The best reads of a bad summer

Rebecca Long on some of the summer’s literary highlights.

Rebecca Long on some of the summer’s literary highlights.

I think it was Henry James who once remarked that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon.’ Well, yes, he may have had a point, but it all depends on the weather now, doesn’t it? Here’s what we’ve been reading over the break, on those aforementioned ‘beautiful’ summer afternoons and, indeed, the rainy ones that so very nearly outnumbered them.

Travel book slash food bible ‘Hungry for Paris’ by Alexander Lobrano certainly satisfied our eyes if not our stomachs, it being the ‘ultimate guide’ to the city’s 102 best restaurants. In ‘Hamburger America,’ which, surprisingly, was more than an homage to the hot sandwich of the title, diner proprietor Joe Meers told us ‘happy cows taste better.’ Quite.

Political book ‘The Race Card’ by Stanford law professor Richard

Thompson explored why the post civil-rights situation is such a highly charged one and proved extremely relevant in a summer which saw race become a major part of the American presidential race.

 Natsuo Kirino’s ‘Out’ guaranteed that you’ll never look at a plate of curry in the same way again. 

In the realm of thrillers, ‘Chasing Darkness’ by Robert Crais stood out from the crowd with its insightful, gritty descriptions of modern L.A. ‘Out,’ Natsuo Kirino’s tale of four Tokyo housewives who band together when one of them murders her abusive husband, guaranteed that you’ll never look at a plate of curry in the same way again.

In Don Robertson’s reissued 1960s classic ‘The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread,’ 9 year old Morris Bird III set out on a walk across Cleveland to visit his best friend with a dollar, a jar of peanut butter, an alarm clock, a map, a compass and – to his great annoyance – his little sister Sandra.

Things got distinctly metafictional in Melanie Watt’s ‘Chester,’ with the red felt tipped marker-wielding cat of the title driving his owner to the point of distraction, editing her manuscript about the life of a mouse with often hilarious results. In a similar vein, ‘Who Can Save Us Now?’ saw superheroes old and new climb down from billboards and abandon the silver screen to tell editors Owen King and John McNally their humorous, eerie, dark and oddly enough joyful stories.

So, it was a summer of superheroes, cats, food and good books, then. Oh yes, and rain as well, of course.