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The Hampton's Guide to Summer Reading: Five Must-Reads For The Season

Originally Posted: May 23, 2011

Thomas McKee

Jennifer Egan's Pulitzer Prize winner offers readers a non-sequential narrative that is full of hope. (Courtesy Photo: CoverSpy.com)

Southampton - You, like countless other librarians, post-MFA graduates, and black-clad beat poets, scorn the birth of the electronic reader. You mourn the days of the leather-bound hardcover, when that vintage edition of "East of Eden," "In Cold Blood" or "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was a physical extension of self, a testament to your intellectual sensibilities, clutched proudly at your side with the title up for all passersby to see.

You value above all the kinesthetic experience of reading - that intangible satisfaction of a page turned, the dusty aroma and cracked spine of a well-loved novel. There is nothing like the relationship of a reader to the page, you might say, dismissing the digitized text of the Kindle as an affront to the legacies of Plath, Poe, Nabokov, and the like. Mrs. Dalloway is now available for download as an eBook - Virginia Woolf shudders in her grave.

Regardless of the rigidity of your own pretense, one must be honest with the current state of the literary marketplace. We live in a Wikipedia generation, where it takes the average teenager two hours of procrastination and 25 milligrams of Adderol to skim through a single chapter. Thoreau's "Walden Pond" has all but dried up, and a five-lane expressway has long replaced those acres of untouched nature. With all romance set aside, it might be time to submit to the whims of technology, and make that unfortunate purchase from Amazon.com. If not, you might find yourself on the wrong side of a losing battle.

Gatsy comes complete with garish displays of wealth, and a hidden love affair, right here on Long Island's East End. (Courtesy Photo: ChubbyRiceBall.com)

However, for the true literary zealots on Long Island's East End, local Hamptons libraries and booksellers are fighting the good fight in fostering a culture of readership and the spirit of the printed word. Here are five recommended titles from local storeowners and library staff, which will remind even the most unwilling of iPad-mongerers, that nothing beats a good book and an afternoon at Sagg Main Beach.

1. Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad." In this non-sequential, Pulitzer Prize winning work of fiction, author Egan, "pushes at the notion of what a novel can be," says Catherine Creedon, Director of the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor. Structured upon bisecting plot lines, and a diverse array of characters in or about the music industry, the reader is compelled to piece together interwoven fragments of narrative, culminating in an ending that is full of hope. According to the staff at BookHampton, "it is at times both brilliant and heart-breaking." Mark your calendars - Egan will be reading from her award-winning novel at BookHampton East on July 15 at 8 p.m.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," Summer calls for revisiting the classics, says Kelly Harris, Director of the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton. You may have been force-fed this 1920s narrative in your high school English class, centered around the melancholic Gatsby, his "garish displays of wealth, and "a hidden love affair." However, with an upcoming film adaptation in development by famed director Baz Luhrmann, now is the time to reread this iconic story of the morose Daisy Buchanan, bootleggers, and social climbers on Long Island's Gold Coast. Find this and other titles while perusing the collection at the Hampton Library, and be sure check out their "Five Author Lecture Series," starting on July 15.

Carl Safina ecological study calls for more compassion to our Earth, from Montauk Point to the Arctic Circle, and back. (Courtesy Photo: CarlSafina.org)

3. Carl Safina's "The View from Lazy Point: a Natural Year in an Unnatural World." Ecologist Safina offers readers an "eloquent, engaging and fascinating report," chronicling his findings both locally, in Montauk, and throughout his travels to the Arctic and Antarctic, says Maryann Calendrielle, co-owner of Canio's Books in Sag Harbor. With a lyrical style and all-to-timely subject matter, "the book calls for a deepening compassion towards our Earth." Founded in 1981, Canio's boutique bookstore "caters to curious readers looking for something beyond the best seller lists," says Calendrielle, and has attracted the literary palates of Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, and Frank McCourt, as well as former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Safina will be reading from his work at the store on July 23 at 6 p.m. Visit www.caniosbooks.com for more information.

4. Tina Fey's "Bossypants." In this revealing and hilarious memoir penned by the SNL and "30 Rock" writer herself, Fey presents readers "a perfect beach read," says Rogers Memorial Library Director and storeowner, Terry Lucas, tackling subjects from beauty, to Sarah Palin, to women in the workplace. When your summer reading list of Tolstoy and Turgenev becomes too dense, make a guiltless detour with Fey's "Bossypants." Satisfy your bestseller cravings such as this at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton, and discover the Hamptons' greater literary community with their adult summer reading program, "We Love Authors" beginning on June 25.

Tina Fey presents the perfect reader's detour from Tolstoy and Turgenev. (Courtesy Photo: MostlyErica.com)

5. Carla Malden's "Afterimage: A Brokenhearted Memoir of a Charmed Life." In this penetrating account of the author's experience of her husband's deterioration in the face of cancer, Malden immerses readers in a nexus of grief and gratitude, and memories that linger beyond the point of sorrow. According to Terry Lucas at The Open Book, "to a bookseller, authors are the most exciting celebrities." This community bookstore in Westhampton has hosted a number of accomplished authors since their opening in 1999, including Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Ina Garten, and Jodi Picoult. Malden will be joining the ranks of such writers, offering a reading from her book at the store on May 29, at 3 p.m.




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