Summer reading: We've got it covered

In third grade, when my teacher asked the class how one chooses a book, my hand shot up.

“By its cover,” I announced, pleased with myself.

I still wince at that memory, but I've since read several interviews that ask authors to name books they've read based solely on the covers. Guess what? Every author names a book. So there. It's not just me.

Really, though, how do you choose when there are thousands more good books than you'll ever have time to read?

For starters, check out our summer reading suggestions on page 4E.

We're betting chick-lit fans will enjoy Kerry Reichs' “The Best Day of Someone Else's Life.” Reichs grew up in Charlotte and sets part of her wedding-centered novel here. (Read my column about Reichs on 5E.)

Then, for a change of pace, go for a mystery. “Blackman's Coffin” will be out June 10. Set in Asheville, it's the first book of a new series by Charlotte's Mark de Castrique.

Summer's as good a time as any to learn something. Read American history you won't find in textbooks in Tony Horwitz's “A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World” and Kenneth C. Davis' “America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders.”

Finally, I, for one, never pass up a good dog story. So I'm looking forward to Garth Stein's new novel “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” told by a dog named Enzo.

Reviews have been strong, and the passages I've read hooked me. Also, I really like the cover.


The Art of Racing in the Rain

On the eve of his death, Enzo, a dog who has educated himself through extensive television-watching, tells the story of his life and his master, a race car driver named Denny Swift. Funny and poignant. Bring tissues.

The Condition

The children of a dysfunctional New England family struggle for normalcy in this novel by the PEN/Hemingway-winner author of “Mrs. Kimble.”

Devil May Care

This newest installment in the James Bond series will be published Wednesday, the 100th birthday of the late Ian Fleming, who created the Bond series. It's set during the Cold War, but the publisher's keeping the plot under wraps.

Gossip of the Starlings

As the book opens, 16-year-old Catherine Morrow is cutting lines of cocaine on the toaster oven in her prep school dorm room, and you suspect then that things won't end well. De Gramont's debut novel was inspired by an actual drug bust at a Northeastern prep school in the 1980s. A gracefully written page-turner.

Julien Parme

Our title character is a 14-year-old troublemaker and aspiring novelist. First published in France, where 29-year-old Zeller is a rising literary star. This is his American debut.

Keeper of Dreams

Nebula- and Hugo-winner Card presents a collection of short stories and novellas, nearly every story he's written since the publication of “Maps in a Mirror.” The author of science fiction classics such as “Ender's Game,” Card lives in Greensboro.

The Other

The author of “Snow Falling on Cedars” follows two friends – Nell, a working-class kid, and John William, a wealthy only child – as their lives take different paths.

The Ten-Year Nap

Former corporate lawyer Amy Lamb and her friends gave up demanding careers to stay home and raise kids. Now, with children in school, they're questioning their decisions. “A wise, witty assessment of the contemporary dilemmas of middle-class mothers,” says Kirkus Reviews.

Poolside reads

The Best Day of Someone Else's Life

She's always dreamed about her own wedding, but after Vi Connelly endures 11 weddings in 18 months, she questions her assumptions about romance and marriage. Set partly in Charlotte, where Reichs, daughter of best-selling crime writer Kathy Reichs, grew up. If you've ever been in a wedding, you'll identify.

Bulls Island

Frank, a native of Sullivans Island, S.C., serves up another story set in South Carolina's Lowcountry. Elizabeth “Betts” McGee leaves her life as a New York investment banker to return to the home she thought she'd left forever.

ChasingHarry Winston

The author of “The Devil Wears Prada” is back with a chick-lit tale of three friends in Manhattan who vow to change their lives in a year.

Dorothyon the Rocks

Forty-something Maggie, an actress in a children's theater troupe, is in denial about how she can't keep playing Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” for the rest of her life.

Moon Shell Beach

The bestselling Hot Flash Club series author pens a tale of two women struggling to rekindle a childhood friendship damaged by lies and betrayal.

Practically Perfect

New interior designer Anna is renovating a run-down cottage in the Cotswolds in this romantic comedy.

The Sugar Queen

After last year's successful “Garden Spells,” Allen, from Asheville, returns with the story of Josey Cirrini, a young woman living a quiet life with her mom in North Carolina until things take a magical turn.

Summer Blowout

When her marriage self-destructs, Bella Shaughnessy, a stylist and makeup artist, swears off men. Then she meets a cute entrepreneur at a college fair. From the author of “Must Love Dogs.”


365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy

Charlotte's Charla Muller gave her husband a very unusual gift for his 40th birthday: Sex, every day for a year. Here, she writes about relationships, intimacy and how her gift changed her marriage.


Walters's memoir is earning rave reviews. Along with her own fascinating life, she delivers the stories behind some of her biggest interview coups. “Compulsively readable,” says Publishers Weekly.

Exposed: Confessions of a Wedding Photographer

Women in matching yellow sweat suits with “bridesmaid” embroidered across their backsides. A bulldog that fainted while wearing a skintight tuxedo. Truth can be stranger than fiction, as Lewis proves in this entertaining memoir.

Home Girl: Building A Dreamhouseon a Lawless Block

Matloff, a former foreign correspondent, moves to New York and plunks down savings for a “fixer-upper” in West Harlem. “A loving, stirring portrait of the American cultural mosaic,” says Kirkus Reviews.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

Reviewers compare Crosley's tales of mid-20s life in New York to those of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. Publishers Weekly calls this debut essay collection “full of sardonic wit and charm.”

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, andBreaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Wall, star witness last year against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, was forced to marry her cousin at age 14. She tells of growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints.

This Land Is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation

With biting wit, social satirist Ehrenreich's essays examine an America where the rich are addicted to cosmetic surgery and the poor can't get health insurance for their children.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames

Fans of Sedaris' humor will eat up his newest essay collection, which includes tales of growing up in Raleigh and living in France, where his tenuous grasp of the French language continues to spawn humiliating situations – sitting in a doctor's waiting room in his underwear, for instance, surrounded by the fully clothed.


America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders

The author of the best-selling “Don't Know Much About History” presents a collection of stories detailing overlooked history crucial in shaping the nation's character and destiny. Did you know wine-making French Huguenots were America's first real pilgrims?

The Soloist

When Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez meets Nathaniel Ayers, he sees a homeless man who plays a battered violin missing two strings. He learns that Ayers had been a promising student at Julliard, struck down by schizophrenia. Booklist calls this “a compelling, emotionally charged tale of raw talent and renewed hope.” Dream Works is planning a movie.

A Voyage LongAnd Strange: Rediscovering the New World

In this fascinating trek, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Confederates in the Attic” realizes he's got almost no idea what was happening in America between Columbus's 1492 landing and the settlement of Jamestown in 1607. He sets out to find out.

The Delighted States

Early reviews are enthusiastic about this very different history of the novel. Its subtitle: “A Book of Novels, Romances, & Their Unknown Translators, Containing Ten Languages, Set on Four Continents, & Accompanied by Maps, Portraits, Squiggles, Illustrations, & a Variety of Helpful Indexes.” Bonus: Flip the book over and read the first English translation of Vladimir Nabokov's “Mademoiselle O,” also by Thirlwell.

While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped theNYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego,and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis

The former Wall Street Journal reporter explains how corporations and governments ran up bank-breaking pension and health-care promises to workers. They're now coming due and will cripple America if nothing is done. He includes recommendations.


Antiques to Die For

In this third Josie Prescott mystery, the New Hampshire antiques dealer is stunned to learn her fun-loving friend has been found drowned. Lovers of both mysteries and “Antiques Roadshow” will delight in this series, Kirkus Reviews says.

Blackman's Coffin

Charlotte author de Castrique launches a new series. When U.S. military criminal investigator Sam Blackman criticizes the medical treatment he receives after losing a leg in Iraq, he's transferred to the veteran's hospital in Asheville. There, a murder forces him to delve into Asheville's history.

Blood Trail

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett confronts the murder of a hunter in the mountains, strung up, gutted and flayed like the elk he was pursuing. Is this the work of anti-hunting activists or a lone psychopath?

Executive Privilege

This thriller centers on a murder that snakes through Washington's most powerful offices and leads to the White House.

Fearless Fourteen

The 14th installment of Evanovich's best-selling Stephanie Plum Mystery Series.

The Front

Cornwell continues the adventures of Massachusetts state investigator Win Garano and District Attorney Monique Lamont, introduced in “At Risk.”

Odd Hours

Koontz's newest supernatural mystery starring Odd Thomas, a former fry cook who can communicate with the dead.