Whatever summer holds for you vacation, staycation or a bit of both a dependable companion is always a good book. More likely, several.
Pick a genre, there are plenty to go around beach read, thriller, sci-fi/fantasy, science, world adventure, humor, romance, history. Add word-of-mouth and good ol' guilty pleasure.
Then choose a format paperback, hardback or electronic books downloadable to a growing array of devices, or mix 'em up. It doesn't matter, since reading can take place anywhere at the beach or beside a mountain lake, in a backyard hammock or aboard a commercial jetliner bound for the far side of the world.
The landslide of summer-reading books crowding the scene since May will run into September, when publishing houses traditionally turn their attention to releasing their marquee titles and authors in time for the holiday gift-giving season.
So it's surprising to see so many A-list fiction writers on summer-reading lists Richard Ford, Toni Morrison, Dean Koontz, Laura Lippman and Dave Eggers among them.
Meanwhile, summer non- fiction is heavy with memoirs (Buddy Guy, Joan Rivers, Greg Allman) and biographies (Walter Cronkite, Lyndon Johnson, Bruce Springsteen, Ben Bradlee). Also of special note are hard-hitting looks at world pollution, America's disturbing relationship with its garbage, and San Francisco during one of its most tumultuous times.
This list offers a sampling, arranged alphabetically by authors' last names. Many are on sale now; for the others, publishing dates are noted.
Go ahead turn the page.
"The Absent One" by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton, $26.95, 400 pages; Aug. 21): The Copenhagen-set sequel to "The Keeper of Lost Causes" is quirky and wry. Detective Carl Mørck, who works cold cases with two amateur assistants, is damaged but not down. Here, he tracks a 20-year-old case to its twisted ending.
"Untold Story" by Monica Ali (Scribner, $25, 272 pages; June 28): Did Diana, Princess of Wales, really die in that car crash in Paris? If so, who is the Englishwoman quietly living in a small town in the American Midwest?
"Equal of the Sun" by Anita Amirrezvani (Scribner, $26, 448 pages): England had Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1576, the Muslim world had Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi, reimagined here amid intrigue, romance and danger in the royal court of Iran.
"The Lost Ones" by Ace Atkins (Putnam, $25.95, 352 pages): In "The Ranger," the veteran novelist introduced ex-Army Ranger Quinn Colson. Now he's the newly elected sheriff in his Mississippi hometown, where big trouble is brewing.
"The Columbus Affair" by Steve Berry (Ballantine, $27, 448 pages): The historic thriller offers terrorists, a treasure hunt and dark secrets swirling around Christopher Columbus' activities in the West Indies. Berry has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
"Creole Belle" by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 544 pages; July 17): In his 19th adventure, Cajun detective-troubleshooter Dave Robicheaux gets a life-altering "visitor" while recovering in the hospital from a gunshot wound.
"The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln" by Stephen L. Carter (Knopf, $26.95, 528 pages; July 10): Lincoln escapes assassination, but two years later faces impeachment and treachery.
"A Land More Kind Than Home" by Wiley Cash (William Morrow, $24.99, 320 pages): Set in rural North Carolina and narrated by three characters, the debut literary thriller follows two young brothers who accidentally fall into danger.
"The Emerald Storm" by William Dietrich (Harper, $25.99, 368 pages): The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist picks up where he left off in "The Barbary Pirates," with American expatriate-rogue Ethan Gage mired in over-the-top adventures in the early 1800s. Here he searches for the lost treasure of Montezuma. Rousing good stuff.
"When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man" by Nick Dybek (Riverhead, $27, 320 pages): Young Cal lives among king crab fishermen in Alaska, where the town's livelihood depends on the vagaries of nature. When the fishing fleet's owner dies, a way of life is threatened.
"A Hologram for the King" by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, $25, 328 pages): Ever contemporary, San Francisco-based editor-publisher-writer Eggers tells of a Saudi Arabian businessman who goes to extremes to protect his family against the ongoing global economic downturn.
"Canada" by Richard Ford (Ecco, $27.99, 432 pages): The parents of 15-year-old twins rob a bank and land in prison. That life-altering trauma leads their lost children into spiraling depths of violence and, eventually, to redemption of a sort. True literature.
"Beneath the Shadows" by Sara Foster (Minotaur, $24.99, 320 pages): When Adam inherits an isolated cottage, he and wife Grace and their baby leave London and move in. Strange things begin to happen. Is the cottage haunted? What secrets are the villagers keeping? Then, abruptly, Adam disappears. Well-done Gothic is rare, but here it is.
"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben Fountain (Ecco, $25.99, 320 pages): Eight U.S. soldiers who survived a firefight in Iraq are feted as heroes in Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. The chasm between the reality and the glorification of war hasn't been this surreal since Joseph Heller's "Catch-22."
"Porch Lights" by Dorothea Benton Frank (William Morrow, $25.99, 336 pages): The "queen of Southern fiction" spins another comforting family-oriented tale set on Sullivan's Island in her beloved Carolina Lowcountry. Frank has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
"Goodbye For Now" by Laurie Frankel (Doubleday, $25.95, 304 pages; Aug. 7): Computer science flirts with sci-fi when a programmer creates software that (almost) lets the living talk with the departed.
"Mission to Paris" by Alan Furst (Random House, $27, 272 pages): Tensions mount in 1938 Europe as the Nazi party continues its madness. Spies are everywhere, betrayals common. Into the storm comes an unwitting American actor making a movie in Paris. The American ambassador gently asks him: Could he possibly do a little favor for his country?
"Wife 22" by Melanie Gideon (Ballantine, $26, 400 pages): The life of a housewife bored with routine is turned upside down when she anonymously participates in an online survey-study called "Marriage in the 21st Century."
"The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken" by Tarquin Hall (Simon & Schuster, $24, 352 pages): India's "most private investigator" Vish Puri confronts the Indian and Pakistani mafias while solving the murder of a top cricketeer. Wonderfully witty, à la John Mortimer's "Rumpole of the Bailey" novels.
"In One Person" by John Irving (Simon & Schuster, $28, 448 pages): A bisexual man tells the story of his life as a "sexual suspect" and his quest for love and understanding. Another great character study from the National Book Award winner.
"The Jane Austen Marriage Manual" by Kim Izzo (St. Martin's, $14.99, 336 pages): Taking cues from books by her favorite author, a 40ish woman goes in search of a husband. But what about love? Very funny chick lit.
"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce (Random House, $25, 336 pages; July 24): A retired British husband embarks on a 600-mile walk to say goodbye to a dying former lover. Along the way, his life is revitalized.
"Odd Apocalypse" by Dean Koontz (Bantam, $28, 368 pages; July 31): The fifth adventure in the "Odd Thomas" franchise. Of all the characters created by horrormeister Koontz, perhaps the most likable is Odd, the young fry cook from Pico Mundo, Calif. Odd has the ability to communicate with the "lingering dead," a gift or curse that has led him into many tight spots.
"And When She Was Good" by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, $26.99, 320 pages; Aug. 14): Journalist-turned-crime-fiction novelist Lippman is best-known for her 11-title Tess Monaghan series. "Good" is her sixth stand-alone title. In it, a single mom who secretly runs an escort service may be on a serial killer's list. Lippman will appear for the Bee Book Club on Aug. 16.
"Bring Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt, $28, 432 pages): The sequel to "Wolf Hall," the 2009 Man Booker Prize-winner, is top-tier historic literature set in Tudor times. The players are King Henry VIII; his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell; and Queen Anne Boleyn. It doesn't matter that we know the ending getting there is all the fun.
"The Chaperone" by Laura Moriarty (Riverhead, $26.95, 384 pages): Before she became a showgirl/ silent-film star, Louise Brooks was a sassy teenager who made a trip to New York under the watchful eye of a 36-year-old housewife-chaperone. That much is true. The reimagining of what happened next is a twisty tale of crossed paths and hidden agendas set in the 1920s flapper era. Big buzz.
"What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty (Berkley, $15, 496 pages): Alice is 29 and just engaged, but loses her memory after an accident. She "wakes up" 10 years later to find things have drastically changed for the worse. Now what?
"Home" by Toni Morrison (Knopf, $24, 160 pages): Morrison shows in her 10th novel why she deserved the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. This simple story of a Korean War vet who saves his sister from madness resonates with universality.
"2312" by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, $25.99, 576 pages): The Davis-based science fiction writer takes us into the future, where planets have been colonized and harmony is possible almost.
"Bloodline" by James Rollins (William Morrow, $27.99, 464 pages; June 26): The El Dorado Hills thriller novelist keeps 'em coming with another Sigma Force adventure a mix of history, adventure, sci-fi and global danger. Always a wild and educational ride.
"The Watch" by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya (Hogarth, $25, 304 pages): U.S. soldiers in an embattled Afghan outpost are thrown into turmoil when a woman appears, demanding the return of her brother's body for burial. Is this an ambush?
"Swamplandia" by Karen Russell (Knopf, $24.95, 336 pages): The hugely acclaimed novel was published last year and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and is being re- released in trade paperback July 26 (Vintage, $14.95). There are good reasons for its long legs and why it's a solid summer read. Foremost is the bizarre and captivating story itself: A 13-year-old girl is raised on an island in the Florida Everglades, working in her family's alligator-wrestling theme park. Ultimately, she must take the narrative "hero's journey" through a surreal landscape to save her family.
"A Blaze of Glory" by Jeff Shaara (Ballantine, $28, 464 pages): The bestselling author specializes in epic tales set in world wars. "Glory" is the first of a new trilogy about the Civil War. Shaara has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
"Niceville" by Carsten Stroud (Knopf, $26.95, 400 pages): Weird things are happening in the usually tranquil town of Niceville. A local cop and his attorney wife investigate, discovering an evil "shadow world."
"Dark Magic" by James Swain (Tor, $24.99, 352 pages): To his public, Peter Warlock is a magician with baffling tricks. In private, the psychic sees future crimes. His newest vision is so startling that it launches a manhunt as time runs out. Swain has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
"The Lower River" by Paul Theroux (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 336 pages): Massachusetts businessman Ellis Hock returns to the village in Malawi where he once served in the Peace Corps. Things have changed and the threats escalate.
"12.21" by Dustin Thomason (Dial, $27, 336 pages): Ancient relics, outbreaks of disease, the possible answer to why the Mayan empire suddenly disappeared. Can it be true that the Mayan calendar is right? That the end of days will arrive Dec. 21, 2012?
"The Age of Miracles" by Karen Walker (Random House, $26, 288 pages, June 26): Planet Earth is undergoing drastic geological changes on its way to its demise, as its rotation has slowed down. Amid the impending doom is a young girl who comes of age just when the world may end at any time.
"My Cross to Bear" by Greg Allman (William Morrow, $27.99, 400 pages): The rock-blues Allman Brothers Band was legendary in the 1970s and 1980s. Lead singer Greg Allman takes us backstage in his frank memoir.
"Visit Sunny Chernobyl" by Andrew Blackwell (Rodale, $25.99, 320 pages): A very personal and frightening tour of the Earth's seven most polluted places.
"Cronkite" by Douglas Brinkley (Harper, $34.99, 832 pages): Revered journalist Walter Cronkite was once known as "the most trusted man in America." The private person behind the familiar face on TV news is brought into detailed focus.
"The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson" by Robert A. Caro (Knopf, $35, 736 pages): This absorbing biography (from 1958 through 1964) of one of the most calculating and astute politicians of the 20th century is among summer's most-heralded titles.
"Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'n' Roll" by Marc Dolan (W.W. Norton, $29.95, 528 pages): The much-anticipated inside look at the performer and culture-changer lands firmly on its feet.
"When I Left Home" by Buddy Guy (Da Capo, $26, 320 pages): Guy is one of the world's top bluesmen, a seen-it-all artist who helped shape an American sound. Here, he recalls his life transformation.
"Yours In Truth" by Jeff Himmelman (Random House, $27, 512 pages): As the executive editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee made society-changing decisions about the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and the presidency of Richard Nixon. When Himmelman began interviews and research for this biography, Bradlee told him, "Don't feel you have to protect me. Follow your nose." The result is absorbing.
"Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash" by Edward Humes (Avery, $27, 288 pages): Hold your nose and join Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Humes as he leads us through our shockingly wasteful society and the landfills it produces.
"Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars" by Paul Ingrassia (Simon & Schuster, $30, 416 pages): Cars can change culture. These did, and include the Volkswagen Beetle, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Ford Mustang.
"Birdseye" by Mark Kurlansky (Doubleday, $25.95, 272 pages): Clarence Birdseye was an inventor and adventurer whose main pastime was being curious which led to his invention of flash-frozen vegetables. Today, the multinational Birds Eye frozen-food conglomerate is a household word. Kurlansky is the author of "Salt," "Cod" and "The Big Oyster."
"A Sense of Direction" by Gideon Lewis-Kraus (Riverhead, $27, 352 pages): Tired of his purposeless party life in Berlin, the author embarked on three global pilgrimages walking thousands of miles to find deeper meaning.
"A Ship Without a Sail" by Gary Marmorstein (Simon & Schuster, $30, 544 pages; July 3): Lyricist Lorenz Hart was musically conjoined to composer Richard Rodgers, producing some of the greatest songs ever. Hart's complex genius is explored.
"The Juice" by Jay McInerney (Knopf, $26.95, 284 pages): With chapter headings such as "Does Bordeaux Still Matter?" the multifaceted writer ("A Hedonist in the Cellar," "Bright Lights, Big City") educates the mental palate by simplifying wine mythology.
"Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See" by Françoise Mouly (Abrams, $24.95, 128 pages): The New Yorker magazine publishes some of the world's finest reporting and fiction, but is more popularly known for its cartoons and sophisticated cover illustrations. Art editor Mouly offers some true delights.
"I Hate Everyone ... Starting With Me" by Joan Rivers (Berkley, $25.95, 256 pages): The comedian's hilarious shticks on her "fond dislikes" makes you glad you're not her. On spending time in the kitchen: "If God had wanted me to cook, my hands would be made of aluminum."
"Bomboozled" by Susan Roy (Pointed Leaf, $55, 176 pages): Remember the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation and the propaganda-fueled bomb shelter craze? Roy revisits the misguided years of "duck and cover" with scary delight, and includes photos, posters and memorabilia.
"The Man in the Rockefeller Suit" by Mark Seal (Viking, $26.95, 336 pages): The fascinating account of a veteran con man (and possible murderer) who passed himself off as a member of the monied Rockefeller family.
"Season of the Witch" by David Talbot (Free Press, $28, 480 pages): San Francisco like you've never seen it, focused on the rocky years between 1967 and 1982.
"The Goldilocks Planet" by Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 256 pages): There's a saying at newspapers: "The weather is news." In this case, 4.5 billion years of Earth's weather is under consideration. Why can't we predict it better? And what about global warming?
ON THE WEB
For more summer reading suggestions, look at these sites:
www.thedailybeast.com (Daily Beast)
www.newyorker.com (New Yorker magazine)
www.nybooks.com (New York Review of Books)
www.npr.org (National Public Radio)
For young adults:
www.teenreads.com (The Book Report)
www.readkiddoread.com (sponsored by novelist James Patterson)
www.wonderopolis.org (National Center for Family Literacy)
WHAT'LL YOU READ?
Whether you're filling a beach bag with paperbacks or loading an electronic reader with e-books, we're curious about what you plan to reading this summer.
We'll share your summer reading lists with other readers in each Monday's "Between the Lines" column as the summer goes on, so everyone will be on the same page, so to speak.
Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put "Summer Reading" in the subject line and include your full name, daytime phone number and city of residence.