Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
Ahhh, summer…the time of beaches and barbeques and fireworks. In spite of the fact that my days of summer vacation are long over, there’s still something about summer that makes me feel like I’m escaping the schoolbooks once again.
Thus, summer requires a different kind of reading than the rest of the year. Summer books should be a little hotter than the books you read for the rest of the year. They should be books you can imagine carrying to the beach, or onto an airplane on your way to a tropical vacation. And even when they contemplate serious issues, they should do so in a way that sizzles.
Of course, anyone could hit the local bookstore and hit up the bestseller rack. But what fun would that be? So in the spirit of being a little more original, here are five books you could read to guarantee a sizzling summer.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Okay, maybe this one sounds like a little bit of a cop-out. After all, everyone gets assigned Gatsby in English class, so doesn’t that negate the whole “escaping the schoolbooks” thing. But if you haven’t picked up Gatsby since junior-year lit, you may want to try again. The tale of Jay Gatsby has everything a summer read needs: money, mayhem, and murder. Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan, the woman whose voice is “full of money.” Daisy is married to Tom, a hard, cold—but rich—man who cheats on her repeatedly. Gatsby has earned his fortune as a Prohibition-era bootlegger, whereas Tom and Daisy are “old money,”—and old money, we discover, is much better than new. This book could easily be re-titled Rich People Really Suck—and what better message during a recession?
Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi
Some people say that the free-loving spirit of the 1960s actually ended in August 1969, when the Manson family brutally murdered several people in southern California—one of which was actress Sharon Tate. Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who brought Manson to justice for the crimes, wrote this riveting book in the mid-1970s detailing the murders, their aftermath, and how investigators ultimately determined that Manson and his followers were responsible for the murders. If you can get past the gruesome descriptions of the murders, what you have here is a compelling cat-and-mouse narrative with Bugliosi as our hero and Manson as the cold, calculated villain. The supporting characters are just as artfully drawn, from Manson’s troubled followers to the unfortunate victims.
Flowers in the Attic, V.C. Andrews
This is, quite simply, a messed-up book. Twelve-year-old Cathy, her older brother Chris, and their younger twin siblings Cory and Carrie are living a happy life in Charlottesville, Virginia, until their father dies. Their mother, unable to support herself on her own, turns to her rich parents, who do not know about the children. Not to give too much away, but what happens next involves an attic…and incest. People often remember this book for the ick factor, but it’s actually a compelling portrait of the complexities of sibling relationships—especially when you happen to be locked up in an attic with said siblings for several years. The whole incest thing is merely…incidental.
Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
Speaking of messed-up families, this one pretty much takes the cake. Oly, a hunchback albino dwarf, recalls the story of her life in the carnival with her family. Oly’s parents were carnival performers who took drugs in order to create children with freak-like qualities: Arty, a boy with flippers for limbs; conjoined twins Elly and Iphy; Oly herself; and Chick, a normal-looking boy with telekinetic powers. Oly longs for the love of her screwed-up family, especially megalomaniacal brother Arty. But in a family whose members are prized only for their deformities, Oly’s low-grade mutation makes her odd-person out. Twisted and crazy, this will make you thankful for your only moderately screwed-up family.
Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder
Just after her fourteenth birthday, a girl named Sophie starts receiving mysterious packages that contain a correspondence course in philosophy. As Sophie becomes more and more enmeshed in the course, she becomes curious about her teacher, Alberto Knox. Other mysterious figures lurk in the background: Albert Knag, a major in a United Nations peacekeeping unit, and his daughter Hilde. The story becomes more complicated as it goes on, and you start to wonder who’s really teaching this lesson. It’s not as twisted or violent as the other books I’ve mentioned here (which can be good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it). But it is, at times, strange, silly, and ultimately satisfying.
Selected Book Releases, June 22-28
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
The Doomsday Key by James Rollins
Now and Then by Jacqueline Sheehan
Catastrophe by Dick Morris with Eileen McGann
The Fixer-Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
The Wedding Girl by Madeline Wickham
Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
Trust No One by Gregg Hurwitz
Real Men Last All Night by Lora Leigh et al.
The State of Jones by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer
And Mistress Makes Three by Francis Ray
The Spiders of Allah by James Hide
Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon by Buzz Aldrin
The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
The Cutting by James Hayman
Stormy Weather by James Gavin
Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Obsession: An Erotic Tale by Gloria Vanderbilt
The E-Myth Enterprise by Michael Gerber
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell
By Invitation Only by Jodi Della Femina and Sheri McInnis