Our picks for great read­ing this sum­mer

On these hot days, con­serve your en­ergy and stim­u­late your mind with one of these new ti­tles or clas­sics.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Bo Emerson be­mer­son@ajc.com

A porch swing, a cool breeze and a good read: That’s our idea of heaven. The lazy days give us a chance to fi­nally dive into that Stieg Lars­son tril­ogy or re­visit great hotweather nov­els from the past. If you’re short on ideas, The Atlanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion’s fea­tures writers have a few sug­ges­tions. Here are some great sum­mer­time books, both clas­sic and new. Tina Fey,“Bossy­pants” (April 2011)

Once you get past the creepy cover, you’ll get an acute over­view of Fey’s life as a mother, writer and ac­tress, shared in her dis­tinctly self-dep­re­cat­ing voice. Want to know how she got pegged to play Sarah Palin on “Satur­day Night Live”? She’s happy to pro­vide the de­tails. How she got that scar on her face? She’ll tell you in a sen­tence and leave it at that.

This not-quite-a-mem­oir also delves into more se­ri­ous top­ics, such as sex­ism in the work­place and her in­ter­nal de­bate about whether to have a sec­ond child (she’s preg­nant, but wasn’t at the time of writ­ing). But all of it is de­liv­ered in Fey’s breezy tone, gen­er­ated by an ad­mirably shrewd brain. Charles Dick­ens,“Oliver Twist” (1838)

For some rea­son, ev­ery ref­er­ence to Harry Pot­ter al­ways con­jures a mem­ory of Dick­ens’ in­deli­ble or­phan. The ac­cents, the tragic back story of the ti­tle char­ac­ter, the band of friends men­tored by a lean, tow­er­ing man (al­though Fagin’s crim­i­nal his­tory is a tad dif­fer­ent than the ven­er­ated Dum­ble­dore).

You see it, too, right? With the Pot­ter saga end­ing on screen next month, it’s the per­fect time to get reac­quainted with Oliver, the Art­ful Dodger and this some­times tough 19th-cen­tury ex­plo­ration of good vs. evil.

Melissa Ruggieri Stephen Glover,“Steve-O Pro­fes­sional Id­iot: A Mem­oir” (June 2011)

Sum­mer read­ing shouldn’t tax the mind, nor should it oblit­er­ate the brain out­right. There­fore, en­joy Stephen

“Steve-O” Glover’s hi­lar­i­ous and alarm­ing tale of “Jack­ass” may­hem, but don’t fol­low his ex­am­ple and you’ll keep your gray cells in­tact. Writ­ten with At­lantan David Peis­ner, “Pro­fes­sional Id­iot” re­counts how Glover’s pen­chant for light­ing him­self on fire and div­ing into a baby pool full of ele­phant poop led to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer. Glover also de­tails the down­side of his life as a mem­ber of the “Jack­ass” troupe (drug abuse, men­tal ill­ness, bro­ken teeth), but on the whole the laughs out­num­ber the bum­mers. Her­man Raucher, “Sum­mer of ’42”(1971)

Hind­sight re­veals that this ten­der story of ado­les­cence and sum­mer love fea­tures a teen-adult li­ai­son that would get you 10 years in the pokey in the state of Ge­or­gia. That concern aside, the novel is a soft-lit, au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­count by screen­writer Her­man Raucher of his 15th sum­mer and his ef­forts and those of his sex-ob­sessed friends to score. Raucher adapted his own screen­play as a novel and the book (which came out first) and the movie were huge hits. If you don’t see the movie, you don’t get to en­joy the peer­less Jen­nifer O’Neill, nor the aching ro­man­tic mu­sic by Michel Legrand, but read­ers will still be re­warded with poignant Port­noy-era hu­mor. Con­nie Briscoe,“Money Can’t Buy Love”(June 2011)

Money is a big theme this sum­mer and this novel starts with ev­ery girl’s fan­tasy. Lenora Stone, a 37-year-old pho­tog­ra­pher in Bal­ti­more, thinks win­ning $5 mil­lion in the lot­tery means the end of her car trou­bles, over­due bills and in­flat­ing mort­gage. She quits her job, buys a new car and a man­sion and quickly dis­cov­ers that fame and for­tune al­ways have a price. It is an en­ter­tain­ing story that leaves you feel­ing pretty good about your cash­strapped ex­is­tence. F. Scott Fitzger­ald,“The Great Gatsby”(1925)

There are three things from high school that I will cher­ish for­ever: a triple bar­rel, deep wave curl­ing iron; YSL Opium per­fume; and Fitzger­ald’s third novel, “The Great Gatsby.” It is the per­fect clas­sic sum­mer read for a few rea­sons. First, it opens in early sum­mer. Sec­ond, it takes place on the shores of Long Is­land, N.Y. And fi­nally, it ex­plores the gulf be­tween new money and old money, and all the prob­lems that come with it. Ann Patch­ett,“State of Won­der”(June 2011)

All good thrillers should start with a death or an ex­otic lo­ca­tion. Bet­ter if you have both, which you will in “State of Won­der” by the best-sell­ing au­thor of “Bel Canto.”

The book opens as Dr. Ma­rina Singh, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­searcher, learns of the death of her re­search part­ner and friend, An­ders Eck­man, in the Ama­zon. Ma­rina is sent to find her for­mer men­tor, the toughas-nails Dr. An­nick Swen­son, who was in the Ama­zon work­ing on a valu­able new drug. In the process, Ma­rina dis­cov­ers more about her com­pany, med­i­cal ethics and her­self. Harper Lee,“To Kill a Mock­ing­bird”(1960)

You can’t go wrong with this clas­sic. Lee ex­pected harshly crit­i­cal re­views, but in­stead the book be­came a class­room stan­dard. I first picked up this book when I was in the sev­enth grade and was quickly hooked by Lee’s bril­liant sto­ry­telling and di­a­logue. The book gives you a pow­er­ful look at race re­la­tions in the South as it tells the story of tough but gen­tle­manly lawyer At­ti­cus Finch, who takes on the con­tro­ver­sial case of a black man who is ac­cused of rap­ing a white woman. It’s told through the eyes of his tom­boy daugh­ter, Scout, who nav­i­gates the racial and moral cri­sis with her older brother Jem. It’s a won­der­ful, emo­tional page­turner but not too heavy to take with you when you re­lax with a bit of surf and sand.

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