The Austin Chronicle

Summer's Easy Readin'

Writers on their go-to books for when their gray cells need a vacay, too

By Robert Faires, June 12, 2015, Arts

Now is not the time for serious literature.

That's no knock against books of creative ambition, artfully crafted to engage the mind. In the right season, they're stimulating, edifying, they make life better. But once summer turns sadistic, with our pitiless CenTex sun making you feel like a Denny's Grand Slam forgotten under the heat lamp, well, then it's time to break away from the brainy in favor of something less intellectually demanding. We don't mean trash fiction necessarily (though we won't say no to that), just the kind of book that's satisfying when you want to disengage the brain and slip 'n' slide through a tale like it's a tube chute at Schlitterbahn.

For instance, when I need to mainline a bit of old-school adventure, I turn to an author who's been reliable on that score since high school: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Whether it's swashbuckling across the Red Planet with 8-foot-tall, four-armed warriors or exploring lost civilizations deep in Africa with loincloth-clad jungle lords, ERB's weird worlds, runaway-train pacing fueled by chapter-closing cliffhangers, and heroics always restore me. (Personal fave: The Return of Tarzan.)

More recently, my go-to series for mystery and laughs has become Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde. Though its alternate universe is intricate and is stuffed with enough time-travel paradoxes to give Stephen Hawking a migraine, the sheer inventiveness of Fforde's lit-obsessed society (where fictional characters actually police literature) and witty wordplay always make them a joy. (Definitely start with the first book: The Eyre Affair.)

We turned to several other writers to see what books they rely on for a literary vacay.

Rebecca Beegle, co-founder, the Grownup Lady Story Company

Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse is meticulously plotted yet reads like a fizzy treat, every sentence a delight. I have an Overlook Press edition that is lovely to look at and fun to hold. I keep it near and read it often, and it works for me every time.

The Grownup Lady Story Company presents Beegle and La Ganga on Broadmoor Sat., June 13, 8pm.

Adrienne Dawes, playwright, Am I White?

When my brain's on summer break, I like celebrity memoirs, "celebrity" memoirs, and witchy teen novels from the Nineties.

Recent celebrity memoirs: Tina Fey's Bossypants, Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Amy Poehler's Yes Please, Patti Smith's Just Kids, Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band.

As Greg Sestero tells it in The Disaster Artist, he might've been a really famous actor. But he was in The Room, a cult film that's literally so bad it's good. Get the inside scoop on the makings of a uniquely terrible cinematic masterpiece from a "celebrity" you can trust, like a best friend.

Everyone should read the entire Francesca Lia Block catalog for fun, but for a quick escape into a punky fairy-tale version of Los Angeles, visit Weetzie Bat, Witch Baby, and Missing Angel Juan.

My Cycle and the Denim Doves, co-written by Adrienne Dawes and Cyndi Williams, will premiere at Salvage Vanguard Theater in 2016.

Marshall Ryan Maresca, author, A Murder of Mages

One of my favorite series for escapist reading is Amanda Downum's Necromancer Chronicles (The Drowning City, The Bone Palace, and The Kingdoms of Dust). Downum crafts dynamic, engaging tales that turn fantasy tropes on their ear, the kind of books that you tear through, eagerly grabbing the next one as soon as you finish.

Marshall Ryan Maresca signs copies of A Murder of Mages Thu., July 9, 7pm, at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar.

Katie Haab, Austin Bat Cave executive director

Short stories are a stellar beach towel, park life, or carry-on travel companion. For summer, stick to ones with magical elements to pair nicely with the sunshine: Karen Russell is a star, Kelly Link won't disappoint, or even Gabriel García Márquez for a full story experience before a Deep Eddy dip. Austin Bat Cave anthologies are always a solid go-to, as well!

Austin Bat Cave's next edition of Story Department, Abandon Ship, will take place Tue., July 14, at Home Slice Pizza.

Jo Ivester, author, The Outskirts of Hope

My literary guilty pleasure is anything by Philippa Gregory. I enjoy historical fiction and I'm a Shakespeare buff, so her stories set during the War of the Roses can keep me entertained for hours.

Mary Pauline Lowry, author, Wildfire

A guilty pleasure would be the third Bridget Jones's Diary, but it's actually not because it's super brilliant and you have to be a genius to be that freakin' funny. That series gets lumped into the derisive "chick lit" category, but that third book – the cultural commentary is genius, and it is hilarious.

I love the Dangerous Angels series by Francesca Lia Block. They were published as Young Adult fiction, so they're easy to read and fun, but they're also incredibly beautiful.

Jill Alexander Essbaum, author, Hausfrau

1) Anything by Fern Michaels or Harold Robbins.

2) Jughead's Double Digest.

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