RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
For your summer reading pleasure, a bevy of independent booksellers around the country are offering a bevy of book suggestions - on matters that range from B, for bread, to Z, for zany.
NPR's special correspondent Susan Stamberg says this strange literary alphabet contains wisdom and some good laughs.
SUSAN STAMBERG: Big laughs in Brady Udall's new book "The Lonely Polygamist." Daniel Goldin, proprietor of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, says this big novel is the story of an evangelical LDS father and his big family.
Mr. DANIEL GOLDIN (Proprietor, Boswell Book Company): Four wives and 28 children-strong.
STAMBERG: Rona Brinlee, owner of the BookMark in Atlantic Beach, Florida, also puts "The Lonely Polygamist" on her summer reading list. Rona says the busy father is henpecked, hapless, and in a good bit of trouble.
Ms. RONA BRINLEE (Owner, The BookMark): This is a man whose life is not going well. Everything is kind of falling apart in his business, and the only job he can get is to build a brothel called Pussycat Manor, in Nevada.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. BRINLEE: And he can't really tell his four wives that thats what he's doing. So he's telling them that he's building an old-age home. And one of them actually comes to find them and says to him, not why are you building a brothel, but why would anybody want to build an old-age home next to a brothel?
(Soundbite of laughter)
STAMBERG: At 600 pages, this novel sounds like big, fat "Big Love" - you know, the HBO series about polygamy.
There is more largess in one of book buyer Lucia Silva's choices. She works for Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, California. In "Big Machine," novelist Victor LaValle tells the tale of Ricky Rice, who grew up in an evangelical Christian cult. He's an ex-druggie janitor who joins a group of unlikely scholars at some mysterious, backwoods Vermont library.
Lucia says the scholars are prostitutes, ex-petty criminals, and addicts like Ricky.
Ms. LUCIA SILVA (Book Buyer, Portrait of a Bookstore): And they are faced with these cryptic assignments and baffling protocols, and made to dress in three-piece suits and jodhpurs and bowler hats.
STAMBERG: This motley crew is instructed to investigate paranormal activities.
Ms. SILVA: And thats about the first 100 pages.
STAMBERG: Lucia Silva say the book is very real and at the same time, ghostly and weird - thrillingly weird, she says; basically, a crazy meditation on faith and doubt. The title, "Big Machine," comes from one character's observation.
Ms. SILVA: Doubt is the big machine. It grinds up the delusions of women and men.
STAMBERG: Certainty, moral certainty drives the plot of another summer book pick, this one from Rona Brinlee in Florida. It's a novel set on Cape Code and in Europe during World War II. "The Postmistress," by Sarah Blake, explores what happens if a mail carrier decides not to deliver a letter, and a reporter decides not to tell a story.
Ms. BRINLEE: And all in the name of greater compassion - not for any selfish reasons, but they think it's the right thing to do.
STAMBERG: There are ramifications, of course. Rona reads a crucial plot point.
Ms. BRINLEE: (Reading) The whole thing relied on never once looking inside an envelope. Iris had never even held a letter up to the light to read the writing there. The whole beauty of the system, the godliness lay in making sure the trains ran smoothly on the tracks; that letters sent out arrived no matter what was inside. She ought to get on her bicycle and ride up the hill to Emma's house. She ought to go to the door and knock. And when the woman came to answer, she ought to hold out her hand and give the letter over. She ought to do all this, but even as she ought, Iris filled the kettle and set it on the burner and waited. When the whistle blew, she opened the spout, holding the envelope in the current of steam. The envelope came unstuck easily, and she slid out the single sheet of paper.
STAMBERG: The radio journalist narrator of "The Postmistress" also has a story she keeps secret. So - the truth and when to tell it, and the pursuit of secrets.
POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The name of the author of "52 Loves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning and a Perfect Crust" is William Alexander.
The narrator of another Rona summer pick also hunts for truth. This nonfiction book is called "52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning and a Perfect Crust." Author William Cunningham remembers a luscious loaf of bread he ate once in a restaurant, and decides he must re-create it.
Ms. BRINLEE: And he's going to commit that every week for one year, he's going to bake a loaf of peasant bread until he gets it right.
STAMBERG: Cunningham starts from scratch - that is, he grows the wheat. And thats just the beginning. So William Cunningham bakes.
The narrator of the book "Yarn: Remembering the Way Home" knits. Milwaukee bookseller Daniel Goldin says Kyoto Mori hasnt written the usual knitting book, but knitting is a key plot-weaving thread.
Mr. GOLDIN: It is the story of a Japanese woman who's become alienated from her family, moves to the United States to a small city - Green Bay - has a shaky marriage, and tries to reinvent herself and find community in her new home.
STAMBERG: Kyoto Mori's book is a memoir. Ander Monson's is definitely not. In fact, Monson's new collection of essays and quirks is called "Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir."
Lucia Silva, of Portrait of a Bookstore, is a big fan of this writer.
Ms. SILVA: Ander Monson is this searingly smart guy, but he's not smarty pants.
STAMBERG: How smart is he? Well, sounds as if he has a new literary form, a way to mesh real-life, paper-and-ink books with digital.
Ms. SILVA: So he has this paper book and every so often, there are these little symbols, a little dagger that will follow a word. And if you type that word into a page on his Web site, it will offer you all of this marginalia or footnotes about yet another digression.
STAMBERG: The links take you to videos or photographs or various new ruminations. Lucia says it's like inked hyperlinks for the book. Or, in Ander Monson's words...
Ms. SILVA: (Reading) This is old but good technology, pressed and dried paper pulp bound by glue in your hands, and smelling good like something real. Maybe the daggers are more like clickable links, like this whole thing is an expanding Wiki, an increasingly fat American self, growing and thinking and growing, a ball getting larger and larger. The more I think about it, the more you think about it, the more you and I become we, and we continue thinking about all of this stuff together.
STAMBERG: From "Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir," by Ander Monson.
Thanks to Lucia Silva, of Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, California; Rona Brinlee at the BookMark, Atlantic Beach, Florida; and Daniel Goldin at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee for their seasonal literary ideas.
Wishing you a bagful of summertime reading pleasure, Im Susan Stamberg, NPR News.
MONTAGNE: You can get the complete list of recommendations from these booksellers, and excerpts from all their selections, at our website, NPR.org.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.
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