Wooden: A Coach’s Life, by Seth Davis. (St. Martin’s Griffin) Ten NCAA championships in 12 seasons, an 88-game winning streak – John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams reached incomparable heights in the 1960s and ’70s, but it was his off-the-court behavior that elevated him to the status of American icon. Davis’ exhaustively researched account of Wooden’s 99 years shows how hard he strove for success while revealing the man, and his human failings, behind the legend.
Saint Monkey, by Jacinda Townsend. (Norton) Weaving together the stark realities of Jim Crow Kentucky with the vibrancy of the Harlem jazz scene in the 1950s, Townsend’s novel sees its adolescent heroines – bookish and introverted Audrey, flamboyant and star-struck Caroline – through the broad lens of their friendship and the limitations of gender and race that inform the choices they make.
Demon Camp: The Strange and Terrible Saga of a Soldier’s Return From War, by Jen Percy. (Scribner) Percy’s first book is the fevered account of Caleb Daniels, an anguished Army veteran. Unable to accept the loss of his best friend and members of his unit in a 2005 helicopter crash over Afghanistan, Daniels searches for salvation in a Christian exorcism camp.
Saints of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) Having decided that retirement wasn’t such a good idea, the mercurial Scottish detective John Rebus is back on the job, investigating a suspicious car accident involving the child of a prominent politician, and trying to weather an Internal Affairs inquiry into a 30-year-old case concerning Rebus, his cronies (the self-anointed “saints”) and a murderer who escaped justice.
The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court, by Anna Whitelock. (Picador) Elizabeth I ascended the throne in 1558, and for more than 40 years the Virgin Queen’s private life was a public concern: Her body represented the state itself. Whitelock engagingly reconstructs Elizabeth’s quarters and the “tightly knit group of loyal female attendants” who safeguarded the queen and her propriety.
Fourth of July Creek, by Smith Henderson. (Ecco/HarperCollins) In this trenchant novel, set in rural Montana in 1980, an overburdened social worker becomes involved with a near-feral boy and his father, a “Tribulation-ready, Race War-ready” prophet. “Henderson’s Montana is a place of attack dogs, violent drunks, elk poachers, pawnbrokers hawking Nazi flags, anarchists,” said New York Times reviewer Jonathan Miles. “It’s a Montana that snarls at you from the page.”
A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, by Philip Shenon. (Picador) More than 50 years after the Warren Commission concluded that John F. Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, we’re still sifting through the facts of the case. Shenon, a former New York Times reporter, argues here that information about the president’s assassination was withheld from the commission by the CIA, FBI and others in power in Washington.
New York Times