Nothing gets me excited about summer more than the summer books issues in the papers (really!). It’s when I start building my list of books I want to read this summer. Usually lighter fare than the rest of the year’s reading, I love a good beach read but it’s also a great time for new cookbooks and those in the garden books we love so well. I’m going to pick a few of my favorites from summers past and a few I’m looking forward to reading this summer.

I think the very first summer book I read, loved and carry still in my bookworm heart is Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife. It was a summer assignment, the dreaded kind of summer reading for any young person. But from the very start this book captivated me. I remember reading it every free moment, in the car on the family road trip (until I got completely ill), at the dinner table, in front of the TV, while my siblings watched I was completely immersed in the world Tan creates. Even though I wouldn’t describe this book as Chinese fiction, Tan is an American writing in English, it inspired my love of Chinese fiction and made me seek out some of the classic literature of the Chinese canon.

On my desk to read as soon as I possibly can is a former colleague’s book, The Peripatetic Coffin by Ethan Rutherford (Ecco). It always makes me happy when a publishing person writes their own book. We’re not all closet authors but when you spend you life with words sometimes the dream is to write your own words and see them published. This is a collection of short stories and I really don’t know what to expect from this book whatsoever, which is so tantalizing.

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Many years ago I read the first Harry Potter book, I was in college, it was the end of the year and I was setting out for New Orleans to visit my brother. I read HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone on the plane and it was okay but I didn’t read any further. Don’t shoot me, it all turns out okay in the end. This is a long time ago mind you, and maybe three summers ago, I decided to pick them up again, not bothering to read the first again, I dived into Chamber of Secrets and never looked back. I read all the rest in quick succession not daring to touch another book all summer long. It was great!

This summer one of the greatest things is coming, again! Volume 3 of The Graphic Canon (Seven Stories). This is a miracle of a series of books. The great folks at The Graphic Canon invite contemporary illustrators and artists to reimagine the classics: Animal Farm, Heart of Darkness, Lolita, Last Exit to Brooklyn, The Awakening, The Bell Jar. I can’t wait to get my greedy little hands on a copy.

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Book Expo America is in New York next week. It is the largest book conference in the States and a great place to grab galleys from the upcoming fall lists and also get copies of current titles signed. You never know who is going to show up, but I’m hoping my last summer read will be there: Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim Parks (W.W. Norton).

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Now I’ve told you my summer reads, you tell me yours. It’s only fair really. And for the first responder (on Facebook or here on Tumblr), I’ll give you my copy of The Peripatetic Coffin (as soon as I finish reading it) as your prize, the second responder will win a copy of All Dogs Are Blue forthcoming from And Other Stories in September. If you have both of these, we’ll talk, I have lots of books!

Sarah Russo heads the newly established New York desk for And Other Stories. She is an independent literary publicist. You can find her on Twitter and Tumblr, among other places.

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