Summer Soup

June’s a mixed bag of new releases

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

I don’t know how to feel about June. School’s out, which brings joy to some and terror to others. Summer’s here, and with it the withering heat that fries May’s floral beauty into a dry, pale palette. June holds my birthday, but the cause for celebrating it has run its course, if you follow my meaning. I’m ambivalent about June, and I’m here to tell you it’s perfectly OK to be of two minds about some things. June’s a mishmash, so here’s a mash-up of largely unrelated books that will newly appear this month. Some will appeal to you; some might repel. And some will leave you uncertain. Good.

June 5: Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous, Christopher Bonanos (Henry Holt, $32) The creator of The Wire, David Simon, says: “Arthur ‘Weegee’ Fellig was perhaps the perfect vehicle for defining and delivering the fear and wonder of the modern city to our American spirit. Journalist, artist, and huckster, Weegee stole shards of a New York through a camera lens, then reassembled the great city in a mosaic that somehow — despite a fair degree of fraud — still defines urbanity itself for us. We know the photographs, and now, with this biography from Christopher Bonanos, we can finally know something of the legendary, improbable, and much-caricatured man.”

June 5: Double Take: The World’s Most Iconic Photographs Meticulously Re-Created in Miniature, by Jojakim Cortis & Adrian Sonderegger. (Thames & Hudson. $40). Double Take presents 40 astonishingly accurate reconstructions of iconic photographs — ranging from the earliest known to the world’s most expensive. With images showing the reconstruction process, a supporting essay and an in-depth interview with the photographers, Double Take is a dream for lovers of photography or miniatures — with a twist.

June 5: The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, by Andrew Lawler (Doubleday, $29.95). What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke? That question has consumed historians, archeologists and amateur sleuths for four hundred years. In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler sets out on a quest to determine the fate of the settlers, finding fresh leads as he encounters a host of characters obsessed with resolving the enigma. In the course of his journey, Lawler examines how the Lost Colony came to haunt our national consciousness. Lawler appears in person at Scuppernong Books on Thursday, June 7 at 7 p.m.

June 12: Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, by Adam Frank (Norton, $26.95). Thrilling science at the grandest of scales, Light of the Stars explores what may be the largest question of all: What can the likely presence of life on other worlds tell us about our own fate?

June 12: Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying, by Sallie Tisdale (Touchstone, $25.99). The concept of death is hard to fathom. Tisdale explores our fears and all the ways death and talking about death make us uncomfortable — but she also explores its intimacies and joys. She looks at grief, what the last days and hours of life are like — and what happens to dead bodies. Advice for Future Corpses includes exercises designed to make you think differently about the inevitable

June 19: Call Me American: A Memoir, by Abdi Nor Iftin (Knopf, $26.95). Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it suddenly became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR and the Internet, which found an audience of worldwide listeners.

June 19: The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai. (Viking, $27). Writer Garth Greenwell (who appeared at Scuppernong two years ago) says this “expansive, huge-hearted novel conveys the scale of the trauma that was the early AIDS crisis, and conveys, too, the scale of the anger and love that rose up to meet it. Rebecca Makkai shows us characters who are devastated but not defeated, who remain devoted, in the face of death, to friendship and desire and joyful, irrepressible life. I loved this book.” I’m in.

June 26: The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading, by Edmund White (Bloomsbury, $28). Blending memoir and literary criticism, The Unpunished Vice is a compendium of all the ways reading has shaped White’s life and work. His larger-than-life presence on the literary scene lends itself to fascinating, intimate insights into the lives of some of the world’s best-loved cultural figures.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

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