Big books for summer reading

Two recent releases — big in both size and scope — might be the just the thing for your summer reading choices.

First up is “The Cartel” (Alfred A. Knopf) by Don Winslow. This 614-page thriller is Winslow’s 16th novel and is a fictionalized account of the past decade of the so-called Mexican drug wars.

The book opens in 2004 and traces the exploits of on Art Keller, a DEA agent — who’s spent 30 years in the trenches of the drug wars — and who’s been involved in an ongoing feud with Adan Barrera, the head of one of the most notorious Mexican cartels, who murdered his partner.

In copious detail, Winslow chronicles the internecine warfare of the cartels from the mountains and desert of Mexico to their ties to American politics. All of this is mirrored in Keller’s own struggles against sinking ever deeper in what he’s trying to stop.

The book is a harrowing and compelling tale, every bit as convincing as what Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” did for the mob and it has been praised by the likes of Lee Child, James Ellroy (who called it “the ‘War and Peace’ of dope books) and Michael Connelly.

As an introduction to these characters you might also want to first check out Winslow’s previous novel, “The Power of the Dog”.”.

Then there’s “Book of Numbers” (Random House) by Joshua Cohen. It’s about the search for connection, love truth and the meaning of life in our current Internet saturated age. Some big time tech guy hires a novelist, also named Joshua Cohen, to ghostwrite his memoir.

And off we go. In a series of clicks and links, memes, emails and digressions, meditations on the absurdity of it all, maps and charts of code, Cohen’s book evokes both the spirit of Thomas Pynchon in eerily surprising ways as well as the numbness of our networked lives.

What Cohen fabricates here combines biblical allegories, informed tech exposés, the frisson of leaked secret memoirs and elements of international thrillers into a dizzying consideration of what it might mean to be human in the midst of the supposedly all encompassing digital world as we walk around ignoring each other while staring down at our devices.

Kirk Robertson covers the arts and may be reached at


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