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Hamptons.comís Ultimate Summer Reading List

Originally Posted: June 27, 2007

Lon S. Cohen

When you're not partying, fund raising, gardening, golfing, boating, knitting, basket weaving, hobnobbing, standing pretty or enjoying a multitude of other activities in the Hamptons, you may find a few quiet moments to read a book. Instead of relying on your own devices and particular tastes, please, allow me to tell you exactly what you should be reading while you relax at your favorite UV-Ray absorption area-or as is colloquially known to some: The Beach.

"Einstein: His Life And His Universe" by Walter Isaacson - Big book about one of the most important men in physics. The details of Einstein's work (his theories were simultaneously simply beautiful and world shattering) and his life (he divorced his first wife to marry his cousin) are so finely blended that it is hard to separate one from the other. It is a portrait of a surprisingly Bohemian man who stuck to extraordinary conclusions despite the orderly Newtonian worldview of the time. Yet, he could never find a good conditioning shampoo.

"Against the Day" by Thomas Pynchon - Hire someone to carry this book around. It weighs in at about 3.5 pounds and is over 1000 pages. An epic that takes place "between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the years just after World War I. ...a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places." You ain't getting' this one done before the summer rental expires, I'll tell ya' that.

"The Gravedigger's Daughter" by Joyce Carol Oates - The Schwart family flees Nazi Germany to settle in an Upstate New York town and bury their past as the family patriarch buries bodies in his job as a gravedigger. Rebecca, the only Schwart daughter, rebukes violence, abandonment, and discrimination as she reinvents herself in America and seeks the missing Z in her last name.

"His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman - Consists of three volumes: "The Golden Compass", "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass". Catch up on this classic because the first movie will be released in November. It's a coming of age story that follows two kids on a fantasy adventure.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J. K. Rowling - On July 21, 2007 this highly anticipated tome will drop. Adults and children alike will tear into it like crazed carnivores into a bloody steak. Who lives? Who dies? Why is Snape so grumpy?

"Landsman" by Peter Melman - "So it's about a Jewish guy from Louisiana fighting for the South in the Confederate Army?" I asked Mr. Melman, when we spoke. He shrugged and said, "Who knew?" Redemption and romance during the Civil War.

"The Yiddish Policeman's Union" by Michael Chabon - Michael Chabon, one of my favorite authors, has written more books about Jews in the most un-Jewish of situations than anyone. Expect the same quirky goodness. By the way, this guy, Mike Chabon, he won a Pulitzer. Thought I'd just mention that.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini - The Kite Runner author is back on the scene. Spanning thirty hard years, two women married to the same wicked man must ally themselves against his brutality against the backdrop of events in Afghanistan.

"The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Gothgirl" by Barry Lyga - Darkly humorous look at the secret lives of a comic book Geek and a Goth chick pushed to the edge by the "jocks and the popular kids." Rumor has it that this book was just optioned by Hollywood. A follow-up book ("Don't call it a sequel," Barry says!) is due out this fall.

"Summer at Sea Shell Harbor" by Richard Dunne - Teenagers come of age during the summer of 1959 in a lovely Hamptons setting. The story is honest, heartwarming, and true to the 50s era. Think "Dirty Dancing" on the beach but without the dancing. Will be a great flick when if (hopefully) hits the big screen.

"Falling Man" by Don DeLillo - Keith Neudecker's turbulent life after he survives the Twin Towers disaster parallels the story of Hammad, one of the terrorists, as he trains for the coming day. Both men are falling: one into martyrdom, one out of his own existence.

"On Chesil Beach" by Ian McEwan - About a young married couple's first night of copulation or difficulty getting down to it in 1963 England. "They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night..." Oh, la, la.

"SEND" by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe - Etiquette manual for the most popular form of modern communication since the smoke signal. Consider just one sample culled from corporate email servers: "Do I have to look forward to spending my waning years writing checks to fat people worried about a silly lung problem?"

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy - Oprah picked it. Pulitzer prized it. People talked about it. Now you have to read it. A father and son are on an uncertain journey through a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape with just a pistol and each other. They face bandits, gray snow and utter hopelessness. (Oprah picked this?)

"Nova Swing" by M. John Harrison - The winner of this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award is a Science-Fiction-Noir tale about bad physics, skewed geographies and psychic onslaughts investigated by a detective.

"Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky - This book about life under Nazi occupation was published 64 years after the author's death in Auschwitz.

"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen - Paperback novel about a traveling circus.

"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin - "A real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism."

"The Sudoku Murder" by Shelley Freydont - It was bound to happen.

"The Children of Hurin" by J.R.R. Tolkien - Can't get enough Tolkien? Here's more.

"Mere Anarchy" by Woody Allen - Read it to see if he's still funny.

"Don't Hassel the Hoff" by David Hasselhoff - Only if you've read everything else in the English language.

As with everything else in my life, there is no order to the above list. (Except for "Don't Hassel the Hoff" by David Hasselhoff!)


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