Top Ten Summer Reading Suggestions

Since I was a very small child, the absolute best thing about summer was the extra time to read. My mother, fed up with me being in the house, would throw me outside to “get some sunshine.” So I took my book outside, sat on the porch, and waited to be let in. Like a cat.

Summer is still the best time to get some reading done and the time that a lot of my professorial/literary snot friends (stop protesting… you know it’s true) unbutton that top button and go for some non-standard fare. But the choices can be overwhelming:

Here are suggestions for some good pleasure reading for fun and even knowledge to help you get the most out of those precious extra hours:

1.  Mr. g by Alan Lightman 

How about a little blasphemy to go with that daiquiri? One friend heartily suggests this novel. Publisher’s Weekly calls Mr. G a “touching, imaginative rendition of God’s creation of the universe…the immortal characters are changed by their brush with the enterprising, however doomed, mortals, bringing this elucidating treatment of quantum physics to an affecting, hopeful conclusion.”

2.  The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco 

Several friends asked for this novel by the Italian mystery/detective master (who penned The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum) to be included.

“I find this book fascinating, perhaps the best Eco has written in years. Eco takes on conspiracy theories in the feverish political activism of nineteenth-century Europe–freemasonry, the Italian Risorgimento, the Paris Commune, and above all the forgery of the slanderous The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. What if there were a single mastermind behind all these conspiracies? It’s already a bestseller in Italy, and I can’t get enough of it!” ~ Huffington Post

3.  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Those of us who have been LONGTIME fans of “The Bloggess” are beside ourselves with glee at the arrival of Lawson’s first “traditional” book. Just take a look at these chapter titles, will ya?

“Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.”

She is hysterical and you should buy this book. Now.

4.  Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D’Art by Christopher Moore 

This selection was heralded by several people. Here’s the scoop:

In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? Why would an artist at the height of his creative powers attempt to take his own life . . . and then walk a mile to a doctor’s house for help? Who was the crooked little “color man” Vincent had claimed was stalking him across France? And why had the painter recently become deathly afraid of a certain shade of blue?

These are just a few of the questions confronting Vincent’s friends—baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec—who vow to discover the truth about van Gogh’s untimely death. Their quest will lead them on a surreal odyssey and brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late nineteenth-century Paris.

5.  Kitty Cornered by Bob Tarte 

Tarte has a remarkable ability to depict animal behavior and see the humor (and toils) of  pets without anthropomorphizing his beloved menagerie. Fans of his previous work (Enslaved by Ducks, Fowl Weatherwill once again delight in the various antics of all his animals, but will appreciate the focus on his six quirky felines. I dare you not to fall in love with Frannie and all the others.

6.  11/22/63 by Stephen King 

King, of course, has been a popular favorite for over thirty years but he has not always enjoyed critical acclaim; this novel, however, has garnered both. Most people will instantly recognize 11/22/63 as the infamous date when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. King imagines what would happen if a time traveler was able to go back to that fateful day and change the course of history.

7.  Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Also being tucked into beach bags this summer is Chris Cleave’s Little Bee.  If you enjoy riveting, character-based novels, this might be a good choice for you too.  Here is what the Washington Post had to say:

Little Bee will blow you away…. In restrained, diamond-hard prose, Cleave alternates between these two characters’ points of view as he pulls the threads of their dark — but often funny — story tight. What unfolds between them… is both surprising and inevitable, thoroughly satisfying if also heart-rending.”

8.  Sandman (Series) by Neil Gaiman

Sometimes summer demands becoming totally obsessed with a series.  You couldn’t ask for a better way to spend dozens of hours than to be immersed in Gaiman’s series of graphic novels. The Sandman novels are a “rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend.” The works are  “widely considered one of the most original and artistically ambitious series of the modern age.”

9.  Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman 

Looking for a good non-fiction read that also serves as a dandy excuse that no one will bother you about playing volleyball or frisbee or anything remotely athletic? This is the book for you. You get to learn all sorts of cool stuff here, like why you keep dreaming that dream about the elephant in your mother’s underpants…or is that just me?  Seriously, though, Eagleman’s study is a fascinating look into what goes on inside the brain, both consciously and unconsciously.

Listen to a great interview with Eagleman on NPR’s Fresh Air here.

10.  Undead and Undermined by Mary Janice Davidson

“Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor thought she couldn’t die. So what’s she doing in the morgue? It could have something to do with a time- traveling trip she made, and a foe with a wicked agenda that could finally be the real death of Betsy-if she’s not careful.”

C’mon. You know you want to.   Tuck it into your snooty copy of Tolstoy if you must (be prepared to explain the “funny parts” though) or flaunt it and ask the person next to you if they would also enjoy some box wine and some Cheetos. C’moooooon…. it’s summer.