Summer Popcorn Reading

Okay, technically summer doesn't begin for another few weeks, but my brain already feels fried. Or, to put it another way, I am sick and tired of Literary Fiction (TM). So I hereby ask my fellow Goats and Babies and passers-by to recommend novels and authors in the beach-blanket genre to keep me occupied until the release of Harry Potter VI. Anything goes, whether it be thrillers with literary pretensions (like LeCarre) or just plain mind candy. Leave your shame at the door. Those who think life is too short to read anything but serious books are cordially invited to keep their opinions to themselves.


Grendel said...

Read Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. I couldn't put the thing down, and even at 980 pages it was over way too fast. Been a year now, and the voice he achieved in that book still haunts me. Several characters are still vivid in my mind. Can't wait to read it again, but I need to let at least a couple years go by.

Confucius said...

One of my favorite mindless reads is Paul Theroux's classic travel book, The Great Railway Bazaar. I go back to it in snippets each year, especially when I can't travel myself. Thirty years after it was written, it holds up amazingly well.

Donna Leon's mysteries set in Venice are pretty great, and Elmore Leonard is good beach reading too.

PJKM said...

How about:

Ask Me Anything by Francesca Del Banco

The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

A Valley in Italy by Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

Dog of the South by Charles Portis

Perhaps some P.G. Wodehouse?

Brando said...

Raymond Chandler's works (especially The Long Goodbye) and Jim Thompson's The Grifters or The Killer Inside Me are solid noir novels that are enjoyable but also have some heft. James Ellroy's American Tabloid is a frantic bit of Kennedy assassination conspiracy/crime fiction.

Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe is the funniest book I've ever read, a great summertime companion. There's a section where William Carlos Williams treats a patient with a wrist injury from extensive masturbation that is priceless.

MSF said...

i just read the craziest book--very fun, skirting the line between litfic(tm) and genre fiction of many ilks, and though it ain't perfect, i highly recommend it for summer fun. it's called cast of shadows and it's by kevin guilfoyle (sp?). without revealing too much--it takes places in the near but recognizable future, when cloned embryos are a viable (pardon the pun) infertility alternative, and a doctor/father who implants an unwitting donor with a cloned embryo from the dna of someone who he believes is his teenaged daughter's killer, if you can follow that. definitely goes w/popcorn.

Grendel said...

Wendy, The Happy Booker, emailed me (had trouble posting):

Please tell Ian: "Dive like Hell" by Dallas Hudgens. Fun, wild, rollicking, ambitious--with rock and roll, professional wrestlers, drugs and gamblers. Plus, it's incredibly well-written: booksense pick, barnes/noble discover great new writers selection, and book of the month. literary meets popcorn but with less calories.

Grendel said...

Also, if you haven't read any Tom Robbins, I'd recommend Skinny Legs and All. A Jew and an Arab open a restaurant together across from the UN building. Sounds like a joke, but it's the premise of the book. Really funny stuff, well written, with plenty of philosophy, Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils, and acid commentary on America, centering on the Super Bowl. He's also the best writer of metaphors ever. Like, he'll toss out four or five in a paragraph just because he can. Random example: "His finger quivered like a lie detector needle at a White House briefing."

Pete said...

I refuse to make these distinctions: for me, a recommendation is a recommendation. That said, here's what I'm bringing with me on my impending vacation:

Crossing California

The Oxbow Incident

The Golden Compass (I'm glad PJKM recommends)

The Folded Leaf

East of Eden

Norwegian Wood

Bright Lights, Big City

Of course, I won't read all of them, but I need to have choices. If I feel sentenced to read a book (and I'm not getting paid to read it) I usually will buy a magazine or a comic instead.

ian said...

Wow! Thanks, guys. Great suggestions so far. I've already paid a visit to my local library.

Grendel, I read Lonesome Dove as a teenager. I think I had much the same reaction as you've expressed on this site before. Have you read the sequel or the prequels? If not, don't. They're not the shameless NYT Bestseller List cash grabs you might fear, but they're just not at all necessary.

Has anyone read Walter Mosley? I just started the first Easy Rawlins book and am already hooked.

TLB said...

If I may make a nonfiction popcorn plug, I thoroughly enjoyed "Devil in the White City," despite the author's seeming obsession with the adjectival quality of the killer's blue eyes.

Also, my favorite beach read thus far has been "Silence of the Lambs." Better than the movie, if that's possible.

Grendel said...

Oooh, TLB is right on. The book is much creepier. It goes into all kinds of crazy detail, such as Lecter had SIX fingers on each hand.

Abide said...

A friendly lurker peeks around the curtain...

In Florida I picked up Thomas McGuane's "Panama," one of his early books before he turned cowboy. A weird, strange, hilarious book that will have you embarrasing yourself with laughter if you read it in public places.

Also, I just started Jeff MacGregor's "Sunday Money," a book (nonfiction) about the culture of NASCAR written from the perspective of someone who didn't give a cree-ap about it but wanted to understand the phenomenon. MacGregor's been compared to a young Tom Wolfe, a la "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby." Plus, it has TWO subtitles: "Speed! Lust! Madness! Death!" and "A Hot Lap Around America with NASCAR."