Summer Reading: Books We Like

In selecting books for our summer reading list, we faced a perplexing challenge. To begin with, what is "summer reading"? Do people actually read differently in the summer than they do during other seasons? As booklover's site MobyLives.com sagely points out, the high UV quotient of summer sunlight makes it the best reading light -- so maybe people just read more in summertime.

Many of us are using the summer to recharge our batteries and take stock; to recover from the trauma of the Iraq war and its endless aftermath and to gear up for what promises to be a challenging year, capped by the 2004 presidential election. So our selection is a mix of books on topics in the forefront of our thoughts, like politics, as well as lighter fare like music and memoir.

From three very different writers come three distinctive personal/political narratives. Iranian writer Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel, "Persepolis," is an illustrated memoir of the adolescence of a young girl during the birth of the Islamic Revolution. Tricia Rose's devastating oral history, "Longing to Tell," lets black women tell stories of sex, love and intimacy in their own words. And in Isabel Allende's new memoir, "My Invented Country," the author looks back at her past and compares Chile's history of political repression against the current climate in the U.S.

More Americans are developing an awareness of food and food safety issues. Marion Nestle's "Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism" is bound to make you take a hard look at what's sitting on your refrigerator shelves, while Corby Kummer's "The Pleasures of Slow Food" celebrates the pure enjoyment of eating and reveals the working-class roots behind the Slow Food movement.

Two books on musicians from different generations illuminate the intersection of race and the music biz: Alex Hahn's "Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince" and Greg Tate's "Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience."

We're always drawn to books that aren't afraid to go out on a limb, like Jacob Sullum's feisty defense of drug use, "Saying Yes," and Douglas Rushkoff's provocative critique of contemporary Judaism, 'Nothing Sacred."

War, of course, is never far from our minds. Micah Ian Wright's book of "remixed"war posters, "You Back the Attack! We'll Bomb Who We Want!" manages to be both comic and chilling as it skewers just about every military-minded institution of the Bush administration; and Jonathan Schell's "The Unconquerable World," takes a fascinating look at some of history's successful nonviolent movements. We've also included two book excerpts; a chapter from Jim Hightower's latest, "Thieves In High Places" and a sampling of John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton's "Weapons of Mass Deception."

Sure, we're aware that we run the risk of inflaming the passions of readers miffed that we've overlooked their favorite books. But don't tell us -- send your reading suggestions to your friends and family. And ask them if they've read any good books lately.

Tai Moses is a senior editor of AlterNet.org.

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