This Week's Hot Reads

This week: a hardboiled female detective, a pop novelist’s return to form, a scathing indictment of Washington’s role in the financial crisis, a moving memoir of a grand English family, and a new way of looking at Anne Frank’s diary.

Hardballby Sara Paretsky

Gumshoe Warshawski delves into Chicago’s racially charged past.

Chicago detective V.I. Warshawski is back in Hardball, the 13th novel in Sara Paretsky’s acclaimed series. It’s been four years since Paretsky’s last book featuring the veteran detective, and here we find her looking back to the late 1960s to investigate a man’s disappearance. The evidence trail forces her to pay a reluctant visit to Johnny Merton, a notorious gang leader she once represented in court. Soon skeletons from the city’s racially charged past, as well as Warshawski’s own history, emerge. The New York Times’ Marilyn Stasio notes, “the thing about Sara Paretsky is, she’s tough—not because she observes the bone-breaker conventions of the private-eye genre but because she doesn’t flinch from examining old social injustices others might find too shameful (and too painful) to dig up.”

Juliet, Nakedby Nick Hornby

A new novel of classic Hornby themes: music, fame, and relationships.

From High Fidelity author Nick Hornby comes a new novel spanning two countries and multiple perspectives. Juliet, Naked chronicles the intersecting paths of a cult “Dylanesque” musician named Tucker Crowe, who hasn’t made music in 22 years; Duncan, a classic Hornby slacker and Crowe’s biggest fan; and Duncan’s girlfriend, Annie, whose lack of appreciation for Crowe leads to the end of her 15-year relationship with Duncan. A strange set of coincidences lead Crowe and Annie to meet online and develop an unexpected relationship. This series of endings and beginnings coincide with the release of an acoustic version of Crowe’s most famous album, Juliet, Naked. Writes Publishers Weekly, “Hornby returns to his roots—music, manic fandom, messy romance—in his funny and touching latest, dancing between three perspectives on fame…This is a must-read for Hornby’s fans, but it also works as a surprisingly thoughtful complement to the piles of musician bios and memoirs.”

It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Streetby Nomi Prins

A Wall Street veteran exposes the Washington players responsible for the financial crisis.

Nomi Prins quit her job as a managing director at Goldman Sachs to start writing investigative pieces for magazines, and now she puts her reporting skills to work exposing how the federal government is just as responsible for the financial crisis as the Wall Street investment banks. The “Federal Pillage Triumvirate”—Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Timothy Geithner—enabled the looting of the biggest part of the entire bailout and subsidization of the banking industry, a $10.7 trillion bounty, Prins writes. A few more frightening revelations: Banks are now paying back their sweetheart federal loans with better, low-profile federal loans; the government bailout is in the trillions, not billions; and instead of tightening the rules surrounding banks, the financial crisis has loosened them. John Nichols of The Nation writes, “[ It Takes a Pillage] has the best title and the best analysis of the meltdown and the raid on the Treasury that followed.” Prins combines her insider information with her journalistic muscle to give readers a vivid portrait of what went wrong and who should be held responsible.

The Music Room: A Memoirby William Fiennes

An Oxfordshire castle is the setting for this richly told memoir of family, history, and personal tragedy.

Known for his lush, prize-winning memoirs, William Fiennes now brings us the story of his own childhood in a moated castle that had been in his family for centuries. The setting is any child’s dream, but the family is haunted by the severe epilepsy of William’s charismatic older brother, Richard, a problem that grows darker over the course of the book, with the castle’s music room as the ultimate metaphor for the often conflicting needs of the family. Richard’s affliction leaves him by turns violent and captivating, and Fiennes’ sensitive writing chronicles the ways in which his family copes with the discord in a work The New Yorker calls “sublimely evocative.”

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Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlifeby Francine Prose

A closer look at the literary genius that lay behind Anne Frank’s book.

One of the most read books in history, The Diary of Anne Frank is rarely examined on its literary merits, but rather for its historical and biographical significance. Francine Prose, bestselling author of Reading Like a Writer, seeks to remedy this, and based on her experience as a writer and teacher, makes the case for Frank as a deliberate and sophisticated author. Few are aware of the extensive thought that Frank, and later her father, put into editing and revising the diary in the hope that it would reach the public one day. Prose’s fascinating new take on a seminal work is not just based on admiration for Frank’s writing but also on extensive research, and Publishers Weekly writes that Prose “lucidly collates material from a wide range of sources, and her work would be valuable as a teaching guide for middle school, high school and college students.”

Plus: Check out Book Beast for more news on hot titles and authors and excerpts from the latest books.