[This new feature is a brief monthly summary of new books on my radar, roughly in order of my personal interest in them.]

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (out 8/16)

This is one of those books that interests me mostly because I have no idea how the author’s going to pull off his premise (danger: the last book that fit this category was Dominance, which disappointed). Ready Player One‘s premise is this: in a dystopian 2044, a young boy finds the first clue toward solving an elaborate quest played in an all-consuming virtual reality called OASIS. The clues are all evidently based on 1980s geek-nostalgia trivia. Having a novel’s plot follow a virtual reality game is risky enough, but how in the hell will this tie back into Dungeons & Dragons and Monty Python without feeling completely contrived?

Low Town, by Daniel Polansky (out 8/16)

Perhaps it’s a sign of my disappointment with the literary novels I’ve read this year, but I’m excited for Low Town solely because of the genres it mixes: “dytopian fantasy” and “hard-boiled crime,” according to PW. One part Robert Jordan and one part Child 44? Maybe this could be the kind of epic genre-busting mystery The City & The City should’ve been.

The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson (out 8/9)

Buster and Annie Fang, known as Child A and Child B to their public (and their performance artist parents), get wrapped up in the bizarre world their mother and father have created, until Mom and Dad disappear in what might be their artistic coup de grace. Comparisons to the unbearable Tenenbaums will be inescapable, no doubt, but the art world offers enough material weirdness to make a pretty hilarious novel.

Lights Out In Wonderland, by DBC Pierre (out 8/8)

DBC Pierre’s latest novel follows a drug-addicted dilettante named Gabriel Brockwell, who’s decided to kill himself, but also to go on one last bender before he pulls the trigger. Pierre, who won the Booker Prize for Vernon God Littleone of my favorite books, has an intricate, effusive prose style, and it’s in high gear here. I bought the UK version of this book when it came out several months ago—it’s a funny, engaging, and wholely unimportant novel about a rich man’s aimless last hurrah. Try The Book of Gabriel, a companion piece to the novel, first, and see how you like it.

Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper, by Geoffrey Gray (out 8/9)

In 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper exchanged 36 hostages for $200,000, and parachuted with the money into the Pacific Northwest wilderness. Gray explores the mystery of this legendary cold case, and profiles a few of the people who’ve lost careers trying to solve it. As if that weren’t enough, the FBI actually just got their first new clue in the Cooper case in decades (via).

Who Am I?: And If So, How Many?, by Richard David Precht (out 8/23)

Precht summarizes the work of various philosophers, neuroscientists and so on, and uses such high-minded philosophical gobbledygook to shed light on facets of our everyday lives, such as “what Wittgenstein and studies of deaf children can teach us about language” (PW). Sounds like a thought-provoking book for people like me who can’t stand reading dense philosophy text, but like the morsels of Baudrillard and Nietzsche we stumble across.