Booksellers' Picks for the Beach — or the Backyard NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg polls three independent booksellers for recommendations on fresh new reads — and old favorites — worth making time for this summer.

Booksellers' Picks for the Beach — or the Backyard

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If your idea of packing for a vacation is two bathing suits and a suitcase full of books, or if you're the kind of person who listens to that packing list and wonders why bother with the bathing suits, well, you've come to the right part of this radio program. We have suggestions from some independent booksellers about hot-weather reads that might go on your packing list.

NPR's special correspondent Susan Stamberg gathered their opinions.

SUSAN STAMBERG: A mystery, an apocalypse, wedding night anxieties and a novel by Anne Tyler. These indie booksellers want us to read widely and well. Lots of books are set in far away places but one, a golden oldie by Anne Tyler is very domestic.

Mr. STEVE SHAPIRO (Rainy Day Books): She's resiliently unhip. She continues to set her novels in a distinctly unglamorous setting of Baltimore.

STAMBERG: Steve Shapiro dares to call "Charm City" unglamorous only because he works far from Bawlmer way out in Kansas City, Kansas, at Rainy Day Books. Mr. Shapiro reads and rereads Anne Tyler's 1985 novel, "The Accidental Tourist" and says he always find something new. Her hero, a guidebook writer named Macon Leary, has a very odd, quirky family.

Mr. SHAPIRO: They will let the phone ring because they figure if somebody really wants them, they'll keep ringing or come to the door.

STAMBERG: Macon Leary is leery of most things until a dog walker named Muriel disrupts his hermetic habits with her relentless optimism. Ultimately, she saves him. Bookseller Steve Shapiro likes that.

Now, for some not set in Baltimore, Shapiro picks "Bangkok Haunts" by John Burdett. It's a piece of international crime fiction. There's a grotesque murder. The killer may be one of Thailand's biggest businessman.

Mr. SHAPIRO: It's a perfect setup for John Burdett's cop, a man wonderfully named Sonchai Jitpleecheep.

STAMBERG: Say it again.

Mr. SHAPIRO: Sonchai Jitpleecheep.

STAMBERG: God bless you, and may he work one thousand years in solving mysteries. Does he in this case? Is this is a tough one for him?

Mr. SHAPIRO: He does. He does it in the same way that Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe used to do, but with a twist.

STAMBERG: Turns out the victim was an ex-girlfriend of Detective Gesundheit, and "Bangkok Haunt," the intricate culture of Thailand itself becomes an intriguing character.

Family life and fear of it is explored in Ian McEwan's new book, "On Chesil Beach," a novel.

Ms. RONA BRINLEE (The Bookmark): It is the wedding night of Edward and Florence, and it's 1962.

STAMBERG: Rona Brinlee, at The Bookmark it Atlantic Beach, Florida, says McEwan tells the entire story in a single critical day.

Ms. BRINLEE: If you think everything you think all day and all the little stories you tell and the things you tell stories in your head, you can tell your whole life history in a day. And that's what he does with this one day. He goes through their memories and some of the baggage they bring to this relationship and how they fell in love. And then like in most good stories, there's that one moment and that one gesture where somebody does or doesn't do or say something that leads to a lifetime of what-ifs and if-onlys and questions and unresolved issues.

STAMBERG: Lots of what-ifs and plenty of if-onlys dot the pages of the book "Five Skies." This is short-story writer Ron Carlson's first novel in 30 years. It's the story of an emerging friendship among three men, rough scrabble types working together in Idaho to build a platform for a movie stunt.

Life has wounded each one of the men differently. The oldest can't get over his rage at the accidental death of his wife. Another struggles with guilt over an affair he had with the wife of his brother.

Ms. BRINLEE: And the younger one comes to them having gotten out of jail for stealing cars, and so he's really trying to get his act together and they're really trying to help him figure out how to do that. And in the process, they are forming this friendship, and they're really - it really is rare to find a book, I think, that focuses relationships among men instead of women.

STAMBERG: "Five Skies" by Ron Carlson, set in the rocky mountains - the big open West.

Want something more urban? Well, how's the city of light? Lucia Silva - buyer for Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, California - like Elaine Dundy's novel, "The Dud Avocado," a 1958 cult sensation being reprinted for today's readers.

Ms. LUCIA SILVA (Book Buyer, Portrait of a Bookstore): Imagine Holly Golightly dropped off in the middle of Paris' Left Bank in the late 1950s.

STAMBERG: Oh, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" at a small Paris cafe, huh?

Ms. SILVA: Right.

STAMBERG: The heroine is Sally Jay Gorce, who's days and nights are wild, funny, dark and quite busy.

Ms. SILVA: Mishaps, misadventures and well-intended debaucherous adventures. You could think of this as the 1950s precursor to chick lit. A great story, a great read.

STAMBERG: "The Dud Avocado," by Elaine Dundy.

Finally, and we do mean finally, the end of the world as we know it. That is the tale of "The Children's Hospital," by Chris Adrian. One of Lucia Silva's newest all-time favorites. She says it's a majestic sweep of a novel.

Ms. SILVA: The premise is that the earth has been flooded beneath seven miles of apocalyptic floodwaters, and all that remains is the floating children's wing of a hospital and all of its patients and interns and surgeons and attendings.

STAMBERG: Lucia says it's a dystopian "Grey's Anatomy," but brilliantly written. Here's an excerpt.

(Reading) "The floods have just come, and the hospital has been lifted to the top of the waters."

Ms. SILVA: (Reading) "Something had happened, that much she certainly believed. You cannot feel that violent disjointment which had unsettled her off her feet and unsettled the kids out of their tenuous grasp on health and think otherwise, but a new ocean and them in the hospital, the only survivors? They were more likely experiencing some cruel experiment - black out the windows and blowing some aerosolized LSD and get Phillis Diller to hide somewhere with a microphone and claim to be a sweet creepy angel than the end of the world."

STAMBERG: From "The Children's Hospital," by Chris Adrian. Six hundred-plus pages that fly by, according to Lucia Silva.

Thanks to all our independent booksellers for their summer reading suggestions. You will find their complete book list at

I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.

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