• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

10 Hollywood Beach Reads

Rights have sold for some; others are up for grabs. Either way, these books have summer buzz.

Summer is beach-read season, the time to sprawl out on a blanket, catch some rays and dive into an engrossing read. THR offers 10 great picks attracting attention in Hollywood, including two debut thrillers, a fictional take on Britney Spears and the highly anticipated prequel to Oliver Stone's movie Savages.

♦♦♦♦♦

Amped
Daniel H. Wilson; Doubleday, 288 pages, June 5.
Film rights to Summit Entertainment.

Who it's by: A robotics engineer who wrote last summer's hit Robopocalypse, fast-tracked by Steven Spielberg for a summer 2013 release. What it's about: Nanotech implants supercharge humans -- they are "amped," in the book's slang -- and that has people worried. Laws are passed taking away their rights. Lead character Owen Gray goes on the run, hoping to join an outlaw group of Amps hiding out in Oklahoma. But are the rebels plotting to save the world or destroy it?

Bottom line: Wilson knows how to mix real-sounding science with action to produce a page-turning thrill ride.

♦♦♦♦♦

Bring Up the Bodies
Hilary Mantel; Henry Holt,
432 pages, May 8.
TV rights to HBO/BBC.

Who it's by: The winner of the Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, the first novel in this series, which is being turned into an HBO/BBC miniseries. What it's about: A fictional bio of Henry VIII's right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell, who schemes and plots on behalf of the king. This book picks up the story as he maneuvers to replace Anne Boleyn with Jane Seymour.

Bottom line: Mantel's Cromwell would have made a great agent or studio executive. His manipulations are a master class in pleasing your bosses and getting ahead.

♦♦♦♦♦

Wife 22
Melanie Gideon; Ballantine, 400 pages, May 29.
Film rights to Working Title.

Who it's by: The author of the best-selling memoir The Slippery Year, in her fiction debut. What it's about: Alice Buckles is having a midlife crisis. She has reached the same age her mother was when she died, her marriage has hit a lull and her kids are a mess. She re-examines her life after participating in a survey of middle-aged married women and starts flirting with the researcher conducting the survey. Cleverly told in part through texts and e-mails, Wife 22 promises, "Confession is a powerful aphrodisiac."

Bottom line: An Internet-age spin on a Bridget Jones-like character's midlife crisis could be the anti-Fifty Shades of Grey chick-lit hit of the summer.

♦♦♦♦♦

Istanbul Passage
Joseph Kanon; Atria,
416 pages, May 29.

Who it's by: The author of The Good German, a best-selling post-World War II thriller made into a film starring George Clooney in 2006. What it's about: With World War II having just ended, an American spy must smuggle a Romanian defector with Russian secrets out of Istanbul. But the Romanian was also a Nazi collaborator involved in a massacre of Jews. Now others want to bring him to justice before the Americans can get away with him.

Bottom line: Kanon is a master of atmosphere and moral ambiguity. As with Good German's Berlin, Istanbul is itself a character, both beautiful and haunting, and the early Cold War is a morally ambiguous place where enemies have become allies and allies enemies.

♦♦♦♦♦

The 500
Matthew Quirk; Reagan Arthur Books,
336 pages, June 5.
Film rights to
20th Century Fox.

Who it's by: A former Washington-based crime and terrorism writer for The Atlantic, in his debut novel. What it's about: A con man's son works his way through Harvard Law School to become a rising star at a powerhouse D.C. consulting firm, rubbing shoulders with the 500 men and women who run the country. When he gets caught up in a corruption scandal and finds himself pursued by some of the world's most dangerous men, he falls back on the con-man skills learned from his father.

Bottom line: Quirk is being called the new Grisham and this novel the next The Firm.

♦♦♦♦♦

The Yard
Alex Grecian; Putnam Adult, 432 pages, May 29.
Film rights to NightSky Entertainment.

Who it's by: The author of the acclaimed graphic novel Proof, in his debut novel. What it's about: A Victorian thriller in the tradition of The Alienist imagines Scotland Yard's "Murder Squad" in the wake of the failure to solve the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders. Now another serial killer appears, and he is taunting detectives who try to solve the case using the new science of forensic pathology.

Bottom line: Think CSI: Scotland Yard. This crafty mystery smoothly mixes fact and fiction to offer a fun sideways take on the Ripper legend.

♦♦♦♦♦

Beautiful Ruins
Jess Walter; Harper, 352 pages, June 12.

Who it's by: The author of acclaimed novels about the financial crisis (The Financial Lives of the Poets, with Jack Black attached to the film adaptation) and 9/11 (National Book Award finalist The Zero). What it's about: In 1962, an Italian innkeeper falls in love with a mysterious American starlet who shows up after having bolted from the nearby set of the infamous flop Cleopatra, in which she has a supporting role. Richard Burton and a young producer retrieve the girl, but the young Italian is smitten. Fifty years later, he travels to Hollywood to find out what happened to the mysterious beauty. From there, the story traces the lives and loves of the producer, the starlet and her would-be Italian lover over a half-century.

Bottom line: A beautiful story about life's unexpected turns and the power of unrequited love, set against the backdrop of a legendary Hollywood flop.

♦♦♦♦♦

The Kings of Cool
Don Winslow; Simon & Schuster, 336 pages, June 19.

Who it's by: The author of the acclaimed novel Savages, which Oliver Stone adapted into a movie that's scheduled for release July 6. What it's about: Timed to coincide with the movie, the prequel follows Ben and Chon, the pot-dealing main characters from Savages, and their families from the 1960s to the near present, tracing how their history shaped who they would become as men.

Bottom line: Savages garnered great reviews and a legion of loyal fans for a story Stephen King called "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on autoload," and the movie is getting great early buzz. The prequel adds backstory and characters but retains the original's kinetic plot and witty, hard-boiled dialogue.

♦♦♦♦♦

Canada
Richard Ford; Ecco, 432 pages, May 22.

Who it's by: One of America's most celebrated novelists. What it's about: Dell Parsons, a teenage boy, ends up in Canada after his parents are arrested for murder. Taken in by an enigmatic American with a violent streak, Parsons tries to come to terms with his family's history as he hurtles toward a dangerous confrontation with his host.

Bottom line: Look smart and be entertained. Canada is The Wire of summer books, a potboiler plot elevated to genius with its depth and emotional resonance.

♦♦♦♦♦

Between You and Me
Nicola Kraus & Emma McLaughlin; Atria, 272 pages, June 12.

Who it's by: The duo behind The Nanny Diaries returns. What it's about: This fictional spin on Britney Spears' life finds a young woman signing to be the personal assistant to her cousin, a huge pop star. Unfortunately, she finds herself caught between the spiraling-out-of-control star and the greedy parents who control her finances.

Bottom line: Pop-star craziness meets Nanny Diaries wit and social commentary? Yes, please.