What We're Reading: Historical Fiction and a Sexy Satire

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This week in the Marie Claire books department, we've been swept up in a fascinating, heart-stopping literary mystery — and distracting ourselves here and there with a hilarious tome from a group that calls itself "The Association for the Betterment of Sex." Love it.

Juliet

Author: The lovely Anne Fortier, a Danish historian and documentary film producer. She previously wrote a novel in Denmark, but Juliet marks her American debut — and the first book she's written in English.

Genre: Shakespeare mixed with Eat, Pray, Love with a pinch of The Da Vinci Code

What Happens: The quiet, Shakespeare-obsessed Julie inherits a mysterious key from her foster mother and is instructed to track down the safe-deposit box it unlocks in Siena, Italy. Along the way, she learns the story of her ancestor Giuletta, whose relationship with the young Romeo put both their families in great peril during the fraught days of medieval Siena, when rivalries among the various contrade in the city often reached violent, fatal conclusions. Julie soon realizes that the "plague on both their houses" is all too real even today, and she may be the next target.

When to Read It: Over a lazy Labor Day weekend — you won't want to put this one down for too long between sessions.

Details: Random House, August 24, $25

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Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk

Authors: Scott Jacobson, Todd Levin, Jason Roeder, Mike Sacks, and Ted Travelstead, a motley crew of humor writers for The Daily Show, McSweeney's, The Onion, and The New Yorker, among others.

Genre: The Joy of Sex satire with horribly uncomfortable illustrations

What Happens: The writers take us on a magical journey of the body, including chapters on "Human Sexual Anatomy" (subtitled: "Are You Normal? No.") and "Homosexuality" (The Other Straight)." We learn such interesting facts as: The male sex pheromone is most closely replicated by the scent of a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's, and most sexually transmitted diseases can be easily cured through time travel. (For a preview of some of the book's rather, um, informative graphics, check out the Huffington Post.)

When to Read It: When your college-aged nephew comes to visit. (On second thought, that might be heinously awkward. Go ahead and giggle over it with your friends, though.)

Details: Crown Publishing Group, August 24, $18.99

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