The Best Books and Graphic Fiction for Summer

by PopMatters Staff

12 June 2011


Thomas Pynchon and more...

Power Girl from DC Comics

After years of being featured in various DC Comics stories, Power Girl aka Karen Starr aka Kara Zor-L finally gets her own series. The Earth Two equivalent of Supergirl, Power Girl is one of the few survivors of the collapse of all the various old earth’s into one. So she has lost her planet twice, first with the destruction of Krypton Two and then with the destruction of Earth Two. Because she was vulnerable only to the kryptonite of Earth Two, she is theoretically tougher than Superman. Only, she comes across as more emotionally vulnerable than her cousin Clark. Unlike most DC Comics, which have gotten darker and darker, Power Girl has stayed fun and lighthearted, with consistently great art. Best of all, of the DC superheroes, PG is the one we perhaps know the least about. And will we learn why this post-feminist heroine is so much bustier than her Earth One counterpart? Robert Moore

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Niel Gaiman (1991)

So the summer is approaching and you’re looking for something fun to read that you can flip right through, but that still has enough meat to make you feel as though you’ve digested something of substance? You have got to start your summer reading off with Terry Pratchett and Niel Gaiman’s 1991 hilarious end of the world epic Good Omens. A satirical work of the highest order, Good Omens chronicles the efforts of a demon and an angel as they try to delay the Apocalypse because both have grown very fond of earth. Heaven and Hell still want the Armageddon to go off without a hitch though and the Four Horsemen are chomping at the bit, now if they could just find the Anti-Christ. Religion, business, pop culture and human nature are all artfully skewered with timeless irreverence and relevance. Read Good Omens... the end of the world has never been so funny. Gregg Lipkin

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (1966)

I realize that Pynchon’s brief fever dream of a second novel doesn’t necessarily scream “summer” to most people. But to me, Oedipa Maas’ long, strange trip into an ex-lover’s will and the world of the Tristero perfectly suits the season in two ways. First, few stories suit the heat-hazy season of lowered responsabilities and inhibitions as much as this one, where a perfectly average woman either uncovers a conspiracy stretching back generations or, maybe, just imagines she does; and second, at 160 pages it’s really the only Pynchon novel you can reasonably expect to start and finish in the course of summer afternoon or a weekend camping trip. For years now it’s been a ritual for me to read this one in my backyard, in the sun, and I can’t picture doing so any other way. Ian Mathers

Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal (1968)

Of all the great American stories about Hollywood has-beens and hangers-on, this is probably the bitchiest. Our emasculating heroine kicks things off with the great opening line, “I am Myra Breckinridge, whom no man will ever possess.” Then she dishes up a sordid tale bursting with sex, fools, insults, and her own pet theories on film studies and gender roles. These academic asides are fascinating in themselves, but as the story twists along and Myra plots like a pornographic Iago, they also emphasize how much smarter Myra is than anyone else in her book. Bonus: Myra Breckinridge also features the greatest strap-on anal rape scene in literature, outside the works of Edith Wharton. Josh Langhoff

Gossip Girl series by Ceicily Von Ziegesar

Gossip Girl has become synonymous with trashy teen TV, but before it graced the small screen is was just a trashy teen book series. What elevates it, in my opinion, from the usual shallow garbage being force fed to our youth, is that it is well written. Far too often young adult writers fall into the trap of thinking that youth equals bad taste, but I assure you that is not the case and luckily Cecily Von Ziegesar understood that. The quality of writing and story is what makes it enjoyable for readers of all ages. Of course, it is still teen fiction revolving around secret affairs, betrayals and delicious scandal, making it the perfect read for lazy days laying out. Fans of the show beware, you won’t find the screen stars you have come to love in the books, but it’s better, much better. Devin Mainville

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis

Connie Willis’s riveting story—a single novel published in two parts—has been nominated for this year’s Nebula and Hugo Awards. The premise is that in the 21st century historians use the recently discovered ability to travel in time to go back and study on location great events in history. These books tells the story of a few historians who travel back to London during the time of the blitz, but who for some reason find that they are unable to go back to their own time, so that the story is as much an historical novel as it is science fiction. Along with the historians we as readers discover the enormous courage of the people who suffered through the events of World War II, while we see them strive to not change the timeline, which as anyone knows who has seen any show or movie or read any novel, has the potential to alter history. One of the great works by one of the finest living science fiction writers. Robert Moore

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927)

Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness masterpiece is one of the greatest summer reads of all time. While its lack of conventional dialogue and long, meandering internal monologues, it doesn’t fit the mode of a typical beech read. But, Woolf’s skillful evocation of its setting at a summer home on the Isle of Skye render the novel especially relevant this time of year. Its meditations on the fleeting nature of life make it the perfect read for those willing to tackle some deep questions whilst playing in the sand. Jacob Adams

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