Dog Days of Summer

by thiszine

August is the time of summer when the sun, heat, and humidity (for some of us at least) crescendos to the maddening point. What to do on those 100 degree days when your air conditioner is broken and the city pool fails to charm? We suggest pouring yourself a glass of iced tea and sitting back with a good book. After reviewing several recommendations in summer reading, we at this give you the best of the best recommendations, including some of our own.

Alan Cheuse at NPR lists Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad as one of his summer reading picks. Structured like a music album, including an “A” side and a “B” side, Egan’s prose and talent shine on every page in what Cheuse calls an “episodic safari” that “stands as a brilliant, all-absorbing novel for the beach, the woods, or the air-conditioned apartment or city stoop while wearing your iPod.”

The folks at O Magazine (the magazine by Oprah) recommend The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, a novel about Rose Edelstein and her discovery, at age 8, that she can taste feelings in food. Rose’s gift brings her both pain and a special connection with a science whiz kid, George as Rose unwinds her family’s secrets in this unique coming-of-age novel.

Oprah’s gang also recommends Justin Cronin’s The Passage, the apocalyptic vampire sensation of the summer. In her review for the magazine, Bethanne Patrick says “Let others quibble over whether The Passage is thriller or literature; we see it as vital, tender, and compelling.”

Lucia Silvia, the book buyer for Portrait of a Bookstore, an indie bookstore in Studio City, California, recommends Karen Valby’s Welcome to Utopia: Notes from a Small Town. What begin as an assignment for Entertainment Weekly magazine ended up as Valby’s obsession for the curious magnetism of a town almost entirely divorced from pop culture: no fast food joints, no movie theaters or video rental stores, no bookstores. Silvia notes that “Valby’s account [of the small town] reads like a book-length New Yorker article — compulsively readable and deeply affecting.” Perfect for those of you who’ve plowed through every back issue The New Yorker has to offer.

Over at Flavorwire’s “grown-up summer reading list,” Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD (an indie bookstore in Brooklyn), recommends China Mieville’s “fantastic and mindblowing” novel Kraken. Anderson also recommends John Water’s recent memoir Role Models, “a fantastic collection of hero worship” from the demented mind that brought us the film “Pink Flamingos” and, oddly, the family-friendly “Hairspray.”

The Southern Indie Booksellers Association has selected a basket full of books they call Summer Okra Picks, “great southern books, fresh off the vine” including the novels Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson and The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Graphic novel fans have something to love during those long summer days, too. Graphic Novel Reporter has a long list of recommendations for kids, teens, and adults. Try reading The Playwright by Eddie Campbell and Daren White, “a dark comedy about the sex life of a celibate middle-aged man.” Or the 15th anniversary edition of Howard Cruse’s semi-autobiographical Stuck Rubber Baby, a graphic novel about “a close-knit group of young locals yearning to break from the conformity of their hometown through civil rights activism, folk music, and an upstart communality of race-mixing, gay-friendly nightclubs” that “is both deeply personal and epic in scope” with “an unforgettable supporting cast.”

this contributing writers had a few favorites to recommend for the summer, too.

Jordon Chiarelli recommends Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Jordon says, “Toole committed suicide more than 10 years before his manuscript even saw the eyes of a publisher in 1980. Chronicling the memorable slacker, Ignatius Reilly, around the rich city of New Orleans, the novel’s authour posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981.”

Jordon also recommends Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut: “When Vonnegut died a few years ago, we expected representatives of his estate to ransack his rough and personal work. They did. A collection of his unpublished fiction is the best of his worst, however it reminds us of how undeniably gifted and talented Vonnegut was.”

John Coleman said: “I always try to read The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson every summer. It’s a good beach book, full of adventure, and is easily taken without too much seriousness. Its island party story makes summer in the city bearable.”

Ursula K. Raphael recommends summer non-fiction reading with The Portable Patriot: Documents, Speeches, and Sermons That Compose the American Soul, edited by Joel Miller and Kristen Parrish. Ursula notes, “Not only does the book fits nicely into my purse for something to read, but it contains the a majority of documents that were (and, in some cases, still are) very influential in the shaping of the United States. This is an excellent reference book, packed with important information about the history of America. It has less to do with politics, and more to do with people believing & striving for something greater than themselves.”

Lacey N. Dunham writes: “I always enjoy reading short stories during the summer because they’re the perfect length for sitting in the sun while eating ice cream. Greg Hrbek‘s heartbreaking family story “Sagittarius,” reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 2009 and Danielle Evan‘s story about adolescent sexuality, “Virgins,” forthcoming in her book Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self were two of the most memorable I read this summer. I also enjoyed Brando Skyhorse’s novel-in-stories The Madonnas of Echo Park, a sweeping collection narrated by various Mexican immigrants and first generation Mexican-Americans living in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park.”


34 Responses to “Dog Days of Summer”

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  2. Once I saw “Role Models” on this list…I definitely knew there must be some great reads on here…thanks!

  3. I know a few people who’ll love The Passage. Thanks for the great post!

    Trindaz on fedang

  4. This seems like a very nice blog 🙂 I have read a lot of books during this summer, but none of those listed above. Well, that is possibly because I live in Finland and we have somewhat different books in our book stores.. 🙂

    • I can only image! Do you have any recommend novels or other books that are big sellers in Finland right now?


  5. I enjoyed reading this blog, and remember reading The Rum Diary on summer long ago. I will follow this blog.

  6. Nice one..
    I loved the green glasses and the red book and toy- animal.. It was this image on the freshly pressed that drew me to read your post..

  7. I don’t read much but then sounds interesting

  8. i think the best you can do in aaaall the days we lost in summer, is to go to the gym… “Mens sana in corpore sano” 😉

    I´ll follow you,


  9. Wow, probably the largest and highest quality selection iv seen to date. Hats off to all those who made them!

  10. “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” was a GREAT read, highly recommend it!

  11. Thanks for this. I always have a stack of books waiting to be read and am getting more to add to it. I wrote a post on my 10 top books of all time. there were 26 books on the list. I’m hopeless.

  12. Dogs days of summer, oh yes!….been doing a ton of reading and i’m still so behind catching up on all these great novels……note to self: do LOTS more reading!

  13. Or, you can check out some excellent poetry. Check it out.

  14. I love this blog- and thanks for all the recommendations… I read A LOT and always have a book on the go. I’m definitely picking up the “Rum Diary” this summer… love a good adventure. I also like historical fiction.. Philippa Gregory is a particular favorite….

  15. I have Welcome to Utopia on my list to read. Although I always wonder, as most new books have done nothing but bore me as of lately.

  16. I don’t believe any number of recommendations could make the 112 heat index feel cooler. But I’ll be jotting a few of these down on my library list anyway. 🙂

  17. Interesting picks. I hope to add a few of these to my personal reading list.

  18. Congratulations on making Freshly Pressed! I’m so glad you did, I love your webzine!

  19. Thank you for this! I read so much young adult, I tend to lose track of what’s available on the adult shelves. And I can’t help but give a big smile of approval to anyone who recommends Vonnegut!

    • Hi Kate,

      I’m the opposite. I read so many adult books, I loose track of what’s new and excellent in the YA world!


  20. I’ve made quite a list from those to go out and buy – thank you 🙂

  21. I think people should read blogs in the summertime!

    Mine’s pretty good:

    Everybody Wants Some: Friendship, success, family, purpose and love. (Oh yeah, and a sexy body.) Everybody wants some of that, right? This blog is about one woman’s endeavor to find, and deal with, all of those things — and the never-ending struggle to keep her apartment clean.

    But all shameless self-promotion aside, thanks for the titles. I think I might pick up the Rum Diaries!


  22. Yay!!!! Can’t wait to hit my half priced book store in search of some of these titles!
    thank you so much 🙂


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