10 Best Summer Reads

Just about every blog out there has a Summer Reading list – the best books of the year to companion you through the dog days of summer. While it’s a good idea, it’s not really feasible for me to do. Why? Well, out here in the land that time forgot (The Czech Republic) it isn’t really easy to get your hands on the newest literature in english. I used to work at a little independent bookstore here in Prague that has since closed, and that was the best bet. Sure you can find books in english here, but usually just best sellers and crap lit like “The Twilight Saga”. You would be shocked and amazed at the amount of crappy female detective novels (V.I Warshawski, Alexander McCall Smith) females consume thinking they are reading good “literature”. Anyway, when I see all of these enticing lists full of books that I can’t get my hands on immediately, I get upset. And sad. I wanna read new books too!

And please don’t tell me to just get an e-reader. I think e-readers suck. I don’t care how “easy” it is, or how fast I can download it. Honestly, how fucking hard is it to open a real book? How much easier does a thing need to be? I digress. It’s simple: I like books. I like the smell. I like flipping pages. I like to feel the print on the page. I like finding used books with writing in it. Why would I want to replace all of those tactile joys with a fucking computer? Oh, right. that would mean that I like ads every time I open my um, flap jacket that thinks it’s a book cover. That would mean I like “people” tracking what I read, how fast I read, and if I finish my books. Lame sauce. That’s right, lame sauce. And if I see you with one I reserve the right to call you that.

ANYHOO… That’s why this particular summer reading list is a little different. This list contains books that take place in summer months or just feel summery. I don’t know. They are good books that you can buy and read and I suggest you check them out. I tried to put some different books in here. And please note – for the first time ever there is no Murakami on the list. You should have already read him by now. The end.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Duh. A classic any way you slice it. Read it again.

2.  A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving – I know, I have put this book on so many lists! But it is that great. This book contains an armadillo, a live changing summer baseball game, a boy who believes he is an instrument of god, and just about the best Christmas pageant scene ever put on paper.

3.  Under the Dome by Stephen KingI am smack dab in the middle of this mammoth of a book. If “summer reading” for you means a big, huge adventure involving a mystery and a murder or two, then this is the book for you. Stephen King is pretty awesome and so far this book doesn’t disappoint.

4. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – Maybe fiction and sci-fi aren’t your thing. Maybe you like real life drama. If that is the case look no further than Erik Larson. I have read all of his books and they are all wonderful. He makes non-fiction feel like a story. It’s awesome. I picked my favorite of his books. The tag line for the book is “Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America”How could you NOT want to read it? And the serial killer? Well, you couldn’t make this kind of crazy up.

5. The Beach by Alex Garland – Backpackers, beaches, hostels… what more do you need in a summer read? Don’t judge this book by the movie because the book is much better. It’s a quick fun read.

6. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – Don’t worry. I am not trying to force you to become a vegetarian. That’s not really what this book is about. This book is one mans journey to discover where his food actually comes from. He tackles the issue from four different angles: Industrial, Organic, and food we forage or kill ourselves. It is a really interesting book that will make you think the next time you want to buy food at a big chain store or a Burger King.

7. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann – Sex. Drugs. Hollywood. It’s all in there and it’s all pretty damned good. You want a beach read? Then grab a copy of this classic. The book is full of helpful life hints like, “A man must feel he runs things, but as long as you control yourself, you control him.” Hmm. Good to know! or how about this one, “When you’re climbing Mount Everest, nothing is easy. You just take one step at a time, never look back and always keep your eyes glued to the top.” See? This book helps you climb mountains.

8. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell – This book isn’t really a “summer” book, but I read it a few summers ago and loved it, so it makes the list. The book is composed of thirteen chapters, each one month in the protagonists life. He is a 13-year old boy named Jason Taylor and he deals with life and loss, and peer pressure and coming into his own. The book takes place in 1982 and manages to stay fresh. Each chapter almost reads like its own short story.

9. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – This is another book I just couldn’t stop talking about after I read it. What a treat! The story is about Oscar – a fat kid from the Dominican Republic who dreams of growing up to be the next Tolkien and falling in love. You can’t help but love Oscar. He lives in New Jersey with his old school mom and his kind of mean sister. This is a good one!

10. The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates – I don’t think a summer has gone by without me reaching for a Joyce Carol Oates book. Her books are epic, heartbreaking and thought-provoking. And the woman is prolific, I haven’t even come close to reading everything of hers and I have read a lot! So, I went with “The Falls”. I don’t know if it is my favorite, or even the best but it is awesome.  She is amazing at telling stories that span decades, like this one. It starts off on an ill-fated Honeymoon that leaves our heroine a widow. The rest of the story involves her life, loves, the Love Canal case and environmental issues that nobody really thought about in the 50’s and 60’s.

*****BONUS BOOK!****  

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber – This one is for all you sheep ladies out there who think 50 Shades of Grey is something new and awesome, or even well written. It ain’t. Try THIS one is you like smut, sex, romance, forbidden love and all that stuff that comes with it. This book is HOT, gritty, well-written and lot’s of fun to read.

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