Whether a guideline for a few empty moments in the late moments of summer, or a long-term list, this collection of literature offers an eclectic escape for the last rays of sunshine. Begin with Tim Dorsey, his escapades in the Sunshine state are light-hearted, perfect for the dead of winter or the hottest days of summer, and end with Fannie Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes,” a feel-good classic that slaps the social issues we face today between two slabs of brisket and grills for hours into a fun ride through the modern South.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
This pop culture classic details a sports journalist’s trek to the city of sin with his lawyer and a horrified hitch-hiker in tow. No Thompson journey would be complete without a trunk filled with “two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers and laughers.” One of Thompson’s commentaries on the politics and lifestyle of America, this frenetic adventure details the drug-culture of the 1960’s and ‘70’s with wit and journalistic charm enhanced by the fact that the novel reflects Thompson’s own true journalistic experience on the journey.
Number Of Pages: 204
Recommended For: a late summer road trip or afternoon on the water
Enjoy It With: Hunter S. Thompson’s drink of choice: Chivas Regal Scottish Whiskey (for those of age) or sparkling seltzer with lime (for those who are not)
The Silence and the Roar by Nihad Sirees
Fans of Animal Farm and 1984 will enjoy this allegory, set in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country that is strongly reminiscent of the author’s home country of Syria (he is currently in exile from the country). The narrator is a repressed male author whose life is forever changed in the course of a day during which his relationship to his country and his ubiquitous “Leader” evolves. This dystopian allegory descends into the bowels of an autocracy, a journey invoking humor and pain that leaves the narrator, and the reader, wondering if there will ever “be possible for the silence and the roar to co-exist.”
Number of Pages: 160
Recommended For: a lightning storm
Enjoy It With: a glass of sweating iced water
Capital by John Lanchester
As our world climbs out of the recession, this sweeping novel provides a look back at the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, and its effect on a single street in London: Pepys Road. While the setting may seem homogenous, the cast of characters is anything but, ranging from Pakistani shopkeepers to wealthy investment bankers, to an ancient woman who has held onto her decaying house while the neighborhood gentrifies. At over 500 pages, the novel is able to delve deep into the complex human reactions around the financial crisis on a personal level, something that no number of Wall Street Journal articles or stock figures can.
Number of Pages: 577
Recommended For: a bedside table (for a few weeks)
Enjoy It With: croissants, iced coffee, and macarons
Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey
Be warned, Tim Dorsey’s writing, almost all of which takes place up and down the Sunshine state’s coast, from the everglades to the Disney, is very much like a strip mall: neon bright, sun-faded, and hilariously kitchy. The psychotic narrator and crime-solving genius Serge Storms brings his own moral compass to a case involving murder, $5 million in stolen insurance money, and characters ranging from corrupted politicians to strippers, with their noses dipped in a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. Nevertheless, the novel presents an off-beat spring break humor set around a raucous plot, perfect for a hot summer day when you can let your mind wander down past the Florida line.
Number of Pages: 288
Recommended For: humid afternoons when you crave a quick, mindless read that’s more entertaining than thought-provoking
Enjoy It With: the cheapest beer you can find, served in a solo cup or fish bowl (for those of age) or Sunny D (for those who are not)
The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry
If you like Dan Brown, you may be engrossed by Steve Berry, who extracts the most debated and chronicled mysteries and intrigues of every continent, and blends them into international rampages. This particular novel, set in Russia, explores the idea that Anastasia and Alexei, the tsarina and tsarevich of the Romanov family executed in 1918 survived, and left an intercontinental riddle guarded by an association called The Holy Band to find their living ancestors. When the Russian government declares a return to monarchy, this quest suddenly has an immediate timeline… and determined adversaries who wish to execute the surviving heirs. While history buffs may hate the inaccuracies and suspensions of belief required to become immersed in this romp through Russia, the prospect itself is intriguing, and those unfamiliar with Russian history will glean a cultural lesson from this thriller.
Number of Pages: 416
Recommended For: a Sunday morning
Enjoy It With: black caviar, or blintzes topped with fruit.
Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru
Set in the Mojave in the western United States, the diverse set of characters share their narratives that span decades, vibrating through time to the beat of “the Pinnacles” the rock formation in the remote desert where their stories collide, beginning with the disappearance of a four-year old autistic boy with distant parents in the modern day. Themes of higher consciousness and a human collective are explored, but the novel does not preach the comings of UFOs and alien beings, but rather connects the past and present in a single place, much like Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
Number of Pages: 383
Recommended For: hot afternoons in the city and chilly summer nights
Enjoy It With: greasy hamburgers and hot dogs, washed down by a Coke
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
For fans of Clue, the movie or the game, and those horrified by a certain murder mystery reality show airing this summer on ABC, And Then There Were None is the perfect respite. Readers are engrossed in a diabolical novel in which ten strangers are left on an island, and systematically eliminated when they refuse to reveal their own wicked pasts. While you won’t find Agatha Christie’s most popular detectives (Hercules Poirot and Miss. Marple are both absent from the pages) the cast of characters more than merits reading the mystery, and the story itself poses questions still relevant to our justice system: who has the power to punish the wicked?
Number of Pages: 264
Recommended For: dusk, with only a few lights on
Enjoy It With: a glass of brandy or cognac (for those of age), rich chocolate cake and milk
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg
This meandering chronicle of life is told in the 1980’s, but it details a time long before then, when Idgie and Ruth, two friends in bigoted Whistle Stop, Alabama, ran a café serving lip-smacking barbecue and all the gossip of the community. Interspersed with fictional newspaper excerpts, recipes for corn bread (worth a shot baking before returning to Rice’s kitchens), Fried Green Tomatoes details a society of long ago that still faces many of the problems and triumphs that we do today, and is one of the most quintessential hot summer’s day reads out there.
Number of Pages: 416
Recommended For: days of brilliant sunshine, book club
Enjoy It With: cornbread (from the recipe within the novel itself), barbecued ribs, sweet tea, raspberry infused lemonade with a sprig of mint