Even before the thermostat cracks 70, it seems like every entertainment blog and morning news segment is buzzing about the hottest summer movie releases. Hollywood has a lot riding on the season's brand of explosive action, with plots more likely to be moved along with TNT than character growth (and no, The Hulk's rage-induced girth doesn't count).
For others the summer months means the chance to curl up with a good book, whether it be a frothy summer release meant for the beach or a good classic that you've always meant to finish but could never get around to. If you fall in this camp, then have we got the summer reading list for you. Any of these page turners will be a great addition to your bookshelf or ebook reader. Take a look at our summer reading suggestions in the slideshow below and let us know what you're planning on reading this summer in the comments.
'Absolution' By Patrick Flanery
This summer read -- handpicked by NPR and indie booksellers -- touches on classic themes often visited by Flanery's fictional forefather, J. Coetzee: apartheid South Africa and the complex relationships a system like that fosters. We're drawn to <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FAbsolution-Patrick-Flanery%2Fdp%2F1594488177&ei=oznIT82GDOrC6gGszsz4Dw&usg=AFQjCNGWU3rW_c_S-zi2nmegsrvB0vi8nQ" target="_hplink">"Absolution"</a>'s unreliable narrator, fiction writer Claire Wald, who may have something to do with the deaths of her sister and daughter. <br /> <br />"In a game of parrying and thrusting," NPR writes, "Wald and her appointed biographer dance around the questions that must be asked to understand her life."
'The Letter' By Marie Tillman
Former NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman was more than the <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18560_162-4061656.html" target="_hplink">awful story behind his 2004 death in Afghanistan</a> -- he was a husband. In <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Letter-Journey-Through-Love/dp/0446571458" target="_hplink">"The Letter,"</a> his widow Marie Tillman shares how the "just in case" letter Pat left behind helped her "navigate a world she could no longer share with her husband." The lessons she learned after losing Pat and withdrawing from the ensuing media spotlight will apply to anyone hoping to remake their life after loss.
"The Next Best Thing" By Jennifer Weiner
What's a summer beach book guide without an entry from Jennifer Weiner? The writer's new book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Next-Best-Thing-Novel/dp/1451617755" target="_hplink">"The Next Best Thing"</a> chronicles the make-it-big-in-Hollywood dreams of 23-year-old screenwriter Ruth Saunders and the love life of her 70-year-old grandmother.
'The Chaperone' By Laura Moriarty
Summertime is the best time to dig into a good piece of historical fiction. Inspired by real life silent film star Louise Brooks and the summer she spent in NYC in 1922 accompanied by a middle-aged Midwestern chaperone, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Chaperone-Laura-Moriarty/dp/1594487014/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338521981&sr=1-1" target="_hplink">"The Chaperone"</a> -- which is slated for a June 5 release -- is already winning rave reviews.
'Jack 1939' By Francine Mathews
The early days of the 35th president get re-imagined by Mathews, a former CIA agent. In <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Jack-1939-Francine-Mathews/dp/1594487197" target="_hplink">"Jack 1939"</a> John F. Kennedy is a spy in Europe on the hunt for intel on Nazis. But all work and no play makes Jackie a very dull boy -- you can expect dalliances with gorgeous women in this novel as well!
'Gold' By Chris Cleave
Just in time for the summer Olympics! Book club fave Cleave's new novel looks at the shifting relationship between two Olympic speed cyclists going for, well, you can guess, for the last time. If the writing in 2009's hit "Little Bee" is any indicator, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gold-A-Novel-Chris-Cleave/dp/1451672721/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338511503&sr=1-1" target="_hplink">"Gold"</a> won't disappoint when it's released on July 3.
'Culinary Intelligence' By Peter Kaminsky
It's full title -- <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Culinary-Intelligence-Eating-Healthy-Really/dp/0307593371" target="_hplink">"Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well)"</a> -- is a mouthful in itself. Being billed as the male version of "French Women Don't Get Fat!", "Intelligence" ditches the shame-on-you rhetoric to promote eating foods with "maximum flavor," according to <em>The New York Times</em> review. That's something to keep in mind during all those summer barbecues coming up.
'The Mark Inside' By Amy Reading
In the same vein as Erik Larson's "Devil In The White City," Reading's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Mark-Inside-Perfect-Swindle/dp/0307272486" target="_hplink">"The Mark Inside"</a> grabs on to a big moment in time (ten years before the big stock crash of '29) and finds a nugget of a story that sprawls into something even bigger.<br /> <br /> "The Mark Inside" tells the story of Texas rancher J. Frank Norfleet, who was swindled not once but twice by stock market con artists. Instead of calling it quits, Norfleet spent four years building evidence against those who conned him through a hick alias and other forms of subterfuge.
'In Between Days' By Andrew Porter
The plot of debut novel <a href="http://www.randomhouse.com/book/196798/in-between-days-by-andrew-porter" target="_hplink">"In Between Days"</a> reads as if it was snatched from the headlines of our site: a recently divorced husband and wife of 30 years deal with their son, who hasn't left the nest or found a job, and their daughter, who was inexplicably kicked out of college. <br /> <br /> "This is a novel about the vagaries of love and family, about betrayal and forgiveness, about the possibility and impossibility of going home," according to the synopsis.
'The Red Chamber' By Pauline Chen
Revamping one of China's most revered novels for a modern audience takes a lot of guts. But if advance praise for Chen's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Red-Chamber-Pauline-Chen/dp/0307701573" target="_hplink">"The Red Chamber" </a>is any indicator, she more than met the challenge. "Chamber" tells the story of three women of varying classes inside the opulent Jia mansion. "When a political coup overthrows the emperor and plunges the once-mighty family into grinding poverty, each woman must choose between love and duty, friendship and survival."
'Mr G' By Alan Lightman
We found ourselves drawn to this <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/25/152681721/15-summer-reads-handpicked-by-indie-booksellers" target="_hplink">NPR summer pick</a>, which breathes new life into a heavy and much debated question: how did Earth begin? <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Novel-Creation-Alan-Lightman/dp/030737999X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338521862&sr=1-1" target="_hplink">"Mr G"</a> is, of course, God. But in the world created by Lightman -- a trained theoretical physicist -- Mr G lives in The Void with his aunt and uncle and struggles with questions of space, time and soul both internally and externally (with the "Satan-like figure of equal intelligence" Belhor).
'Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal' By Jeanette Winterson
While most "train wreck" memoirs feel like you walked in on a method actor's therapy session, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Why-Happy-When-Could-Normal/dp/0802120105/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338521827&sr=1-1" target="_hplink">"Why Be Happy"</a> does more than make you want to shake your head, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/25/152681721/15-summer-reads-handpicked-by-indie-booksellers" target="_hplink">NPR writes</a>. "Instead, 'Why Be Happy' becomes an unexpected road map through some of our largest life questions -- What is the meaning of happiness? How do we learn about love? What is the purpose of poetry? Why keep living? -- all the while redefining the very ideas of memory and autobiography."
'My Cross To Bear' By Gregg Allman
In a Q&A on Amazon.com, Allman explains why he felt it was necessary to write <a href="http://www.amazon.com/My-Cross-Bear-Gregg-Allman/dp/0062112031" target="_hplink">"My Cross To Bear"</a>: <br /> <br /> "There have been a few books about the Allman Brothers over the year, and they all seem to tell one of two stories--either we were all out there sowing our wild oats, or we were constantly surrounded by tragedy. None of them really got the feeling of the band right, and that was what I set out to do."
'Porch Lights' By Dorothea Benton Frank
Annie Britt takes in her distant daughter, Jackie McMullen, and her sullen 10-year-old grandson, Charlie, after the death of their firefighter husband and father. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Porch-Lights-Dorothea-Benton-Frank/dp/0061961299" target="_hplink">"Porch Lights"</a> chronicles the reunited family's summer together in Sullivans Island, a setting rich with gorgeous scenery and interesting characters, some from the present (like Annie's estranged husband and the flirty pharmacist widower) and past (former island resident Edgar Island Poe and swashbuckler Blackbeard).
"Seating Arrangements" By Maggie Shipstead
Just in time for wedding season, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Seating-Arrangements-Maggie-Shipstead/dp/0307599469" target="_hplink">Maggie Shipstead's debut novel</a> is a send up of two American institutions: marriage and old money. There's a lot happening to keep you flipping through "Seating Arrangements" pages, including a mother of the bride's painstaking wedding planning goes out the window when a storm hits and a father of the bride who is secretly in love with a bridesmaid.
'The Casual Vacancy' By J.K. Rowling
Alright, so the "Harry Potter" author's first book for adults is actually slated for a late September release. But J.K. Rowling fans can still fantasize this summer about the world -- magical or muggle -- she'll create in <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FThe-Casual-Vacancy-J-K-Rowling%2Fdp%2F0316228532&ei=1jnIT4rjGOH56QGNl40V&usg=AFQjCNG0mZZn-AFlZycEP3P7M4YS7pq-jw" target="_hplink">"The Casual Vacancy."</a>