The food's not very good at my favorite coffee shop. The couches are old. They have the impressions of other people's butts, and the occasional spring sticks through the fabric. But on warm days, the storefront windows open so you can sit half inside and half out, with the wind cooling your cappuccino. Plus, next-door is a used bookstore.
So if you're like me — and the most perfect day you can imagine is one spent on a couch in a cafe with some great reading material — NPR Books has some ideas for you. Here are the five best stories about books from the past week.
1950s Havana gets a bad rap. Maybe you read that and immediately thought of that scene from Guys and Dolls where Marlon Brando whisks the missionary chick to Cuba and gets her drunk on dulce de leche.
But Cuban author Pablo Media has a different vision of the city where he was born. He remembers the "tropical gardens" and "soft, silky nights." Whatever your vision of the place, Pablo says there is no better book to transport you there than Three Trapped Tigers, by the Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante. This book's evocation of the nightclub scene will draw you in, but it's the wordplay that will keep you there. Even a riff on the city's name is poetic: Havana, the name of a city which is just a beautyfoul corruption of Savanna/ Sabannah/ Sabana/ Abanna/ Havannah/ Havana/ Habana/ La Habana/ Avana in Italics Cyrillically Gabana, and the Sbanish panner ..."
There's nothing like a hot Havana night to make you lust for a steamy summer fling. And for that you'll have to turn to NPR Books' delicious romance roundup.
Eloisa James suggests five books that are full of passion. If what you crave is a "P.G. Wodehouse-inflected novel" that "moves back and forth in time between the antics of a group of Napoleonic-era British spies and present-day," you'll find it. Or if you'd rather read about Parker Welles, "who has grown up as a member of the 1 percent of the 1 percent" and finds herself in a ramshackle old house in Maine — eat your heart out.
There's bittersweetness here, too — one story centers on a Jewish couple during the holocaust. Another covers the sometimes great, often terrible ordeal of moving to a foreign country.
From love we turn, obviously, to marriage — mutant marriage, that is.
And this isn't your run-of-the-mill marriage between superheroes, either. It's one that's making headlines because it's between two men.
Our resident comics expert, Glen Weldon, wrote this column to answer any pressing questions you might have about the nuptials of Northstar and Kyle Jindau. Questions such as: "A gay wedding on the cover a superhero book! This is a big deal, right?" and "What comes after a gay mutant wedding?"
Note: For the answers to those questions, you'll have to read the piece.
The weddings and the romances are all well and good for the frisky 20-something set — but not everyone has time to frolic in the summer sun. In fact, for one somewhat battered bunch, reading is a luxury — one that exists in stolen moments when the kids are finally asleep.
And so to them we say: Do not fear. NPR Books has a book even for you. It's The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep by Harvey Karp, M.D.
This crusader for the rights of sleep-deprived parents has come to your rescue, and he bears five gifts: "swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking."
It's the recipe for sleep — and it couldn't have come too soon.
Finally, this week — a rumination on the afterlife. Not your own, but that of your books.
Not many people plan for what to do with their libraries after they die, but it's an interesting question — and, as Amanda Katz points out, the possibilities are many. "Perhaps they will re-enter circulation at a used bookstore," she says. Or, a book could "become a special object to be preserved and traded." Some books are even passed down among heirs.
But what will happen to the books on your Kindle?
Having received her family's copy of The War of the Worlds, one that passed through the hands of many interesting people before it got to her, Amanda knows how she feels about the Kindle conundrum: "When I think of sorting through the boxes of my grandmother's books ... I am grateful not to have been handed her Amazon password instead."
If you've read this far, you're clearly a book nerd. And for you we have one more extra-credit book story: This week, for our newest series, PG-13: Risky Reads, author Meg Wolitzer told us about her love affair with Lisa, Bright and Dark. Enjoy.
Rosie Friedman works on the NPR Books team.