"Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl (Viking; August)
All of the stars seem aligned for this twenty-something author. Her debut novel has caused a stir in the publishing world, as well as in Hollywood. Her publisher, who acquired the book for a hefty sum against stiff competition, describes it as "a darkly hilarious coming-of-age saga," and the author as its "newest literary star." Publisher's Weekly called it a "stunning debut," giving the book a starred review: "Like its intriguing main characters, this novel is many things at once it's a campy, knowing take on the themes that made 'The Secret History' and 'Prep' such massive bestsellers, a wry send up of most of the Western canon and, most importantly, a sincere and uniquely twisted look at love, coming of age and identity." Pessl's novel is an unorthodox murder mystery, told in the voice of its erudite heroine.
"The Meaning of Night: A Confession" by Michael Cox (Norton; September)
The British author took his time writing this book: 30 years, to be exact. Norton's executive editor, who championed the novel at BookExpo, described it as a "throwback to great Victorian page-turning storytelling," It leads through opium dens, brothels and London alleys, while untying the tangled inheritance of an English baron. The publisher threw a huge, glamorous luncheon for Cox recently at the Biltmore Room in Chelsea, where there are more mirrors than at Versailles. There are high hopes for this big, thick historical novel.
"For One More Day" by Mitch Albom (Hyperion; September)
So far, everything that Albom has touched has turned into publishing gold. "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" have kept the Detroit writer on the bestseller list for years. His new book, his second novel, explores themes of family, divorce and regrets. A son loses his mother, but years later is given the opportunity to spend one day with her. The author met with a number of booksellers at an hourlong meeting at BookExpo. His publisher hopes the sportscaster Albom can make it a hat trick.
"The Interpretation of Murder" by Jed Rubenfeld (Holt; September)
The author, like his novelist-colleague Stephen L. Carter, is a Yale law professor. He looked a a bit out of place at a noisy BookExpo cocktail party. But his publisher is parading its high-price debut novelist, having feted him at the New York restaurant Oceana earlier this month. His historical thriller features Sigmund Freud on his sole visit to the U.S. in 1909, and a diabolical killer who is attacking Manhattan's wealthiest heiresses. "A bold page-turner," says Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club, "with a driving plot." A big Pennsylvania bookseller told PW, "there's no question that this will be the fall's big book."
"My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H.W. Bush" by Doro Bush Koch (Warner; October)
The First (and only) Sister made the BookExpo scene at a swank cocktail reception at Washington's Hay-Adams Hotel, a stone's throw from the White House. Her memoir on 41's behalf will tell the story of her famous father's life. To that end, she has interviewed all of the living presidents and many world leaders. "Before he was the President, he was her dad," trumpets her publisher.
"The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American Dream" by Barack Obama (Crown; October)
Despite the fact that his new book is still unfinished, the BookExpo crowd greeted the Senator from Illinois like a rock star, with a standing ovation at a sprawling official convention luncheon. His book is about the future of American democracy. His inspirational earlier book, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," was a bestseller. In a BookExpo crowd of political types (Pat Buchanan, Arianna Huffington, Terry McAuliffe, and the like), Obama enjoyed triple the buzz. The celebrated keynote speaker's fame should take this more policy-oriented book to the top.
"Thirteen Moons" by Charles Frazier (Random House; October)
Charles Frazier, the author of the blockbuster "Cold Mountain," hasn't published a book since 1997. That book, which became an international bestseller and a National Book Award winner, left booksellers longing for his next effort. That might account for the fact that Frazier garnered an $8 million advance, based on a one-page outline, for his second novel. No surprise, then, that his last-minute appearance and book signing at BookExpo was a sensation. His second novel is about a young white man who is adopted by members of the Cherokee nation.
"The Innocent Man: A True Story" by John Grisham (Doubleday; October)
John Grisham is throwing his full personal support behind this, his first nonfiction book, even showing up at Doubleday's BookExpo luncheon. The book is the story of a man who is exonerated of raping and killing a waitress by DNA evidence, only five days before his 1999 execution. His confident publisher simply put a huge picture of the mega-bestselling author in its catalog, with the tag line, "Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction."
"Thunderstruck" by Erik Larson (Crown; October)
The former TIME writer was mobbed at BookExpo when he signed copies of his forthcoming new book, "Thunderstruck." Larson is not one to rest on his laurels, even though his last smash hit, "The Devil in the White City," is still on the New York Times paperback list after 118 weeks. His latest nonfiction thriller is set in the Edwardian Age, and includes Marconi, the young inventor of radio. According to Larson's publisher, "A mild-mannered doctor known as 'the kindest of men' kills his wife in horrific fashion and buries her remains in the cellar of their London home. He escapes with the unsuspecting , 'other woman' aboard a ship bound for North America...As always, Larson recounts a fascinating and largely forgotten chapter from history with a novelistic attention to narrative, unforgettable characters, and the evocative details of a bygone time." The author will be signing a lot more books, as he is set to embark on an ambitious 14-city tour.
"Sacred Games" by Vikram Chandra (HarperCollins; January 2007)
At the well-attended BookExpo buzz panel, Vikram Chandra's massive debut novel (1,000-plus pages) was championed by HarperCollins' publisher, who promised that the book will "do for Indian literature what 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' did for South American literature." Amazon.co.uk gives a preview of the tome: "This epic novel draws the reader deep into the life of detective Sartaj Singh and into the criminal underworld of Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India."