1. Lifeguard -- James Patterson and Andrew Gross
Plot: A lifeguard sees lives-new girlfriend, old friends, brother-brutally ending all around him.
Gist: Lots of sex and obscenities mix with nonstop action and plot twists in a book best suited for sun-addled bikini beach reading. Men are muscled or corrupt, women are gorgeous or cute, characterization is AWOL, and so is thought.
2. Interruption of Everything -- Terry McMillan
Plot: At age 44 Marilyn Grimes inventories her life and finds it wanting. As she contemplates change, sad events comes her way.
Gist: This African-American take on the female mid-life crisis features the standard elements delivered comically-a boring husband and unfulfilled wife, an empty nest and extended family obligations. The protagonist seems equally comfortable swearing and praying, but a Christian mother-in-law believes that Jesus is the answer to the family's problems.
3. Until I Find You -- John Irving
Plot: A messed-up boy becomes a melancholy Hollywood actor and screenwriter.
Gist: In 820 self-indulgent pages crying out for an editor, John Irving tries once again to recapture his The World According to Garp magic. He fails. Tattoo parlors, graphic sex abuse, obscenity, and (of course) references to illegal abortion, wrestling, and New Hampshire are the building blocks for what's supposed to be a comic novel.
4. No Country for Old Men -- Cormac McCarthy
Plot: When a normal Texan happens across $2 million in drug money, abnormal people start chasing him and killing all who get in their way.
Gist: It's great to see a bestseller that could also make the best-written list. In his first novel in seven years, Mr. McCarthy again perfectly captures west Texan dialogue and landscape. This time he includes a bad guy of Satanic intensity, huge gobs of violence, and a sheriff's wife who reads Revelation as her husband studies up close the nature of evil.
5. The Da Vinci Code -- Dan Brown
Plot: A curator at the Louvre is murdered; before dying he leaves clues that send his granddaughter (a police cryptologist) and his colleague (a Harvard professor) on a search for the killer.
Gist: We're still waiting for federal judge George B. Daniels to decide whether to allow a lawsuit to proceed alleging copyright infringement by Dan Brown. The judge wanted first to read "cover to cover" The Da Vinci Code and two novels by writer Lewis Perdue to determine whether Mr. Brown borrowed improperly from Mr. Perdue's work.
In the spotlight
Since Sen. Rick Santorum will probably be in the nation's most hotly contested political race next year (see"Penn station," April 30, 2005), reader David Smith suspected foul play when it was hard to find the senator's newly published book. "I went to the Borders in the Chestnut Hill part of Philly and had to ask where the book could be found. It was buried in the political section stacks. . . . Think maybe somebody at these stores has an agenda?"
Probably, but since most political books are shallow puffery, sticking them in the stacks instead of landfills is an act of mercy. This one, though-It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good (ISI Books, 2005)-is well-grounded in a biblical worldview and ably moves back and forth between specific public-policy urgings and the reasons for them.
Publishers are already announcing the newest batch of campaign tomes on potential 2008 presidential candidates. Now that Sen. Joe Biden has announced his candidacy, Random House plans to publish the Delaware Democrat's memoir.