"A Moment in the Sun"
McSweeney's, 968 pages, $29
John Sayles may be better known as a filmmaker ("Lone Star," "Eight Men Out" and my favorite, "Return of the Secaucus 7") than as a novelist, but this drama spanning five years, and stretching from Cuba to the Philippines, proves him to be a great fiction writer. The conscience that infuses his earlier work is evident in this novel, and if you're looking for a summer reading challenge with a big payoff, this may be your book. Sayles tells a story of American racism and American imperialism at the turn of the century, through a kaleidoscope of imaginary and real-life characters, including