***image1*** The novel, a summer staple.

ON BEAUTY

Zadie Smith

Penguin Press ($25.95)

Zadie Smith's

On Beauty

is, like

White Teeth

and

The Autograph Man

before it, a study of class and culture wars in modern society, this time taking place in the fictional college town of Wellington, near London.

On Beauty

is the story of the Belsey and Kipps families, both headed by pompous patriarch academics, Howard Belsey and Monty Kipps. At the center are the relationships between and within the two families, which Smith uses to comment on class, race, art and intellectuals. By deftly and articulately deconstructing culture, Smith has earned her spot as one of our most perceptive cultural critics. (AMD)

THE KITE RUNNER

Khaleed Hosseini

Riverhead Trade ($14)

Though America's already fighting a new war and has another one in the works, the struggle in Afghanistan still remains buried at the back of our memories; Khaleed Hosseini brings it to the forefront. With a deeply interpersonal narrative about young boys in pre- and post-Taliban Kabul, Hosseini captures the imagination with intricate characterization and enough plot twists to sufficiently entrance. Hosseini, a physician by trade, brings us a first novel with satisfactory prose and a mind-blowing story. By the last few pages, you'll find yourself skimming whole paragraphs to find out what happens next. (CJ)

CAN'T GET NO

Rick Veitch

DC Comics ($19.99)

Unlike Superman, Batman and their complex alter egos, Rick Veitch's lead, Chad Roe, is more black and white. After the plummet of his company's stock, combined with pills and alcohol, Roe winds up covered in tattoos and is no longer taken seriously by corporate America. In the graphic novel, Veitch uses only black and white images along with a philosophized narration that is at times confusing. This stylistic and graphical approach gives readers insight to Roe's confused mind state. In the novel, words and art never blend into one and neither do Roe and his tattooed alter ego. (CC)