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12 Summer Vacation Book Ideas For AlterNet Readers

Whether you're itching to leave the house or leave the country, here are some new book suggestions.

For much of the world, August is time to get away from it all and take a breather. After the first seven months of 2012, some AlterNet readers just may want to get out of town—or ponder leaving the country—for good.

But a week or two at the beach, the mountains, or some other far-off primal place will soothe the savage beast. And a good book will help too. So here’s a bunch of new books that might make you laugh or cry, angry or hungry, richer or poorer. They may be just what are needed.

Here's a dozen literary delights. We’ll start with one for people who can’t stop checking their smartphones for the latest news. (Pretend to be on vacation….)

1. Politics as Usual
It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! by James Carville and Stan Greenberg (Blue Rider Press). Kirkus Reviews says this book is “for Democratic political junkies who enjoy straight-talk policy discussion.” Carville is certainly known for that. You’ll remember that strategist Carville and pollster Greenberg worked on Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign, with the relentless message that “it’s the economy, stupid.” That’s still the message a dozen years later. As Kirkus points out, “The authors take a similar tack here, asserting that President Obama and other Democrats must zero in on the needs of the middle-class in order to win the upcoming election, and as might be expected, there is a certain amount of preaching to the choir. To the authors’ credit, they are refreshingly specific in some of their policy recommendations in areas such as energy investment and campaign finance reform.” There are tidbits here that you can recite, even after that third poolside vodka gimlet—yes, waiter, with real lime!

2. Politics as Unusual
What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me by Rielle Hunter (Banbella Books). Care for some tawdry summer reading in one of the latest tell-all tomes? This just could be better than a cheap romance novel. The two-time presidential candidate and two-timer’s latest mistress writes that John Edwards had affairs with other women besides her over the past two decades, even as his wife Elizabeth was dying of cancer. The dirty little secret has led some to call Edwards the most hated man in America. Hunter says she wrote the book to explain the torrid sexual relationship to her daughter, the product of their romance. She says everyone made mistakes and claims she is no longer seeing the former U.S. senator. (Does she really want to explain all this? Oh, never mind.)

3. Political Intrigue
Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews (Riverhead). This novel is cool, compelling and well worth reading. It’s February 1939, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt has a domestic political problem on his hands as the world braces for war. Publishers Weekly picks up the story. “Roosevelt recruits 21-year-old John F. Kennedy to be his personal spy in this imaginative, well-researched mix of fact and fiction.” FDR meets secretly with the ailing young future president and asks him to travel through Europe, not just to research Kennedy’s senior thesis at Harvard but also to stop a courier from transporting German money to the U.S., part of a plot by Adolph Hitler to defeat FDR for re-election in 1940. Outlandish, you say? Not likely given the outrageous and incredible true stories that emerge in the politics of today.

4. Breaking Bad
Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America by Charles Ferguson (Crown Business). If you are trying to get away from what’s wrong with America right now, this may not be the book for you. It directs a critical eye at the financial industry and possible criminal activity. Aside from castigating business, it’s also critical of both political parties. Imagine! Liberals aside, not everyone loves it, among them Gary Black, reviewing the book for Vortex Effect. “ Predator Nation is a well-written book… extremely well-sourced; it’s an easy read, even easier for those who view the world through the same perspective as the author.” Ferguson was the writer and director of Inside Job, the documentary highlighting the lowlights in the financial industry from 2007-2010. Black calls the book a no-brainer read for liberals and Occupy Wall Street supporters. But he’s critical of the book’s author for telling readers to “hold your nose and vote for (Obama), the least of the available evils.” That not-so-liberal reviewer wants readers to go in a completely different direction – supporting Ron Paul for president. No comment.

5. Feeling Good
Love is the Cure: on Life, Loss and the End of AIDS by Elton John (Little, Brown and Company). Sex, drugs and rock ‘n' roll all in one package. The 64-year-old super-singer has written his first book about his own experience fighting AIDS while watching with horror as several of his friends died from the disease. But it’s not just agony, there’s anger, as John wonders why the world is not doing more to fight the international epidemic which is one reason, he says, he penned this book. Elton John has already done his part. He founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992.

6. That’s Novel
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins Publishers). Lots of readers are enthralled by this novel and it is selling briskly. A few reviewers have panned it. The Book of the Month club enthused that it is a “tale of science and sacrifice set in the Amazonian jungle, Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder is both a gripping adventure and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love. It’s her most enthralling novel to date.” The story centers on Dr. Annick Swenson, a scientist doing top-secret research deep in the jungle. She sends out word that Anders Eckman, the man sent to check on her, is dead and it falls to Marina Singh, a medical researcher from Minnesota and Eckman’s lab partner, to discover what happened. But there’s more to the tale. Singh is not happy to take on the task because as Book of the Month Club notes, it “will force her to confront the ghosts of her past…and take her on an odyssey into her own heart of darkness…” Kirkus rcalled the novel “thrilling, disturbing, and moving in equal measures, even better than Patchett’s breakthrough Bel Canto (2001).” You decide.

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