of the Sith," by Matthew Stover, in time for the release of the new George Lucas film. The popular "Shadowdivers," about finding a submarine, is being released in paperback, as well as "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams.
"There are some people who will never read light in the summer, you can count on it," said Carol Schneider, a Random House vice president. "They will read their 'War and Peace' even at the beach, so you have to accommodate everyone. There must be the right mix of heavy, serious literature and fun, fluffy stuff."