Beach Blanket Books: 9 Great Reads for the Summer

Life’s a beach, and one of the best things about L.A.’s summer months is laying low with a great book as the water laps the shore. Whether your summer reading preferences tip toward spiced-up fiction, idiosyncratic bios, pithy comedy patter or dissecting cultural trends, we’ve got you covered. Just don’t forget the sunblock.

by Ruth Reichl

Reichl is known for her essays, but now she’s cooked up a hot summer potboiler in the mold of The Devil Wears Prada, with food instead of fashion as the magazine-world special ingredient. Heroine Billie meets the same fate at fictional magazine Delicious! as Reichl did when she was editor of Gourmet when it unexpectedly folded. Along the way, her trusty gay sidekick Sammy takes her from mousy to minxy with a transforming makeover, and Billie suffers scorn from an older (Miranda Priestly-esque) colleague. Fold in the mystery of a trove of letters from WWII waif Lulu Swan, a cameo by James Beard and even a gingerbread recipe. Stir heartily and enjoy. 400 pp., $27 (Random House)

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of
Heiress Huguette Clark
by Meryl Gordon

Here’s a Grey Gardens redux for this year. Born in 1906, Huguette Clark grew up in a 121-room Beaux Arts mansion, the daughter of William Andrews Clark, copper titan and the second richest man in America. She attended the coronation of King George V, and at age 22, with a $50 million fortune, married a childhood friend. Divorced two years later, she began the long, strange journey from sparkling socialite to remote recluse in a vast apartment facing Central Park, eating crackers and watching The Flintstones. Last seen in public in the late ‘60s, she entered Doctors’ Hospital in 1991 and never left. The rich really are different. 400 pp., $28 (Grand Central)

Diary of a Mad Diva
by Joan Rivers

Still cracking wise after all these years and red carpets, Joan Rivers now takes her place as a diarist—god help us all—determined to outdo everyone from Sylvia Plath to Bridget Jones. It’s a look at many days-in-the-life, from family vacations in Mexico to the usual rounds as a comedian and thorn in the side of celebs in Hollywood and New York. Available July 1. 304 pp., $26.95 (Penguin) 

Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion, and Film

by Marc Spitz

Do you cringe at the thought of Wes Anderson, artisanal pickles and Zooey Deschanel? You’re not alone. Vanity Fair contributor Marc Spitz explores what he calls the first great cultural movement since hip-hop. Tracing twee history in this large-scale paperback takes the reader from its origins in the work of Disney, Sendak and Blume (Judy) to current iterations like Girls, Arcade Fire and Mumblecore. He details how we ended up riveted by a sensibility marked by hip-to-be-square glamour and a complete lack of irony. 352 pp., $16.99 (It Books)

Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter
by Richard Barrios

Historian Barrios goes behind the scenes to tell the story of movie musicals, from The Jazz Singer to Les Miz. He dishes the dirt about behind-the-scenes drama but also explores how so many of those films became larger than life. He’s no prig, though—he goes to bat for Carmen Miranda as “possibly the most endearing performer who ever lived” and swats away Madonna as a “steel monolith” in Evita. Hits and misses (and one-time flops like Singin’ in the Rain that eventually became classics), cartoons and camp, cult films and cultural treasures—it’s all here. 276 pp., $34.95 (Oxford University Press)

Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space
by Lynn Sherr

With her unexpected death from cancer in 2012 came the public revelation of Sally Ride’s life as a lesbian in a longtime committed relationship. Now there’s this full-scale biography. Booklist says, “Sherr has done an impressive job of uncovering the pressures (and sometimes comical missteps) of NASA’s macho culture and its approach to the first class of women astronauts.” The author had access to Ride’s papers and the cooperation of both her partner and former husband, as well as friends and colleagues, to tell Ride’s truly heroic story. 400 pp., $28 (Simon & Schuster)

I Said Yes To Everything
by Lee Grant

From surviving the Hollywood blacklist to her Oscar-winning career turnaround in Shampoo, actress Lee Grant has seen and done it all. Born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal, she journeyed from New York’s famed Neighborhood Playhouse to the Actors Studio and eventually Broadway and film. It all fell apart with the blacklist, but—exonerated after 12 long years—she re-emerged on TV’s primetime soap Peyton Place and in cult film Valley of the Dolls before taking on In the Heat of the Night and, with her trademark bitchy edge, Shampoo. Available July 8. 480 pp., $28.95 (Blue Radar Press)

How To Bottom Like a Porn Star
by Woody Miller

“Started from the bottom,” indeed. When you want to learn about sex, why not ask a sex worker? If you ever had a question about how the porn industry works, this is the place to find answers—from how much money porn stars make to what percent are actually heterosexual. There’s also a lot about what to do in the bedroom, where you can be the star. Action! 136 pp., $14.99 (Woodpecker Media)

Four: A Divergent Collection
by Veronica Roth

If you’re still fantasizing about hunky British actor Theo James in Divergent, here’s his character Tobias’s backstory told from his own point of view. The first three parts—The Transfer, The Initiate, and The Son—follow Tobias’s transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless, his Dauntless initiation and the first hints of a foul plan, while the fourth fills out the movie’s story with added scenes. 304 pp., $17.99 (Tegen Books)

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