As the summer crescendos into its final weeks, there is still time to sit on the beach, enjoy the sun and read. But now that you’ve burned through all the Divergent books, what else is there to read? We at Spectrum Culture are happy to offer you a list of things that have us buzzing right now. These aren’t necessarily new releases. The only parameter is that we endorse them wholeheartedly. I hope something on this list inspires you to go buy, download or borrow a book and find yourself in these last weeks of summer lost amidst pages. – David Harris

decameronThe Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

The first baby steps in Italian prose, away from the mystical, the ascetic, the heavenly, the Papacy towards the sensuous, the sexual, the clever, and the bourgeoisie, were taken by Boccaccio in his hundred tales, The Decameron. These lively stories reveal everyday men–and many women–keeping up appearances, fooling priests and potentates and striving to fulfill desires. Narrated by seven young ladies and three gentlemen fleeing Florence during the Black Plague of 1348, these clever schemers may succeed or fail, but their ambitions energize these tales. Twenty-one were chosen for this edition; one scholar sums up their appeal: “The flesh entertains at the expense of the spirit.”– John L. Murphy

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent

Lots of brave men and women fought for your right to drink yourself stupid and puke all over the place at that concert last night. You didn’t think we saw that? Here at Spectrum Culture we see everything. Once you’ve sobered up go buy a copy of Daniel Okrent’s excellent Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Perfectly paced and vividly rendered, it goes down as smooth as Johnnie Walker Blue, and is much cheaper too. – Eric Dennis

The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories by Etgar Keret

The perfect short story should engage the reader with economical prose but convincingly hint at worlds of detail beyond its pages. Etgar Keret is a master. His surrealistic stories are presented with a casual matter-of-factness that accentuates the bizarreness. Where Jack Handy’s Deep Thoughts takes a similar approach for humorous effect, Keret is more philosophical, even when he summons the same uncomfortable laughs. An infidelity uncovered by the biblical plagues of Exodus when the “firstborn” male child doesn’t die, a desperate humanitarian who’s arranged his own murder to escape his good intentions – these are quirky gems that make you think. – Jester Jay Goldman

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

This should come with a warning label, for as summer reading fare, it won’t leave you with a sunny disposition. With McCarthy’s dense prose vividly depicting arid landscapes and sanguinary cruelty, it amounts to an epic poem of man’s brutality. Built around relentless bloodletting, a pseudo protagonist who is little more than a vapid shell, and an engine of chaos personified in the terrifying Judge Holden, it is harrowing to get through. And yet, the novel is not a mere catalogue of depredations and irredeemable characters. Once you delve beneath the surface, it’s revealed as a philosophical discourse on Nietzsche’s means of combatting nihilism, man’s compulsion to war and a gnostic perception that views the world itself as inherently vile. Haunting and provocative, it demands repeated readings. – Cole Waterman

Game_of_thronesA Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A sword named Ice. Drama amongst children upsetting a kingdom. Bran is in recovery—a dream sequence of talking crows. Canicide! Tears! Injustice! Catherine and Ned run into each other in a distant land. What will Arya do next? I’m rooting for Tyrion the Imp.

This now-classic tale forged from George R.R. Martin (whose name seems like it’s trying a bit too hard to be like JRR Tolkien?) is now memorialized in the HBO special. I haven’t seen it. This will do.

Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor– Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor! Hodor! Hodor ! Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor? Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor.

Hodor Hodor-Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor (Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor?) Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor. – Cedric Justice

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro

I’ve always seen summer as the ideal time to tackle big books, the sort of mammoths that make reading in transit difficult, but sink down pleasantly into soft beach sand. This year, I’ve found what may be the ultimate combination of size and entertainment with Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, his thousand-plus page, compulsively readable biography of the urban planner extraordinaire. Combining the epic thrust of classic tragedy with the precise minutiae of well-researched history, drawing in all kinds of fascinating side stories in the process, Caro depicts the dizzying rise and fall of the man who shaped New York’s modern landscape, detailing his personal mixture of unmatched work ethic, conniving shrewdness and outright megalomania, casting him as both the hero and villain of this huge, compelling story. – Jesse Cataldo

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not your typical “beach read.” Ostensibly a travelogue, the narrator uses a cross-country motorcycle trip as a vehicle to explore existential issues like the nature of reality, quality and the self. A self-described “inquiry into values,” the book tends to raise more questions than it actually answers, but that’s kind of the point. It’s a book that gives you plenty to ponder as you dig your feet into the sand, stare out to the ocean and listen to the waves crash ceaselessly against the shore. – Brian Hodge

Do Not Sell at Any Price by Amanda Petrusich

This summer’s most compelling page turner? For me, it was a book about collecting 78 rpm records. Petrusich revels in the obsessiveness of these peculiar hunter-gatherers and immerses herself in their disease, so much so that she learns to scuba dive in an attempt to hunt down her own white whale, namely precious music that, legend has it, may have been hurled into the Milwaukee River. – Pat Padua

lockekeyLocke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke & Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s fantastic horror comic series came to end last year, completing a strong and surprising run of close to 40 issues. Instead of waiting for each installment to unfold, you can spend the dying days of summer staying up all night, poring over Rodriguez’s lush art and Hill’s gripping story. It is a world of murder, possession, magical keys and a terrifying demon that won’t rest until it destroys the protagonists. A family drama mixed with supernatural horror, Locke & Key is that rare comic where we care about its characters, especially when each of them is standing on the precipice of evil. – David Harris

The Coast of Chicago: Stories by Stuart Dybek

Stuart Dybek’s story collection The Coast of Chicago may have come out more than two decades ago, but it’s just as resonant today as it was then. Dybek’s characters trudge through 1950s Chicago in any way they can. Music bonds a young boy with his estranged grandfather; close-knit teenagers forge their way through dire odds; a young professional couple succumbs to desperation and desire on the train. Through a series of flash fiction and short stories, themes of longing and loss run rampant as Dybek’s characters are simultaneously enlivened by their city and shackled by it. A must-read for lovers of short fiction. – Michael Danaher

Under the Skin by Michel Faber

A busty extraterrestrial woman, Isserley, cruises the Scottish countryside looking for lone hitchhikers to pick up and do nefarious things to. This sci-fi creep out is by turns darkly funny, poignant and sad. Themes include rape culture, factory farming and alienation. But it is also just a great, taut read. The book was adapted this year into a stunningly beautiful and unsettling film directed by Jonathan Glazer. The film lacks a voice-over and is very light on dialogue, so it is up to the viewer to put the pieces together. This is perhaps the only example where it is better to watch the movie first, and then read the book, as the novel gives us a much deeper window into Isserley’s thoughts and feelings, and in fact reveals much more about her and her compatriots’ strange mission. – Isaac Kaplan-Woolner

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing feels like 2014’s answer to Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins. A plot hop-skipping over the globe; slowly unearthed, multi-generational tragedies; boldly rendered characters who breathe with flawed, complicated life. Avoid your own family infighting during your next timeshare imprisonment by escaping into the Eapen family and their struggle to converge together over a heartbreaking past and uncertain future. – Tabitha Blankenbiller

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

The Paul Thomas Anderson adaptation of Inherent Vice is just around the corner, so now is as good a time as any to read Thomas Pynchon’s Raymond Chandler-esque and noir-influenced detective story. If you haven’t read Pynchon before, Inherent Vice is a good place to start; it’s perhaps his most accessible book, devoid of the jargon and structural challenges of, say, Gravity’s Rainbow, but also his wittiest. Underneath the pop culture references and the stoner fixation, the attentive eye will see reality peeking through, aided largely by strong characterizations, Pynchon’s indelible prose and tight third person narration. Just because it is accessible does not mean it is minor. – Forrest Cardamenis

emergency1Emergency Care, 12th Edition by Daniel Limmer and Michael F. O’Keefe

As EMS textbooks go, the beginning Emergency Medical Responder, looking to advance to Technician and on his or her way to Paramedic, could hardly find a better introduction to the gamut of basic emergency protocols than the 12th Edition of Limmer and O’Keefe’s Emergency Care. A careful first read-through may (nay, should) take a solid month – more than tolerable as the authors are not without an ironic ear for writing emergency situations to test your skills recall (“I didn’t think my hand was in the fire for that long, but it must’ve been.”) – but the real quality of this text is its consistent handiness as a reference and refresher. – Alex Peterson

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

Wealth affords indulgences, and in the case of Gilded Age heiress Huguette Clark, we follow a life lived far into old age without the structure of financial constraint. Even as a young woman her path was unconventional – a year-long sham marriage, a discriminating eye for art collecting that developed into a peculiar fixation on dolls and dollhouses – and as the years ticked by, the more eccentric she became. It was Huguette’s choice to live out the last decades of her life in a small hospital room (during most of which she was perfectly lucid and healthy), all the while “voluntarily” signing over tens of millions to a handful of “trusted” associates. Strange things happen when money becomes meaningless. – Stacey Pavlick

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

I’ve had a copy of Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared on my shelf for five years. Only that copy is in Swedish. It wasn’t until earlier this year I actually got my hands on a translation and dived into this remarkably absurd (in the best possible way) caper. Centenarian Allan Karlsson (the titular old man) does indeed climb out a window to escape his stifling old-folks home, but the joy of this novel is in Jonasson’s singular wit and style. Allan Karlsson stumbles through the history of the last century in flashbacks but his knack for walking right into the worst situations and shrugging them off with ease sets up an incredibly clever story of Swedish biker gangs, stolen money and unlikely friendships. – Katherine Springer

A Man Called Destruction by Holly George-Warren

The full, honest story about Alex Chilton may never come out, and given what we know about him, that’s what he would have wanted. However, Holly George-Warren’s revealing biography gives incredible insight behind the man who seemed to embrace his cult status like no one before him. George-Warren frames Chilton’s life in terms of conflict: between his liberal upbringing and the provincial attitudes of Memphis, between him and Chris Bell, and, ultimately, between him and the legacy of Big Star. Ultimately, Chilton’s acceptance of his position in music history before his untimely death is where George-Warren really shines; the tragic loss of one of America’s greatest songwriters becomes bittersweet when you find out that he knew how loved he was. – Kevin Korber

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Kingkiller trilogy is composed of your average Tolkien-like themes. Grand castles, magic floating here and there and a mysterious dark force that plagues the main character. The twist comes in the delivery. Our man of the hour, Kvothe, is a genius, but also a complete ass. He bumbles his way to victory just as often as he actually pulls off being heroic and, in a nice twist from Mr. Rothfuss, he’s a complete idiot when it comes to women. Rothfuss paints battlefields, cities and the wilderness with a fantastic brush, but his attention to small details is what makes The Wise Man’s Fear excellent. External characters, trapped in Kvothe’s tale, are brilliant, adding spice to what have could have been another generic fantasy novel. Yes it’s an epic, but more importantly it’s goddamn hilarious and Rothfuss has a bright future in comedy if he even wants to stray from the lands of dragons. – Nathan Stevens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Five Years Later: The Best Films of 2015!!

Five years is an eternity in the life of a film. …