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Spring Books 2004

Spring Books 2004

OUR LIST OF 101 books we're most looking forward to reading this spring and summer is heavy on the big-picture topics. In years past, the spring and summer phase of the publishing cycle meant lighter fare, but this is an election year. Writers are pondering issues of politics, the environment and economics, and even the matter of deities, and which (if any) reign supreme. But there's lots of fiction to choose from, and an ever-growing list of local authors worth dipping into.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for books in the children's and young adults' categories to get you through the summer, look for recommendations in an upcoming issue of The Seattle Times' Family section.

Herewith, the list for spring and summer:

Nonfiction | Literary fiction | Popular fiction


Book jacket MARCH

"The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness" by Karen Armstrong (Knopf). Armstrong, a widely praised writer on Islam and world religions, tells the story of her descent into despair after she quit a life as a Roman Catholic nun, and how her study of the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam set her on a new spiritual path.

"Peninsula of Lies: A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love" by Edward Ball (Simon & Schuster). Ball, author of the National Book Award-winning "Slaves in the Family," tells the story of a mansion-owning Brit-turned-South Carolinian who scandalized Charleston by first changing his sex, then marrying an African-American man.

"A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond" by William Calvin (Oxford University Press). Calvin, a University of Washington neurobiologist, takes readers on a tour of the history of the human mind and speculates where it will go from this time forward.

"The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why" by Dalton Conley (Pantheon). How birth order shapes the fate of siblings.

Book jacket "Mary: A Flesh-And-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother" by Lesley Hazleton (Bloomsbury). Seattle author Hazleton looks behind the image to portray Mary in her many facets, looking for clues from anthropology, history, theology and her own empathy to complete the portrait.

"Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment, a Citizen's Agenda for Action" by James Gustave Speth (Yale University Press). A Yale professor and dean warns that our efforts to save the environment are not succeeding and offers "viable" strategies for dealing with worldwide environmental threats.

"Light This Candle: The Life and Times of Alan Shepard — America's First Spaceman" by Neal Thompson (Crown). Billed as the first biography of America's first man in space. In April: "One Giant Leap" by Leon Wagener (Forge) looks at the life of Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon.


"I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick" by Emmanuel Carrère, translated by Timothy Bent (Metropolitan). The life of the cult science-fiction writer ("Total Recall," "Minority Report") is examined by a French writer ("The Mustache," "Class Trip") who's got a bit of a cult reputation himself.

"Alexandra Hamilton" by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press). A biography of the brilliant American who rose from an illegitimate birth to a key role in founding the nation to his death from a duel with Aaron Burr. Chernow won the National Book Award for his book "The House of Morgan."

"Before Lewis and Clark: The French Dynasty That Ruled America's Frontier" by Shirley Christian (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The little-known story of the Chouteau family, which dominated French America before the Lewis and Clark expedition, and for decades after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Book jacket "Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism" by Paul Collins (Bloomsbury). Collins, a gifted Portland author ("Banvard's Folly," "Sixpence House"), writes about his son's autism, as well as the history and etiology of the condition.

Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush" by John W. Dean (Little, Brown). Yes, that John Dean, the former counsel to President Nixon, who makes a case that "the Bush team's obsession with secrecy and their willingness to deceive make them even more dangerous than Nixon's men."

"Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief: The Astonishing True Story of a High-Society Cat Burglar" by Bill Mason with Lee Gruenfeld (Villard). During a 30-year career, Mason reportedly stole more than $35 million in jewels from Robert Goulet, Armand Hammer, Phyllis Diller and others. Beach book!

"Long Life: Essays and Other Writings" by Mary Oliver (Da Capo). A new collection of 17 essays and 10 poems by the prize-winning poet. Oliver's "New and Selected Poems, Vol. II" (Beacon Press) will also be published in April.

"A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier: Explorer, Naturalist and Buccaneer" by Diana and Michael Preston (Walker & Co.). The story of a little-known Englishman who spent his youth as a buccaneer and ultimately sailed three times around the world, reaching Australia 80 years before Captain Cook. Diana Preston is the author of "Lusitania."

The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions" by Randall Sullivan (Atlantic Monthly Press). Readers of David Guterson's novel "Our Lady of the Forest" may be interested in this real-life effort by an investigative journalist to both look into Marian apparitions and write about the theologians, historians and postulators who investigate them for the Vatican.

"Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants" by Robert Sullivan (Bloomsbury). Ugh. Well, if anyone can write about rats and make us care, Sullivan, author of "The Meadowlands" and "A Whale Hunt," can.

"House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Most Powerful Dynasties" by Craig Unger (Scribner). Tracks the relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi elite since the 1970s and through 9/11.


"Life in the Middle Ages: A Survivor's Tale" by James Atlas (HarperCollins). The biographer of Delmore Schwartz and Saul Bellow addresses the challenges of middle age, including "the dwindling of possibilities, and the gap between our aspirations and reality."

"A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies" by James Bamford (Doubleday). Bamford, one of the country's best-sourced writers on the intelligence community ("The Puzzle Palace," "Body of Secrets"), attempts to explain why American intelligence agencies failed to predict 9/11, and "lays bare the Bush administration's role in formulating specious justifications for the pre-emptive war on Iraq."

"Status Anxiety" by Alain de Botton (Pantheon). De Botton ("The Art of Travel," "How Proust Can Change Your Life") puts his eclectic learning to use once again in this survey of our yearning for status in society and our fear of its opposite.

"Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier" by Alexander Fuller (Penguin Press). The author of the terrific memoir "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" travels with a white African veteran of the Rhodesian war through former battlegrounds as he tries to come to terms with the sins of wartime.

Book jacket "Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship That Saved Two POWs in Vietnam" by James S. Hirsch (Houghton Mifflin). Hirsch, author of "Hurricane" and "Riot and Remembrance," tells the story of two American soldiers in a Vietnamese POW camp, one black, one from a privileged Southern background, who defy their captors' expectations and forge a friendship that helps them survive.

"The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime" by William Langewiesche (North Point). The author of the controversial "American Ground," about the cleanup of Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, examines the hazards of the sea, including rough weather, piracy and "the new stateless terrorism."

"Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals" by Thomas Moore (Gotham). Advice from the author of "Care of the Soul" on how to get through the hard times.

"Truth & Beauty" by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins). The author of "Bel Canto" writes her first nonfiction book, about her long friendship with writer Lucy Grealy ("Autobiography of a Face") who committed suicide in 2002.

"Acquainted with the Night: A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children" by Paul Raeburn (Broadway). A former writer and editor at Newsweek recounts his struggle to help both his children cope with and treat their mental illness.

Book jacket "Body Politic: The Great American Sports Machine" by David Shields (Simon & Schuster). The Seattle writer ("Black Planet") argues that "it is now basketball players, and not rock stars, who are the theme-carriers of our culture."

"A Year at the Races: Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money, and Luck" by Jane Smiley (Knopf). The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist ("A Thousand Acres") reflects on subjects — horses, love and money risks — that have obsessed her from her first novel ("Barn Blind") to her latest ("Good Faith").


"On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense" by David Brooks (Simon & Schuster). Brooks, author of "Bobos in Paradise," argues that Americans are driven by their sense of future possibility — while other cultures view us as money-hungry and uptight, we're actually striving toward "the fulfillment of our dreams."

"After the Fire" by J.A. Jance (University of Arizona Press). The Seattle mystery writer pens a memoir about her marriage to an alcoholic, and how she got through it and moved on.

"The Amber Room: Uncovering the Fate of the World's Greatest Lost Art Treasure" by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark (Walker & Co.). Two British journalists investigate the mysterious story of the Amber Room, an amber-paneled room in a St. Petersburg palace that was stripped and looted during the Nazi invasion, then vanished.

"Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut" by James Marcus (New Press). The essayist-critic recalls his five years (1996-2001) as senior editor at, where he had a ringside seat to the company's manic growth and surreal increase in paper-worth.

Book jacket "The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World" by Alistair McGrath (Doubleday). A look at "the decline of disbelief and a rise in religious devotion" by a professor of historical theology at Oxford.

"The Right Nation: How Conservatism Won" by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (Penguin Press). An editor and a writer for the Economist magazine look at America's drift rightward and analyze its leaders and centers of power.

"Somewhere in America: Under the Radar with Chicken Warriors, Left-Wing Patriots, Angry Nudists, and Others" by Mark Singer (Houghton Mifflin). The New Yorker staff writer whose profiles are always a pleasure takes a look at "the cultural and human kaleidoscope" that is the 21st-century USA.

"Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" by David Sedaris (Little, Brown). New essays by the humorist/memoirist ("Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Naked").

Book jacket "Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories" by Chuck Palahniuk (Doubleday). The author of "Fight Club" examines the worlds of submariners, college wrestlers, "iron-pumping anabolic-steroid gobblers" and others. He also writes about his father's murder and the subsequent trial.

"Microsoft Rebooted: How Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer Reinvented Their Company" by Robert Slater (Portfolio/Penguin Putnam). A Time magazine reporter takes a look at our local software giant's recent history.

"The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea" by Barbara Sjoholm (Seal). The Seattle novelist-memoirist ("Blue Windows") recounts the tale of the 16th-century pirate queen who commanded 200 men, including a few husbands, as well as other women who roamed the seas.


"All Fishermen Are Liars: True Tales from the Dry Dock Bar" by Linda Greenlaw (Hyperion). The author of the best-selling "The Hungry Ocean" tells tales of her fellow fisher persons.

"Colette" by Julia Kristeva, translated by Jane Marie Todd (Columbia University Press). A biography of the woman "who made it possible for women to write erotic literature."


Book jacket "Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance" by Deborah Jowitt (Simon & Schuster). A new biography of the dance pioneer, by an author, dancer and choreographer who was granted unrestricted access to an archive of Robbins' personal and professional papers.

"Blue Upright: The Flies of a Lifetime" by Steve Raymond (Lyons Press). Fly-fishing tips and memories by the former Seattle Times editor, now living on Whidbey Island.

"Borges: A Life" by Edwin Williamson (Viking). An Oxford University professor and author ("Penguin History of Latin America") writes a new life of the great Argentinian experimental writer, billed by the publisher as "the first biography in any language to encompass the entire span of Jorge Borges' life and work."

Nonfiction | Literary fiction | Popular fiction

Literary fiction


"Little Children" by Tom Perrotta (St. Martin's). The satirist of high-school and college life ("Election," "Joe College") tries his hand at adult affairs in this novel about young parents meeting and misbehaving in modern suburbia.

"Aloft" by Chang-Rae Lee (Riverhead). The highly praised Korean-American writer ("Native Speaker") writes a novel about a wealthy Long Island man who escapes his family troubles by flying his small plane.


"Distant Land: The Collected Stories of Wendell Berry" (Shoemaker & Hoard). The Kentucky writer's tales about Port William — his answer to William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County — are gathered in one volume with a map and genealogy of the stories' chief characters.

"Links" by Nuruddin Farah (Putnam). The prize-winning Somalian writer's new novel is about a Somalian exile who returns to his country for the first time in 20 years, shortly after U.S. troops pull out of Mogadishu.

"The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler (Putnam). In her new novel, the sublimely witty and unpredictable writer ("Sarah Canary," "Sister Noon") depicts a small circle of friends drawn together by a love of Jane Austen.

Book jacket MAY

"Reading Seattle: The City in Prose," edited by Peter Donahue and John Trombold (University of Washington Press). An anthology of writings about our city, featuring both fiction and nonfiction, and including Sherman Alexie, Michael Byers, Thom Jones, Mary McCarthy, Lydia Minatoya and Jonathan Raban among its contributors.

"Little Black Book of Stories" by A.S. Byatt (Knopf). Five long tales described by the publisher as "haunting, funny, sparkling and scary." By the author of "Possession."

"Sweet Land Stories" by E.L. Doctorow (Random House). Short fiction — spanning the whole American continent in setting — by the award-winning author of "Ragtime" and "Billy Bathgate."

"True North" by Jim Harrison (Atlantic Monthly Press). Harrison writes a novel set in his native state, about a son who tries to come to terms with his "forefather's rapacious destruction of the woods of Michigan."

Book jacket "Eventide" by Kent Haruf (Knopf). The National Book Award nominee ("Plainsong") returns to the high plains of Colorado with a new novel about small-town inhabitants confronting "events that sorely test their resilience."

"The Body of Jonah Boyd" by David Leavitt (Bloomsbury). The gay writer's latest novel is set during the late 1960s and focuses on an academic family coping with the pressures of the times.

"Folly and Glory" by Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster). The closing volume in McMurtry's "Berrybender Narratives," about a rich, aristocratic English family's trials and adventures in the Old West.


"My Nine Lives: Chapters of a Possible Past" by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (Shoemaker & Hoard). The noted novelist ("Heat and Dust") and screenplay-writer for Merchant-Ivory Productions publishes her first new novel in nine years: a collage of autobiographical vignettes alternating between fact and "invented memories."

Book jacket "The Tyrant's Novel" by Thomas Keneally (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday). The Man Booker Prize-winning author ("Schindler's List") takes a futuristic turn in this novel-within-a-novel, in which a political detainee — "born in a country that was once a friend to the United States but is now its enemy" — starts telling his story to a visitor at the detention camp.

"Resistance" by Barry Lopez (Knopf). Nine fictional testimonies by men and women who have resisted the mainstream, punctuated with images by artist Alan Magee.

"The Master" by Colm Tóibín (Scribner). The Irish writer, also one of the best gay writers around ("The Blackwater Lightship," "The Story of the Night"), draws a fictional portrait of author Henry James.


"Four Souls" by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins). Erdrich tells the story of a young Native American woman who travels from North Dakota to Minneapolis to avenge her family's loss of land to a white man. Complications ensue.

Book jacket "An Unfinished Season" by Ward Just (Houghton Mifflin). Just sets his latest novel in 1950s Chicago, where a young journalist finds himself juggling class issues, tensions at home and love on the debutante circuit.

"Passionate Spectator" by Eric Kraft (St. Martin's). One of our most inventive comic writers continues the adventures of Peter Leroy, who's now just barely getting by in Manhattan and wondering if his new business — "Memoirs While You Wait" — will pull him out of his hole.

"Collected Stories" by Isaac Bashevis Singer with various translators (Library of America). A massive undertaking: three volumes of the Yiddish-American writer's short fiction (2,547 pages total). LOA will offer them both separately and in a box set, which includes "Isaac Bashevis Singer: An Album," a 200-page illustrated biography of the writer.


"Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards" by Robert Olen Butler (Atlantic Monthly). Pulitzer Prize-winner Butler ("A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain") parlays his longtime hobby — collecting early-20th-century postcards — into a new collection of short stories.

"Lost Souls" by Michael Collins (Viking). The Man Booker Prize-nominated Irish writer ("The Keepers of Truth") takes the hit-and-run death of a 3-year-old child on Halloween as the starting point of his new novel. Collins lives in Bellingham.

"The Tree Bride" by Bharati Mukherjee (Theia). The National Book Critics Circle Award winner ("The Middleman and Other Stories") writes the second novel in her prospective trilogy (after "Desirable Daughters"), split in setting between modern America and historical India.

Nonfiction | Literary fiction | Popular fiction

Popular fiction


"Hadrian's Wall" by William Dietrich (Morrow). The Pacific Northwest magazine writer's novel is the story of Valeria, the daughter of a Roman senator who is sent north to Britain for an arranged marriage, accompanied by her husband-to-be's worst enemy. Meanwhile, a handsome barbarian chieftain lurks in the margins.

"Can You Keep a Secret?" by Sophie Kinsella (Dial). The British author of the "Shopaholic" trilogy changes pace with a comic tale about a businesswoman who confesses all her secrets to the handsome passenger next to her during a terrifyingly turbulent flight — and then survives to realize he's her CEO.

"Hard Revolution" by George P. Pelecanos (Houghton Mifflin). Two brothers — one a rookie police officer, the other a recently returned Vietnam veteran — get ensnarled in the riots that ravaged Washington, D.C., in 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.


"The Art of Mending" by Elizabeth Berg (Random House). A novel about "unearthed family secrets" by the author of "Open House" and "Talk Before Sleep."

"The Body of David Hayes" by Ridley Pearson (Hyperion). Pearson's latest thriller concerns an adulterous embezzler/blackmailer with ties to the Russian mob.

"The Full Cupboard of Life" by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon). A new Precious Ramotswe novel, in which the Botswanan proprietress of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency investigates the characters of a wealthy woman's suitors — and tries to find out from her own fiancé when the wedding is ever going to take place.

"Moonrise" by Mitchell Smith (Forge). The Lynden writer delivers the concluding volume in his "Snowfall Trilogy," depicting "a clash of technology and culture in a near future when Earth is suffering from a lingering Ice Age."

"The Confusion: Volume Two of the Baroque Cycle" by Neal Stephenson (Morrow). Barbary pirate slaves, the beautiful Eliza (mother and spy) and an ever-swelling cast of characters populate the 816-page second installment of Seattle author and cyber-egghead Stephenson's trilogy (first installment: "Quicksilver").

"The Zenith Angle" by Bruce Sterling (Del Rey). Speculative fiction writer and essayist Sterling ("Tomorrow Now") uses Sept. 11, 2001, to frame this novel about a cyber-security expert who's trying to fend off an attack on a top-secret U.S. satellite.

Book jacket "Brother and Sister" by Joanna Trollope (Bloomsbury). In her new novel, the English writer ("Marrying the Mistress") portrays two adopted children, raised by the same family, who as adults join forces in tracking down their birth mothers.

"Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart" by Alice Walker (Random House). A novel about a wandering, much-married author who leaves her lover to embark on "a quest for self" involving celibates, lovers, shamans, snakes and memories of family discord.


"The Narrows" by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown). Detective Harry Bosch is back — and confronting "the most terrifying killer he's ever known."

"The Child Goddess" by Louise Marley (Ace Hardcover). The Redmond-based author of "The Maquisarde" writes the tale of a little girl, discovered on a thought-to-be-barren planet, who does not seem to age, and a priest-anthropologist who tries to prevent her exploitation.

"The Paid Companion" by Amanda Quick (Putnam). A new romance by the prolific, pseudonymous Quick (Seattle writer Jayne Ann Krentz) about a wealthy English aristocrat in need of a "false fiancée" to keep husband-hunting gold-diggers at bay while he goes about his business.


"Dead Lines" by Greg Bear (Ballantine). The Seattle author writes a futuristic ghost story in which a newly discovered wireless bandwidth "may well be the pathway to wherever the living go after they die."

Book jacket "In the Moon of Red Ponies" by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster). Burke character Billy Bob Holland confronts Wyatt Dixon, a remorseless killer who was sent to prison by Holland but is freed on a technicality.

"Ten Big Ones" by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin's). A new Stephanie Plum mystery in which she's living with a vice cop, partnered with an ex-hooker and coping with a boozing mom and "swinging senior" grandmother.

"The Things We Do For Love" by Kristin Hannah (Ballantine). A new novel by the Bainbridge Island writer, about a friendship between a divorcée who's helping her aging mother run a family restaurant and a teenage girl who comes looking for work there.

"A Good Year" by Peter Mayle (Knopf). Mayle's setting, as usual, is Provence, in this novel about a down-on-his-luck financier who decides to inspect the vineyard his uncle left him.


"Red Tide" by G.M. Ford (Morrow). Frank Corso, the renegade Seattle journalist created by Seattle author Ford, tries to prevent a "horrifying act of mass destruction from annihilating his city."

Book jacket "Skinny Dip" by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf). Hiaasen's latest romp is about a greedy, murderous and utterly inept . . . marine scientist? Yes, marine scientist.

"Iron Council" by China Miéville (Del Rey). Miéville introduces a new set of characters to New Crobuzon, the phantasmagoric city where his earlier novel, "Perdido Street Station," was set.

"Little Scarlet" by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown). A new Easy Rawlins novel, set during the 1965 Watts riots.


"Pyro" by Earl Emerson (Ballantine). The North Bend writer's latest thriller finds Seattle firefighter Lt. Paul Wolff tracking down an arsonist who's lighting fires all over the city.

"Dune: The Battle of Corrin" by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (Tor). The final installment of the trilogy by authors Herbert and Anderson. Brian Herbert of Bainbridge Island is the son of the late Frank Herbert, and the authors have crafted the trilogy as a prequel to his father's science-fiction classic, "Dune."

"Day of the Dead" by J.A. Jance (Morrow). A retired sheriff in Arizona investigates a very cold case that converges with another case he botched as a young officer.

"The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah" by Stephen King (Scribner). The penultimate volume in King's marathon fantasy epic.

"The Good Diamond" by Skye Kathleen Moody (St. Martin's Minotaur). United States Fish and Wildlife Agent Venus Diamond tracks a stolen gem across Canada and the U.S., in the Seattle author's latest whodunit.

Mary Ann Gwinn is The Seattle Times book editor. Michael Upchurch is the Times book critic. Michelle Kumata is a Seattle Times news artist.

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