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Read These
We’re ink-stained after this review of new books but not feeling wretched.

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Say hello to the new Dan Brown? Two years ago, Joel Dicker, a 28-year-old Swiss, penned The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (Penguin, May 2014), a thriller (en Francais) that overtook Brown’s Inferno on the best-seller lists in Europe. Now, the anticipated English translation is out, and the roguish author is scheduled to read at Boswell Book Company on June 3. 

Stateside, nobody does French pastries like Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s The French Pastry School. A mentor to young chefs, including Milwaukee’s Kurt Fogle, Pfeiffer swung through town in late 2013 to promote his très elegant The Art of French Pastry (Knopf, Dec. 2013) and ooze French gentility at Wauwatosa’s Le Rêve Patisserie & Café. Serious readers should invest in a good kitchen scale to follow the guides illustrated herein, such as introductions to making Paris-Brest and other confections.

By virtue of winning a Caldecott Honor for Color Zoo in 1990, Lois Ehlert, a Beaver Dam native, finds her works in bookstores alongside such titles as Goodnight Moon. Her latest, The Scraps Book (Simon & Schuster, March 2014), contains the vibrant imagery and wordplay for which she’s now known.

History scholar and wine blogger Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life (Viking Penguin, July 2014) is the third installment in her All Souls trilogy. It’s a novel engaging enough to hold one’s attention straight through to sunrise. The colorful professor will weave some of her narrative magic at Boswell on Aug. 4.

If there ever were a genre of Sconnie lit, Nickolas Butler’s debut novel, Shotgun LoveSongs (Thomas Dunne Books, March 2014), which crested at No. 9 on the National Indie Bound best-seller list, would serve as an exemplar. The story of a group of friends who grow up and apart in a small Wisco town bears similarities to Butler’s bio, also an indie-movie-in-the-making, and one that features a cameo by schoolmate Justin Vernon.

The entrancing Birdhouses of the World (Abrams, March 2014) is scale-shifting eye candy for anyone with an appreciation for architecture, and it belongs on your coffee table, somewhere between Le Corbusier and Diane Arbus, at least until people-sized versions are constructed.

A freak accident left 22-year-old Su Meck with a traumatic brain injury and bedeviling cases of retrograde and anterograde amnesia, and she’s made her recovery the subject of a new memoir, I Forgot to Remember (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 2014). Her experiences serve as a reminder that not even our memories are within our control.

Birds of America is Lorrie Moore’s magnum opus, but there was also Self-Help, the collection of wry short stories that volleyed her name into classrooms and bookstores, not long after she’d completed her MFA. Fans appreciate her mordant sense of humor and unvarnished way of dealing with life’s stupid little horrors, and if the former University of Wisconsin-Madison professor’s latest book, Bark: Stories (Knopf, Feb. 2014), disappoints, it’s only for having set such high marks.

As you mark your calendar for the 2014 World Cup (June 12-July 13), know that you can involve your nightstand in the fun. Grace it with The Big Fix: The Hunt for the Match-Fixers Bringing Down Soccer (William Morrow, May 2014), by noted sports reporter Brett Forrest. This baby is a true-crime story about the no-holds-barred underworld of match-fixing.

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