The U.S.-Mexico border isn’t open, but a migrant surge and a mishmash of messages and policies have created another crisis
Culture Notable Books
CONTENT The novel follows "Armpit," a character from the bestselling young-adult novel Holes, as he tries to rebuild his life. Although he's now working as a gardener and taking community college classes, he puts his future at risk when he joins his friend X-Ray in a scheme to hawk concert tickets.
GIST This sequel packages its message of second chances in an improbable storyline that brings together Armpit, a lonely teen singer, and her dishonest stepfather/manager. Even though Mr. Sacher lives in Austin, he fails to make his town or his characters come alive.
Gentlemen & Players
CONTENT Outsider Snyde pretends to be a student at a boarding school and develops a crush on another student, with deadly consequences. Fifteen years later Snyde returns to the school as a teacher and begins a chess-like campaign to destroy it.
GIST Ms. Harris tells the story from two points of view: Snyde's and veteran teacher Roy Straitley's. As the number of malicious acts increases, the school's atmosphere sours and Straitley grows suspicious. This thriller pits town against gown and highlights the evil that grows from resentment, covetousness, and injustice.
CAUTION Language and some sexual situations.
The Brooklyn Follies
CONTENT When 59-year-old Nathan Glass is diagnosed with cancer, he decides to move to Brooklyn to die. Instead of dying he begins to live again as he embarks on a project to record the follies of his life.
GIST Mr. Auster's Brooklyn is a place full of oddball characters careful not to judge anyone (except a right-winger). When Glass isn't brooding over the possibility that George W. Bush might beat Al Gore in the 2000 elections and thus usher in the dark night of fascism, he reconnects with his estranged family, saves his niece from a Christian cultist, and builds a modern family.
CAUTION Language and graphic sex.
The Last Templar
CONTENT Four horsemen dressed as Knights Templar storm the Metropolitan Museum of Art to steal treasures on display from the Vatican. One of the stolen objects is a medieval decoder necessary to decipher a journal, supposedly written by Jesus, in which He purportedly admits He's not the Son of God.
GIST The novel's page-turning action, dead bodies, conspiracies, faulty history, Gnostic theology, and Catholic clergy willing to murder will remind readers of The Da Vinci Code.
In the spotlight
Who's responsible when a memoirist's bestseller turns out to be fiction? In the case of A Million Little Pieces, neither James Frey's agent nor his editor admits to knowing the truth about the book before it was published. After Oprah Winfrey lambasted Mr. Frey, his agent, Kassie Evashevski, dropped him.
Publishers, meanwhile, are defensive over calls that they do more to ensure that their books are factually accurate. As Jeffrey Trachtenberg wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "Editors and publishers say the profit margins in publishing don't allow for hiring fact-checkers. Instead, they rely on authors to be honest, and on their legal staffs to avoid libel suits."
Mr. Frey is still raking it in at the cash register, but his sales have decreased week by week since the scandal broke on the Smoking Gun website. According to Nielsen BookScan, the book sold 145,000 copies the first week in January, before the scandal broke, but 58,000 during the last week of the month.