Books: 'The Great Quake,' Alexander Chee on Tom Ripley, Tom Perrotta on pornography and more

First a heads-up — this week we’ve got our regular print pages, but on Aug. 13 we won’t. Don’t be alarmed, it’s because my Calendar colleagues have something special in the works. Look for books in print again on Aug. 20, and until then, see you online.


In 1964, a 9.2 earthquake — the largest ever to hit North America — struck Alaska. In “The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet” science journalist Henry Fountain vividly takes us back to those moments. “Don’t infer from this, though, that ‘The Great Quake’ is simply a superior form of disaster porn,” writes Stephen Phillips in our review. “Fountain has written a braided narrative about the dialectic between scientific theory and observation that situates the Alaskan earthquake amid a decades-long quest to understand how the landscape around us evolved.”


Critic at large Alexander Chee lets us know what he’s reading this summer: “The Boy Who Followed Ripley.” “I’d fallen for Ripley, you could say, like many. And then, I’d drifted off,” he writes in this essay. “But now, years later, like many, I was desperate to break the spell, to read anything else other than the news, and get lost in that instead.”


A book club from San Fransciso took a field trip all the way to Los Angeles to read “Brave New World.” Why? Because the expedition was to Aldous Huxley’s house in the Hollywood Hills, now under new ownership, of course. Agatha French attends to discover what it’s like discussing an author’s most significant work at the place he they lived.


Debuting at No. 1 on our fiction bestseller list this week is “The Late Show” by Michael Connelly. It’s the start of a new series for Connelly, featuring a female detective banished to the overnight shift in Hollywood after she makes a sexual harassment complaint against a superior officer. Read Paula Brown’s review here.


Tom Perrotta is known for his wry takes on gender and power in the suburbs (“Little Children,” “Election”). His new novel, “Mrs. Fletcher,” is about a single mother who discovers a new sexual freedom after her son goes off to college. Two ideas came together as he was writing, Perrotta tells Kate Tuttle in our interview. “One was that sense of midlife reinvention, and the other was that I had been thinking a lot about the way porn has changed the way Americans have sex.”


Lindsay Hunter talks about her new novel, “Eat Only When You’re Hungry,” with Michael Schaub. She’ll discuss it Thursday at Skylight Books with Roxane Gay.

Former FBI director James Comey has landed a book deal. The as yet untitled book will be published in 2018 by Flatiron.

Last month we previewed #90X90LA, a 90-day marathon of literary events organized by Writ Large Press. About 30 days in, Agatha French attended a #90X90LA panel on money and creativity held, fittingly, on the site where a William Randolph Hearst mansion once stood.

E.B. White lived on a farm in Maine when he wrote “Charlotte’s Web” — its barn and rope swing made it into the story. That farm is now for sale for $3.7 million; the boathouse/writing shed still includes White’s handmade bench and writing table.


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