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The Wave

by Susan Casey |

REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NON-FICTION

You think Jaws made you fear the ocean? In this adrenaline rush of a book, Casey (a former development editor at Time Inc., PEOPLE’s parent company) describes “nature’s biggest tantrum”: monster waves that can fracture bones, swallow oil tankers whole and chew chunks out of the landscape. Once thought to be the tall tales of mariners, 100-ft.-plus waves have now been documented; thanks to global warming, they’re getting bigger. Casey, who tracked great white sharks for her 2005 bestseller The Devil’s Teeth, spent five years following the new breed of extreme surfers who seek out colossal surf, putting their lives at risk for the thrill of the next awesome ride. In addition to interviewing scientists and marine salvage experts (who “save wave-battered, imperiled ships and cargo from disaster”), she dove into the action herself, even accompanying champion big-water surfer Laird Hamilton to surf a 40-ft.-high “Jaws” wave on the back of a jet ski, making “every cell of her body vibrate.” Her eerie, majestic descriptions (“If heaven were a color, it would be tinted like this,” she writes of the breathtaking Maui waters) make The Wave an unsettling thrill ride that’s as terrifying as it is awe inspiring.

Mini Shopaholic

by Sophie Kinsella |

REVIEWED BY CLARISSA CRUZ

NOVEL

The new installment in Kinsella’s popular series follows label-loving Becky and her 2-year-old in the kind of madcap adventure the former always manages to get herself into. (This time it involves an over-the-top surprise party for husband Luke.) Escapist, if slightly repetitive, fun.

Salvation City

by Sigrid Nunez |

REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

The narrator of Nunez’s brilliant latest is Cole Vining, a boy whose parents die in a flu pandemic, sentencing him to life with an evangelical pastor who heads a survivalist enclave. “Pastor Wyatt’s hands are of a whiteness and a softness that make Cole think of milk, of goose down, of freshly washed and bleached flannel sheets,” Nunez writes, evoking all that the boy has lost and yearns for. Salvation City isn’t light reading, but it’s worth the weight.

Half Empty

by David Rakoff |

REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

ESSAYS

It’s not entirely clear what unifies these essays, besides the fact that they come from the mordant mind of one of our funniest writers. Part memoir, part reportage, the collection addresses topics ranging from the romantic claptrap surrounding our notions of “the artistic life” to New York’s Exotic Erotic Ball and Expo, where Rakoff ponders the realities of enacting all those hot scenes: “[the] rose petals are going to turn into mushy vegetable matter in about four minutes and just clog the drain.” Essentially, Half Empty is about the power of negative thinking: why our cultural obsession with the shiny, happy life is a crock … but life is delicious anyway.