Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start to summer! Here are the books you’ll want to toss in your beach bag.


A great gift that you just might end up keeping for yourself, Perfect Pops by Charity Ferreira offers up 50 different recipes for extraordinary popsicles.  My favorite: bourbon-peach pops.

As our hunger for all things culinary continues to grow, Anne Willan’s The Cookbook Library hits the spot. Gorgeously illustrated and chock-full of recipes, stories, food history and more, this book is a wonderful addition to any existing collection and would be equally at home on a well appointed coffee table.

The best food writer when it comes to practical recipes, Mark Bittman brings it home again with How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Even skilled cooks will appreciate the way he breaks down the simple egg.

Pie it Forward by Gesine Bullock-Prado grabs you with the delectable cover, and holds you with its mouth-watering recipes. My favorite so far, the unbearably amazing pear and rhubarb cardamom custard pie, tastes both cozy and original in the best way possible.


Now that you’ve devoured The Hunger Games trilogy and you’re feeling starved for the next best thing, along comes Graceling to fill the void. Fast-paced and scintillating, Kristin Cashore’s tale of Katsa, a girl able to kill a man with her bare hands, is spellbinding.

If the monster-fication of Jane Austen and Abraham Lincoln weren’t enough for you, how about Jesus himself for a re-imagining? Seth Grahame-Smith’s Unholy Night boldly treads where few have dared go by retelling the world’s most famous story in a whole new, terrifying light.

Summer is a perfect time for mystery, and What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright spins a great yarn.  This story of ghosts, murder and innocence lost may just keep you up all night.


One of my favorites concepts, Schadenfreude, has finally become a book, written by Tim Lihoreau. This German word signifies a delight in others’ misfortunes, from a politician getting caught cheating to an actor putting a foot in his/her mouth –and it’s not just for Germans anymore.


When Adam Gopnik, Meg Wolitzer and Ayelet Waldman tout a book, I for one sit up and take notice.  Deborah Copaken Kogan’s The Red Book, an up-to-the-minute ensemble dramedy, does not disappoint.

Thirty thousand babies were kidnapped and readopted to different families during Argentina’s dirty war. Perla, by Carolina De Robertis, tells the story of one of these children, now grown up and forced to confront the horrifying truths of her family.

A big novel in the sense of ambitiously tackling the human condition, Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory is unforgettable. The story of an artist’s life, from soup to nuts, ends up illuminating us all.

Peter Cameron’s Coral Glynn, an unexpected and surprisingly refreshing love story, starts in an unassuming manner and captures the reader as if by accident.  Set in 1950s England, which feels as far off and far away as Mars, this novel will appeal to the romantic in everyone.

A perfect next role for Jennifer Lawrence, Once Upon a River’s heroine, Margo Crane, mixes beauty and toughness to perfection. Bonnie Jo Campbell’s tale of one girl coming into her own against the odds is incandescent.


Moshe Kasher’s surprisingly funny tale of survival goes full throttle in Kasher in the Rye. This coming of age autobiography recounts the harrowing life of a boy whose troubles begin at the age of 4, and only descend further into drugs, gangs and guns.

Finally, a book to rival The Liar’s Club! Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal merges fantastic storytelling with riveting tales to absolute perfection.


Like Malcolm Gladwell, Jonah Lehrer takes science and sociology from the mundane to the sublime. The author’s latest book, Imagine, delves into the incredibly rich world of the creative brain with spectacular results.

Like Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights, Welcome to Utopia gets right under the skin of small town life. Karen Valby writes with perception and sensitivity, exploring what it means to be an American today.


Perfect for history buffs, Americana lovers and humorists, The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, now in paperback, illuminates perhaps our greatest writer like never before.

Politicos will revel in E.J. Dionne Jr.’s Our Divided Political Heart. This exploration of what it means to be an American today uses the past and present to try to come to terms with the current, seemingly unbreachable divide between right and left.


A perfect gift for anyone who’s been recently dumped, Chrissie Manby’s Getting Over Mr. Right provides a shoulder to cry on. Our heroine Ashleigh Prince, recently jettisoned on Facebook, must pick up the pieces, and we get to live vicariously through her painfully funny journey.

Mixing a Jane Austen quality with distinct India flair, Anne Cherian’s The Invitation is pure delight. This tale of nostalgia and ambition centers around a graduation party that reunites old friends who may or may not have lived up to each others’ expectations.


An increasingly popular phenomenon, the blogger-turned-published author is cheering in its populism. Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened lives up to the hype and more with her funny, “mostly true” tale of a mostly abnormal life.

Living many women’s dream, Eloisa James moves her family to France and tells the true tale in Paris in Love. Bursting with tidbits of family life turned upside down, this memoir reads like everyone’s favorite daydream.


One of my favorite new genres, the graphic memoir, reaches new heights of greatness with Alison Bechdel’s Fun House. This story of a family, fraught with secrets, shame and miscellaneous oddities, crackles with insight.

The Art of Daniel Clowes traces the cartoonist’s career, from childhood superhero drawings to graphic novel superstardom with Ghost World. Most fascinating are the peeks inside Clowes’s work methods, with pictures of real life items that served as inspiration, unused ideas, character sketches and more. –Mike Sebastian