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.
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.