Summer Pages for the Mind, Heart and Tastebuds

Baxter

hide captionJohn Baxter give a romantic — and not so romantic — history of sorts in his book on Paris.

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Luchetti

hide captionEmily Luchetti's homage to ice cream gives you a reason to haul that ice cream maker out from the back of your cupboard.

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Glass

hide captionMultiple characters with intertwining lives tell their stories in Julia Glass' second novel.

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This week marks the unofficial start of summer — and it wouldn't be summer without a big list of books to help pass the time. Karen Grigsby Bates offers a wide-ranging selection, from biography to barbecue.

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True Tales, Far-Flung Places

If rising airfares keep you from making that trip to Paris this summer, you can still get there in your mind. Your tour guide is John Baxter, a film critic and biographer who lives in the City of Light. His We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light takes us to the places you'd expect — literary haunts frequented by Stein, Fitzgerald, de Beauvoir and Baldwin — but Baxter is pretty good at showing off the seamy underside of Paris that doesn't always end up in the tour guides. Bon voyage! Read an Excerpt: 'We'll Always Have Paris'

The nature-or-nurture argument didn't start in the 20th century. More than 300 years earlier, Russia’s Peter the Great conducted his own experiment when he adopted a 7-year-old Abyssinian slave boy and set out to put the best of Western civilization at his feet. The goal, of course, was to show Europeans that Africans could be made "civilized" with the right exposure. Abram Petrovich Gannibal didn’t disappoint: He outshone his tutors and became one of the czar's most trusted political strategists and Europe’s first black intellectual. Gannibal stories have floated around Russia for centuries, but historian Hugh Barnes is the first person to spend years separating fact from fiction. The result is The Stolen Prince, a very readable biography that Russians and Westerners alike will find fascinating. Read an Excerpt: 'The Stolen Prince'

  • Julius Rosenwald: Peter Ascoli, Rosenwald's grandson, traces the Sears and Roebuck founder's rise as a successful businessman and remarkable philanthropist.
  • Monsters: Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler's story behind the horror story, documenting Mary Shelley's creation of Frankenstein, is deliciously creepy.
  • The Book of Lost Books: Stuart Kelly chronicles the vanished (and sometimes recovered) works from Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath and others.

Novels of Mystery and Charm

Julia Glass wowed readers when her first book, Three Junes, came out in 2002. (It remains a perennial book club favorite.) Critics lauded her skill at deftly capturing the feel of longing, regret and hope that comes with love — or the lack of it. The Whole World Over allows Glass to strut her stuff again, with an ensemble cast of characters that are emotionally engaging, a storyline that loops forward and backward to connect several of their lives and dialogue that sounds as if it came from real life — not to mention a dénouement that involves the Sept. 11 attacks. Read it before they make a movie of it and ruin it with the wrong casting and a compressed storyline. Read an Excerpt: 'The Whole World Over'

Denise Hamilton's mystery series features reporter/sleuth Eve Diamond, who is to modern Los Angeles what Raymond Chandler was to the 1930s City of Angels. In Hamilton's fifth novel, Prisoner of Memory, Eve discovers the body of a high school boy, shot to death on a jogging path in a local park. When she tries to discover who executed him, she incurs the wrath of the Russian Mafia. The book is a mystery in a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma. Read an Excerpt: 'Prisoner of Memory'

Louis Bayard made his debut in 2003 with the fetching period mystery Mr. Timothy, set in 19th-century London. Now, Bayard takes us across the pond to upstate New York in The Pale Blue Eye. A retired New York detective, Gus Landor, is pressed into service when a cadet is discovered hanged on West Point's campus. Landor's inside man turns out to be a cadet with a taste for pretty women and too much drink, and the ability to write impressive poetry: a young Edgar Allan Poe (who really did attend West Point, albeit briefly). Prepare to stay up all night. Read an Excerpt: 'The Pale Blue Eye'

  • A Million Nightingales: Susan Straight’s work often focuses on the margins of society. Her latest novel is the story of a biracial teen girl, set in Louisiana as it makes the transition from French property to American state.
  • Darcy's Story: In Janet Aylmer’s version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, we get to see things from Fitzwilliam Darcy’s side, and discover that his chilly exterior is a good disguise for the molten interior he's hoping to keep hidden.

For Younger Readers...

Kids who enjoyed last year's The Lightning Thief will be delighted to know that Rick Riordan has written the second book in his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Sea of Monsters continues the adventures of its half-god, half-human hero. Riordan's planned pentalogy is based on the question, "What if the gods of Olympus were alive in the 21st century?" Read an Excerpt: 'Sea of Monsters'

Dana Reinhardt's book, A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, looks at what happens to a 16-year-old girl who has been living happily with her adoptive parents. Then her biological mom calls and asks to see her, and, predictably, things get complicated. It's an engrossing story told in a very believable teen voice. Read an Excerpt: 'A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life'

For the Love of Food

Everybody argues about where the best barbecue comes from. But Nancy Davidson, who believes regional chauvinism should never constrain one's options, offers glimpses from around North America in Killer Ribs. She travels as far as Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue (located, despite its name, in Kansas City, Kan.), and (hold onto your hats) Canada. Recipes: Pork Ribs, Bourbon Sauce

When you get tired of throwing ribs on the barbie, Corinne Trang's The Asian Grill has tasty alternatives such as spicy Thai-basil-and-lime marinated jumbo shrimp, grilled baby eggplant with ginger-miso paste and some wonderful side dishes. Recipes: Shrimp, Marinated Sirloin

Time for dessert: A Passion for Ice Cream. Whether you have a $1200 stainless-steel gelato maker or the $49.95 special from Target, you can turn out frosty drinks (watermelon bubble tea — the home version of a fruity boba drink) and sweet constructions such as gingersnap lemon ice cream sandwiches or the silly-sounding but delicious-looking Cho Cho Cho. Worth an hour on the Stairmaster! Or you can just drink in the delicious photos. Recipes: Cho Cho Cho, Espresso Floats

One of the greatest revolutions for home cooks in America was Julia Child's multi-volume opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her biography, My Life in France, was begun a few years before her death and dictated to her great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme. Child describes living and eating in France after World War II, and her determination to bring the delights of the French table to an America that was ready to wean itself from processed cheese and instant rice. It's Child’s declaration of love to France, to her husband, Paul (her lifelong collaborator) and to good food. Read the Introduction

Antidotes to Reading Fatigue

  • The New Yorker Book of Cartoon Puzzles and Games: Friends putting you up for the weekend? Bring them this book as a thank you. With almost 700 cartoons, there’s something for everyone.
  • Dictator Style: It's Architectural Digest for the democracy-impaired. See Nicolae Ceausescu's bathrooms, Adolf Hitler's library, Manuel Noriega's Christmas tree.
  • Unseen America: Photos and Stories by Workers: Photos of the working life by workers themselves, who are often immigrants or the children of immigrants.

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