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The Write Stuff: Our picks for Best Beach Books, Part Four

Marlon and mate
Author's collection

Perhaps the best fiction book of the year: The Hurricane Sisters (William Morrow, $26.99). Bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank first enchanted readers with her tales of lifei n South Carolina with the publication of her first book in 2000. In her new novel, Frank once again takes us deep in the heart of the magical Lowcountry—a sultry land of ancient magic, glorious sunsets, and soothing coastal breezes, where three generations of strong women wrestle with the expectations of family while struggling to understand their complicated relationships with each other.
Best friends since the first day of class at The College of Charleston, Ashley Anne Waters and Mary Beth Smythe, now 23 years old, live in Ashley’s parents’ beach house rent-free. Ashley is a gallery assistant who aspires to become an artist. Mary Beth, a gifted cook from Tennessee, works for a caterer while searching for a good teaching job. Though they both know what they want out of life, their parents barely support their dreams and worry for their precarious finances.
While they don’t make much money, the girls do have a million-dollar view that comes with living in that fabulous house on Sullivan’s Island. Sipping wine on the porch and watching a blood-red sunset, Ashley and Mary Beth hit on a brilliant and lucrative idea. With a new coat of paint, the first floor would be a perfect place for soirées for paying guests. Knowing her parents would be horrified at the idea of common strangers trampling through their home, Ashley won’t tell them. Besides, Clayton and Liz Waters have enough problems of their own.
A successful investment banker, Clayton is too often found in his pied-à-terre in Manhattan—which Liz is sure he uses to have an affair. And when will Ashley and her brother, Ivy, a gay man with a very wealthy Asian life partner—ever grow up?Then there is Maisie, Liz’s mother, the family matriarch who has just turned eighty and who never lets Liz forget that she’s not her perfect dead sister, Juliet.
For these Lowcountry women, an emotional hurricane is about to blow through their lives, wreaking havoc that will test them in unexpected ways, ultimately transforming the bonds they share

In the tradition of the best-loved Victorian drawing room comedies, Paisley Mischief (February Books, $15.95) is a contemporary comedy of manners set among the white shoe bankers and lawyers of Park Avenue. The Avenue Club is older than the Century, friendlier than the Brook, richer than The Metropolitan, and unlike the University Club, it’s not choc-a-bloc with women and foreigners. At The Avenue, it’s not enough to be successful, you have to be the right sort of person. And no one wears trunks in the pool because when you’re the right sort of person, you’re supposed to have nothing to hide.
When an anonymously-written roman à clef titled Paisley Mischief begins making the rounds at the club and a reporter starts digging into the secrets of its influential members and their wives, long-simmering tensions at The Avenue rise to a boil and Max’s application becomes ammunition in the feud between the club’s most prominent members. It’s up to Dante Penfield, the club president’s feckless nephew, and his clever roommate Audrey to uncover the truth. As the story unravels, this tightly plotted comedy rolls like a freight train towards a hysterical and ingenious conclusion.

When Marlon Brando arrived in Manhattan in the spring of 1943, he was a Nebraskan by way of Illinois with a knack for mimicry. Just four years later, he would transform himself into one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century, originating the role of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire. In the prolific career, and very public personal life, that followed, Brando would be commended for his “innate skill” and condemned for his “fair-weather activism.” Both charges underestimate his intellect, and in doing so, promote the popular myth of Brando as the hyper-sexed beacon of inarticulate masculinity.
In Brando's Smile: His Life, Thought and Work (W.W. Norton & Company,$27.950), renowned cultural scholar and Boston University professor Susan L. Mizruchi explores the Brando that was not visible to the world in order to better understand the one that was—a Brando that was independent of the public persona and often at odds with it. Why would a man so publicly dismissive of his craft privately preserve all evidence of it? Why did this same man, so consistently critical of Hollywood, continue to make films until the very end? This extraordinary biography will help to explain what has until now seemed contradictory, confusing, or accidental in the life and work of one of our greatest actors.
Mizruchi, with the support of the Brando Estate and numerous private collectors (including Brando’s co-star and good friend Johnny Depp), is the first to examine his impressive 4,000-volume library in its entirety. The library includes some 700 books on American Indians—many of which he annotated—a collection rivaling those of authorities in the field. Dozens of conversation and grammar books and nearly 100 books on Japan track his personal and professional travels. Jazz and bird-watching titles allow us to see the man in themovie star. Among the most heavily represented subjects in Brando’s library were religion, spirituality, and myth.
Brando’s bookshelves, readers will experience the intellectual maturation of a man who lived a rich life beyond the margins, often feeling as if they were peeking over his shoulder. They will meet an actor they might not entirely recognize: a boy recalled to military school by his classmates’ votes; a son sobered by his parents’ alcoholism; a man whose bed was as often filled with books as women. They will learn about the studio system at its apex, both cosmopolitan and cruel, and witness the destruction wrought by McCarthyism. Readers will come to understand Brando’s complex relationship with the media that, while uniformly tenuous, evolved significantly over the course of his career, and was most often used as an asset for his activism. From the beginning of his career to the end, Brando treated his celebrity as a means to public ends.

Time to spend tanning? Take some time to think: You already know how you see the world. But do you know how the world sees you? How is your personality most likely to impress and influence the person sitting on the other side of the desk or boardroom?
You already know how you see yourself and how you see the world, but you are still missing a crucial piece of the story. In How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination (HarperBusiness, $29.99) world-renowned branding and marketing expert Sally Hogshead reveals the powerful hidden weapons within your own personality that give you the tools you’ll need to fascinate everyone you speak to.

We live in a distracted and competitive world in which you have just a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. Hogshead gives the exact words you need to immediately impress and persuade others.
Sally Hogshead’s innovative science of fascination is based on a decade of research with 250,000 initial participants, including dozens of Fortune 500 teams, hundreds of small businesses, and over a thousand top C-level executives. She puts this experience to work to show you how the world perceives you, which of your personality traits are most valuable to others, and how to play to your strengths, giving you an edge with your colleagues and your competitors.
How the World Sees You incorporates the revolutionary Fascination Advantage online assessment that reveals how others perceive you. (What do co-workers admire about you? Are you unintentionally turning people off?) Your in-depth customized report details how you add value. These and tricks are a must!

The epic trilogy that began with interstellar best-seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and continued with The Empire Striketh Back concludes with William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return: Star Wars Part the Sixth (Quirk Books, $14.95)—perchance the greatest adventure of them all. Han Solo entombed in carbonite, the princess taken captive, the Rebel Alliance besieged, and Jabba the Hutt engorged. Alack!

Now Luke Skywalker and his Rebel band must seek fresh allies in their quest to thwart construction of a new Imperial Death Star. But whom can they trust to fight by their side in the great battle to come? Cry “Ewok” and let slip the dogs of war.

Joss Whedon has been a household name in geek culture since his groundbreaking 1997 teen horror series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, alongside mainstream productions like The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., he still follows his own creative path with passion projects like Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and Much Ado About Nothing. Including accounts from Whedon’s wife, Kai Cole, and new details from Whedon’s college mentor Jeanine Basinger, childhood friend and fellow writer Chris Boal, and a candid tell-all from Angel writer/producer Tim Minear, these never-before-seen interviews reveal new facets of perhaps the most iconic figure in the world of fan-driven success.
The first full volume dedicated exclusively to Joss Whedon’s personal story, Joss Whedon: The Biography (Chicago Review Press, $29.95) reveals candid, behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of his groundbreaking series, his work with Pixar in creating Toy Story, the development and demise of the Buffy animated series, and moments from the making of The Avengers. Journalist and MTV director Amy Pascale’s extensive research provides a private and never-seen-before look at Whedon; her work is based on dozens of interviews with his family, friends, collaborators, stars, and with Joss himself.

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