JOPLIN, Mo. —
Memorial Day has passed and summer is here, which means it’s time to start reading. Call them beach books or summer reading, recommendations are all over the Internet.
Suggestions are all over the map, but I couldn’t discern one book as “The Big Summer Book of 2012.”
There’s plenty of time for one to emerge. In the meanwhile, here are a few ideas to consider.
The Web site, www.flavorwire.com, listed “10 Highbrow Books to Read on the Beach.”
“You don’t want to waste your time on something trashy,” they write, so the focus is on books that will “captivate you on the beach and still make you look smart when you get back to the city.”
Works for me. Among their suggestions:
- “I Am an Executioner: Love Stories,” by Rajesh Parameswaran, where “a veritable menagerie of characters dance by, each in love, each captivating.”
- “The Sisters Brothers,” by Patrick DeWitt, a “rip-roaring and often dryly hilarious Western picaresque ... praised from here to Thursday.” I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages, even more now that I know it will make me “look smart” when I get back to the city (look out, Joplin).
- “You Deserve Nothing,” by Alexander Maksik, a gossipy novel about “torrid affairs and bad behavior,” leaving you titillated and challenged all at once. I’m interested, based on the title alone.
- “Suddenly, a Knock on the Door,” by Etgar Keret, which is billed as “surreal and twisted” and full of laugh-out-loud humor. “Best of all, almost no attention span is required.” This is another big plus.
More summer reading suggestions come from www.realsimple.com. They write:
- If you want an old-style yarn: “The Angel’s Game,” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, is a long sweeping novel set in 1920s Barcelona that deals with art, money, good and evil — all favorites.
- If you want a page-turner: “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” by Stieg Larson — if there’s anyone left in the world who hasn’t already read the Lisbeth Salander books. It’s a page-turner for sure.
- If out-of-school kids are killing you: “Bad Mother,” by Gina Ford, a “wry, rueful dissection of modern parenting.” I hope there’s lots of laughs in there.
Recommended by the New York Times for summer reading:
- Best beach title around: “Granddad, There’s a Head on the Beach,” is a “droll mystery novel set in Asia” by Colin Cotterill. That may be the best title, beach or otherwise, I’ve seen in a long time.
- “Bring Up the Bodies,” by Hilary Mantel, is another good title. This one is part of a trilogy about Henry VIII’s political and marital woes, of which there were many.
- “Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson, is about a young girl who notices that the rotation of the earth has begun to slow, and the longer days usher in an eerily altered world.
- “The Last Full Measure” by Michael Stephenson, is intense and “grippingly specific.” This is a military historian’s account of exactly how soldiers die in battle, from the ancient Greeks all the way up to Iraq and Afghanistan.
- “Cronkite” by Douglas Brinkley, a doorstop-size biography. The book is “illuminating — not only about the man himself but also in the way he filtered history for a nation.”
That should be enough to get you going, so start reading.
USA has ‘stupid survey’ competition
This is not the only country where money is spent on stupid surveys. The United Kingdom is right out there with us.
The UK’s National Literacy Trust announced last summer about the following deep research: Children who read more books each month are better readers. Comments MediaBistro: “Sorry for the obviousness; that’s really what the report says.”
This big news came from testing more than 18,000 children. Some 15 percent of the kids read less than one book a month; 10 percent read 10 or more a month; and 80 percent of heavy readers tested above grade level vs. 30 percent of the “casual readers.”
Naturally, the trust is calling on the populace to donate money so it can create new programs to help children learn to read. The money will be used to send a child to an “inspirational reading event and choose a book to keep.”
Pardon my skepticism, but in my experience, most avid readers learn to love books early on, and at home — and some won’t love books even then and there.
You can lead a horse to water, or a kid to a book, but you can’t make either of them drink/read if they don’t want to.