Hopping a plane or a cruise boat or an interstate this summer? Want to be entertained without resorting to the “I Like” game? (Rules: Take turns saying things that you like. That’s it.) Make like LeVar Burton and read a book.
In the summer, I prefer books that are completely frothy or completely absorbing. Also, they must be paperback. I know everyone has e-readers now, but you can’t bring your Kindle on the beach without risking a sand invasion. Here are some suggestions for Summer 2012.
If you want to snort laugh on the airplane and cause your seat-mates to give you strange looks:
Go for something by Jen Lancaster. I just finished My Fair Lazy, her attempt to exercise her reality tv atrophied brain with some high culture. Pretty in Plaid is another safe bet if you like coming of age stories. JenLan is like your loudest and most ridiculous friend from high school except she’s more articulate. You can freak out with her over the new season of The Bachelor, but you can also rub elbows with her high society pals who take her to the opera to Eliza Doolittle her.
(image from the author’s website)
If you want to get really absorbed in an epic that will take you all summer to read:
Try to get through George R.R. Martins’ Song of Ice and Fire series. This seems obvious, right? Like, we’re all watching Game of Thrones on HBO anyway and we all want to know when Joffrey the Jerkwad gets what’s coming to him. I’ll admit that I tried to read this before and gave up midway through the third book because I got bored with all the war, war, war. The first book was pretty easy to get through thanks to the visuals in my mind from the TV series, and I have a feeling that will help the rest of the series for me too. I’m planning to try again this summer. You should too!
(image from the author’s website)
If you don’t care if you ever the touch the beach again:
You’re not going to want to spend much time on the sand after reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. Every fall, the beach on this Irish island is overrun with vicious flesh eating horses that emerge from the sea. The wacky locals catch the horses, try to tame them, and then they ride them in a deadly race down the shore. Don’t let the YA designation fool you; it’s a lyrical book with evocative descriptions that bring the salty air right to your nose.
If you have a short attention span:
Depending on your literary tastes, crack open Jennifer Weiner’s The Guy Not Taken or Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors. Very different but satisfying experiences. Each book collects many of the respective authors’ best short stories. Truthfully, Weiner’s tales skew more feminine, but that doesn’t make them less worthy or engrossing. Smoke and Mirrors includes one of my favorite Gaiman stories: “Snow, Glass, Apples.” Makes these new Snow White movies look like child’s play.
If you want to screw it all and just watch a fun girl meet cute with a handsome dude:
Zoey Dean’s How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls has everything I look for in a rom com: smart girl who likes to write, handsome but nice boy who happens to have money, bad boyfriends who get comeuppance, rich people, budding socialites, and a cover that has metallic accents. You already know exactly what you are getting with this one, but it’s still pretty fun to watch Megan stumble through her own personal love story.
If you want to feel intellectually superior to everyone else on the cruise ship:
Just pick up whatever Toni Morrison just released. I promise it will be well written and heart wrenching and it’s like carrying a sign with you that says, “I’m smarter than you.” It will not be frothy though. You’re on your own there. Read Rebecca or something if you’re looking for some literary fluff.
If you want to embrace the YA side:
Read Spoiled by the Fug Girls. I think of this as a gateway drug because the Fug Girls are widely read on their celeb fashion snarkfest website. If you’re not already a YA fan, you can just say that you think they’re funny and wanted to read their book. And it is funny! It pokes fun at Hollywood and celebutantes, but there is some heart underneath. The cover looks like your average beach read too, so it doesn’t scream “YA” so much as it screams, “I am on vacation and I don’t care if I get smarter here.”
(image from the publisher’s website)
If you want to spout annoying facts for weeks after your trip:
I’ll admit that I haven’t finished The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean yet, but I did read the introduction and part of the first chapter and it is a readable science book. It’s about the periodic table of elements and the author collected all kinds of interesting factoids about each element and put it in narrative form. If high school chemistry had more storytelling, I would have done better.
(image from author’s website)
For my own summer reading, I’m trying to finish all of the 53 books that I’ve bought without reading in the last couple of years. 53 books in three months… I must be mad.