With hardcovers now routinely nudging the $30 mark, what’s a cost-conscious, library-challenged reader to do but wait for paperback time to roll around? Even if they’re not out-and-out bargains, these editions still cost a fraction of the original. They’re not as sturdy, to be sure, but they take up less room on the shelf, allowing for more total book accumulation. And it’s not such a tragedy if one spills ketchup on them or folds their page corners in lieu of a bookmark. Without further ado, then: the EW Nothing-But-Paperbacks Summer Special. Which proves that sometimes one does get a second chance to make a first impression.
If you’re mad for memoirs…Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp. Frankly, some of us are wishing for a speedy end to the current memoir craze. (If we have to read one more Canadian grandmother’s account of her abused Siamese twin!) But before you snarl at upper-middle-class Knapp to get over it already, imbibe this wrenching, lucid, non-self-indulgent confessional of her long-term affair with the bottle and how AA and supportive friends helped her whip it.
If the sun’s got you hard-boiled…A Little Yellow Dog, Walter Mosley. You may have sighed over Denzel Washington and smirked at Jennifer Beals’ attempted comeback in the film version of Devil in a Blue Dress yet never read a page of the ace detective series from which it sprang. Here’s another shot. The fifth Easy Rawlins novel, set in ’60s L.A., has all the Chandleresque elements (reluctant PI, luscious dames, spare prose) firmly in place.
If your tennis game gets rained out…Monica: From Fear to Victory, Monica Seles, with Nancy Ann Richardson. Now back on the women’s tour, Yugoslavian-born, former No. 1 racketress Seles would’ve had quite a story to tell even if she hadn’t been literally stabbed in the back by a Steffi Graf-obsessed fan in 1993. But that huge blow to her psyche — and the sport — is the centerpiece of this plucky, gossipy comeback tale.
If you’d like an intellectual challenge between hammock snoozes…The Size of Thoughts, Nicholson Baker. The Updike-worshiping Baker can be infuriating: convex, obscure, even pretentious. Fortunately, he knows it, and that makes his esoteric essays on various minutiae — card catalogs, model airplanes, getting stoned — so lovable. Try it, it’s good for you.
If you want to take a whole week to read one short book…A Single Shot, Matthew F. Jones. A hunting trip goes awry, and depressed farmer John Moon winds up with a young blond human corpse on his incapable hands. He’s in for the worst week of his life, and each chapter of the novel covers precisely one day of it. Worth meting out slowly, this is a character study as well as a page-turner.
If family vacation’s driving you crazy…Rosie, Anne Lamott. Not all fans of Lamott’s current best-seller, Crooked Little Heart, know that it’s the sequel to this 1983 novel about an unconventional Bay Area mother-and-daughter duo. A fun discovery to make, since the first book shares the second’s lyric mastery of small, difficult moments.