Three Critics Pick The Best Books For Summer NPR's Lynn Neary taps three book critics — Laura Miller, Ron Charles and Rigoberto Gonzalez — to get their picks for the best summer reading.
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Three Critics Pick The Best Books For Summer

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Three Critics Pick The Best Books For Summer

Three Critics Pick The Best Books For Summer

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What kind of summer reader are you? Do like to sit by the pool or on the beach with an exciting page turner - or the electronic equivalent thereof? Or does summer's more leisurely pace inspire to take on a more challenging book that maybe you didn't make time to read in the first part of the year? NPR's Lynn Neary checked in with a few reviewers who have some recommendations for either summer reading style.

LYNN NEARY: Laura Miller is no slacker when it comes to reading. As a book reviewer for Salon, Miller spends most of her summer vacation reading the books everyone else will be reading next winter. But when she wants to kick back, Miller often reaches for a thriller especially one with a great plot.

LAURA MILLER: When you're feeling sort of sleepy and lazy and, like, you don't want to have to work very hard, that's the thing that locks you in is that, you know, the twists and the turns and the moment when they're walking into the house and you know that the maniac's in the house and they don't. Or somebody says, oh, but really he was her son. And it's like, da- ta-da-da.

NEARY: Like Miller, Ron Charles, fiction critic for the Washington Post, doesn't have a lot of leeway when it comes to summer reading.

RON CHARLES: I mean, I can't read anything that's more than 15 minutes old. You know, if you've heard of the book I can't read it.

NEARY: Charles thinks people see summer as an opportunity to read all kinds of books from the sublime to the ridiculous.

CHARLES: I think it goes in two directions. I think in the summer people also take on really weighty projects - books they've always wanted to read they thought were too intimidating and they've got the time or they have the sense of leisure. And then they also read the fluffy things. So, I think it's an odd dichotomy in the summer.

NEARY: Freelance writer and reviewer Rigoberto Gonzalez is one of those people who thinks summer is a good time to take on a challenge.

RIGOBERTO GONZALES: I always get kind of frustrated when I hear, oh summer reading is about reading books that you don't have to think about. For me, I mean, reading is reading books that are longer than usual, that I want to consume a little bit slower. So, I like to challenge myself with really, really good books.

NEARY: Gonzalez also recommends "Orientation," a book of short stories by Daniel Orozco. In each story, someone is getting introduced to a new job.

GONZALEZ: And these are jobs in the office, warehouses, as temps. And so these positions cast them into very invisible roles. They're functions. They're dehumanized. And so what Daniel Orozco is offering is a critique of these kinds of positions where the person is no longer a person but now just a function and what that does to the psyche, what that does to somebody's personality, what that does to people's way of looking at the world.

NEARY: The other, of course, is a thriller, "The Hypnotist" by a Lars Kepler. It's about a hypnotist who has been disgraced and has vowed never to hypnotize anyone again, but gets pulled into helping solve a terrible crime.

MILLER: And as a result, he brings the ire of the psychopath responsible for this crime down upon himself and his family. And it just becomes this huge ordeal where someone is breaking into his house at night and he doesn't really know what's going on, and his marriage is threatened. And it's full of surprises and sort of twists and turns. And it's also just very well written.

NEARY: Miller says another great read is "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett, a book which Ron Charles also recommends.

CHARLES: But I do think this is the book for smart readers for the summer. It's got wonderful characters - smart, interesting characters. They're involved in some pretty profound ethical issues. So all that sounds, you know, heavy. But all those issues are spun through a very exciting story of a woman going into the Amazon, so it's sort of spooky. There's a little "Island of Dr. Moreau" touch to this. It has a heavy - a theme of "Heart of Darkness" to it. It's just wonderful, wonderful book. I mean I think she's really outdone herself.

NEARY: Charles also liked Mary Doria Russell's "Doc", the latest fictional iteration of the story of Doc Holliday and the Old West.

CHARLES: What I love about the book is the way Russell constantly tweaks the old style Westerns that we think we know, you know, the corny movies. She makes fun of them and she openly challenges them. She's trying to revise them in a way that is really interesting. So you feel as though you are learning something about these people, but also they are very sympathetic characters.

NEARY: And though Charles says he doesn't have time to indulge his own guilty pleasures, even during the summer, he does admit there is one series of books he'd love to read.

CHARLES: Well, if you don't tell someone else, I would read George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" series. My boss is reading it. She says it's incredibly exciting. I loved watching some of the HBO movies. I would read that.

NEARY: Why? What is it about that that's...

CHARLES: There's just fantastic characters. There's a wonderful plot that spins out in every direction in these exotic lands. It just sounds wonderful.

NEARY: Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

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