Schools are letting out and summer vacations are nearly underway. Time frees up for reading those books that you haven't had the time to get to yet. If it's classics you've always meant to read, or the new ideas just coming round the bend, we have the full range of books for your summer reading. Whether paperbacks for the beach, the backyard, or the train; hardbacks for the porch, the couch, the study; ebooks for bus or plane; or audio CDs for those cross-country drives, morning jogs, and long bike rides: we have the best reading in all formats, and the booksellers to help you select them. See you soon in the store and have a great time reading this summer.
John & all Dieselfolk
A Sense of Direction is a beautiful, often surprising book that, appropriately, takes the slow-burn approach toward answering the big questions. It's an examination of just about everything -- travel, friendship, love, sex, family, religion, violence, redemption -- but however weighty its subjects, it's never short on self-deprecating humor, and is frequently hilarious. The book's action consists of three pilgrimages: the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Eighty-Eight Temples of Shikoku in Japan, and Rosh Hashanah in Uman, Ukraine. Throughout, Lewis-Kraus plays up the particular geometry of each pilgrimage (line, circle, and point, respectively) to examine what it means for a hypermodern, technology-enabled, secular person to spend weeks painstakingly traveling by foot, like a true medieval pilgrim, along a route that would take mere hours by car. Although Lewis-Kraus' subject is often, understandably, himself, he writes with an objectivity that lends the book a welcome universality. While A Sense of Direction is his first book, the author is a veteran of brainy, urbane magazines like McSweeney's and Harper's, and his impressive journalistic chops lighten what could otherwise be a heavy, ponderous book. Like the work of Geoff Dyer, A Sense of Direction exists at the intersection of numerous genres -- travel writing, essay, memoir, humor -- and, in doing so, transcends each genre to become a work all its own. This is a book for, as it's subtitled, "the Restless and the Hopeful" -- in other words, for all of us. -- John Peck
Aimee Phan's debut novel ties together the histories of two Vietnamese immigrant families over the course of three generations. The journey from Vietnam to Paris, then to Malaysia and California, gives this story a sense of place and culture, but truly it is the glimpses into the lives and hearts of Phan's characters that make this novel shine. Phan allows us to tap into the very souls of these people, particularly young Cherry and her brother Lum, and makes their emotional struggles and family secrets part of a story that is at once moving and hard to put down. The tenderness the author has for her own characters rubs off on the reader, so that this book will linger for quite a while after the last page is turned. The Reeducation Of Cherry Truong will make for wonderful discussions with book clubs, and can be shared with young adult readers as well. -- Linda Grana
The Tender Bar is J.R. Moehringer's aptly named memoir about a pub in Manhasset, a town famous for its drinking. A bar can be a sacred place, a refuge, a man cave to convene in, shoot the breeze, raise younger men, gamble, find a gal, celebrate, grieve. To laugh and cry with the sinners whose raw humanity seems to render them saints. Moehringer quotes Shakespeare's Measure for Measure on the topic: "They say the best men are molded out of faults,/And, for the most, become much more the better/For being a little bad." Raised by his mother in the dilapidated home of his grandmother and grandfather, filled with cousins and aunts and an uncle, he lived only 142 steps from this bar called Publicans (unless you're staggering).
Moehringer's storytelling ability is exceptional; as Steve Martin said, "I laughed and cried, and then I read the book." The Tender Bar is written from Moehringer's evolving point of view from childhood through adulthood. His love affair with words began early, and was fanned to flame by his high school job at a bookstore under the tutelage of two erudite if antisocial booksellers. His style is easy, funny, smart.
Moehringer went to Yale, wrote for The New York Times, but chose to write about this bar because these were the salty dogs who raised him, and because of the sanctity of this specific place. His mother and father broke up when he was nine months old, and as he grew he trusted and looked up to these men. Also, as Moehringer says, every great writer seemed to be a great drinker; he tips the hat in various creative ways to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Joyce. He writes, "I walked to Publicans, my chapter tucked under my arm, and consoled myself the whole way that every writer spends as much time at bars as at his writing desk. Drinking and writing go together like scotch and soda, I assured myself as I walked through the front door." As a teetotaler (who used to enjoy the booze), I was enchanted by this book, and was glad to sit vicariously at the bar for the three days I was reading it. Moehringer drank with the best of them, but writes this retrospectively with clarity, nostalgia, and humor. -- Mia Wigmore
As a bookseller of almost 10 years, I have noticed that most people are reluctant to purchase a book about sex. I know you are looking, because I find them tucked in the most unlikely places, and on occasion, they are just plain "missing." People, don't be afraid. Look at this beautiful new Penguin edition of The Kama Sutra...yes, The Kama Sutra, you know, the one that has all those poses that look like you have to be an Olympic gymnast to pull off. In this edition you'll have to let your imagination run wild, as the text does not contain illustrations. The cover, however, has the most delightful Art Deco-esque images reminiscent of erotic alphabet poses. (Give me an "A"!) Now that you've cracked the cover, you will see that the book contains words of wisdom that still ring true 2,000 years later. You'd think we'd learn, but apparently not, as it is still in print. True, some of the text is dated and not pertinent, but you must sift through to find the lingering gems:
If there are several suitors,
all with similar merits,
she (he) should then select the one
with the most loving nature.
Sounds so simple and logical doesn't it? So then, let's do it. Buy this book, find what rings true, limber up, and go for it! -- Cheryl Ryan
Did you like Harry Potter but didn't think that it was entirely realistic? Not so much as magic powers and whatever is concerned -- we're past accepting that part of the fantasy -- but what would actually happen if you handed a bunch of hormonal teenagers with poor judgment the literal keys to the universe, shoved them out into the world with all the money they could want, all the power they could want, and the ability to achieve their wildest dreams -- but absolutely no direction at all as what to do with it? If you imagined a hedonistic, nihilistic, Less Than Zero-esque romp through the multiverse, then you've come to the right book, friends. A cautionary tale of sex, drugs, and magic powers. -- Joey Puente
One of Gutenbrunner's restaurants, Cafe Sabarsky, is located in the Neue Museum off of 5th Avenue in Manhattan. I discovered the food as a happy accident. Happy, because shortly after I ate there the line for the restaurant tripled in size. There was no line for the museum. Gutenbrunner's food is very traditional and traditionally inspired Austro-Hungarian cuisine. Austro-Hungarian might not sound especially exotic, but when one considers the boring superfluity of esoteric-sounding comfort-food menus (artisanal pot roast with unfamiliar regional ingredients), it's pleasing to rediscover one of comfort food's origin stories, especially when that origin story is as refined as Neue Cuisine. These are not particularly difficult recipes, though. The beef goulash is easy to make and very good for fans of goulash. The spatzle, while requiring minimal ingredients, is more challenging but also very good. The cocktails are dignified. Neue Cuisine is a cookbook that combines the indulgent Imperial traditions with the new Austrian minimalism and design-directed culture. A great gift for fans of Klimt, mushrooms, and schnitzel (who isn't?!). -- Cameron Carlson
"Rat boy. Freak. Monster. Freddy Krueger. ET. Gross-out. Lizard face. Mutant. I know the names they call me. I've been in enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. I know, I know, I know." Occasionally a book intended for young readers is such an exceptionally written story that it transcends age category. Wonder is such a novel. In Palacio's deft hands, what should be Auggie's tragic circumstances -- he was born with a facial deformity -- are lifted from pathos with humor, compassion, and insight into a complex and wondrous story. Told in multiple voices, you hear Charlotte who "sees" deeply and immediately the Auggie behind the face, Jack who wants to do the right thing but alternately befriends and betrays Auggie, and most memorably, the resilient and often funny Auggie himself. What Auggie is dealing with starting fifth grade in a mainstream prep school is not given short shrift -- no miracles here. Instead, the reader comes to realize that even with a loving, intelligent family's support and the acceptance of that first real friend, Auggie's assimilation is a slow and patient process. Here's the surprise: there is also laughter. -- Margaret Simpson