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NPR's Summer of Books: Three Books

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Wednesday, Jun 4, 2008

For book-addicts looking for a quick-fix or a lazy day-long bender, NPR is pretty much the corner on which to hang out. There always something there to feed the need—author interviews, reading lists and reviews, cool writers telling us we “must read this!” I love it for the diversity of books and writers covered, and because it’s so free of agenda and snark. Now’s the best time to head over there—Summer is back (on certain continents, anyway) and that means NPR is in a bookish frenzy. The site’s Summer of Books is up again with all new articles and essays, including critic’s lists, the best in cook books, author tours, excerpts, and a “You Must Read This” area all its own.


My favourite section this year is the brand new “Three Books”, where authors of the moment recommend three titles with a common theme. Sloane Crosley’s theme is “sand and sun”, Diana Abu-Jaber picks books with “blood… and brains”, and Emily Wylie selects books about “cowboys and Indians”. 


The writers introduce their themes and proceed to inform us why we should pick up their choices this Summer. Sloane Crosley begins:


Everyone knows you’re not supposed to read War and Peace while sipping a pina colada under a beach umbrella. So it stands to reason that the best time to read it would be in the dead of winter, while sipping tea under a single bulb hanging from a leaky ceiling ...


So, as it’s Winter on my side of the world, and I’m reading article by a heater, with a beany on, perhaps I might give Tolstoy a go. Or I can just pretend I’m in boardies and thongs while reading The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis, which Sloane tells us is so Summer-y in its descriptions of California life that that if you take it to the beach it won’t “silently judge you for smoking cigarettes and tanning at the same time”.


Diana Abu-Jaber offers some compelling choices for her theme. Smart thrillers? I’m there, and her choices are especially interesting to me because I own each of them yet have read only one. I’ve already moved them to the bedside table. And Emily Wylie’s final selection is the perfect Summer read—Lonesome Dove. You need a Summer to get through it, and the sun above you as the perfect setting. Here’s what Emily says about it: 


The reality of the American West was of course horribly, tragically antagonistic, but in these books my favorite characters look a lot alike — they speak little, respect the land, love open space and freedom, and are intensely moral and loyal to the end. That and bacon grease? That’s the milieu for me!


“Three Books” is edited by Ellen Silva and Bridget Bentz.

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