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Posted at 1:13 PM ET, 06/14/2010

Five buzziest summer beach reads

By Jen Chaney

Start toning your arm muscles: the 766-page, hardback "The Passage" is the buzziest novel of the summer. (Ballantine Books)

It's the time of year when that novel-reading itch kicks in and we feel compelled to drop all activities in favor of reclining on a lawn chair (or a sofa, or a towel, or a hammock -- we're not picky) and burying our noses in a gripping summer read.

Several works of fiction have bubbled up on this season's short list of "it" books, the tomes most likely to peek out from the tote bags of literary-minded beach-goers. I've chosen the five that I think are the buzziest.

Check 'em out, then vote for the one you're most interested in reading in the poll below. And by all means, feel free to share what's on your summer lit list -- be it the latest from Stephen King or a classic from Charles Dickens -- in the comments section.

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson (Available now)

To call the final installment in the late Larson's Millennium trilogy "eagerly anticipated" is kind of an understatement. In this book -- currently perched at the top of the New York Times best-sellers list and the Nielsen BookScan list -- the "girl" of the title is faced with murder charges that her crime-solving partner Mikael attempts doggedly to fight. Haven't read the first two? It's a long summer, so there's plenty of time to delve into "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire," a series that Post reviewer Patrick Anderson says "ranks among those novels that expand the horizons of popular fiction."

"The Passage" by Justin Cronin (Available now)

A post-apocalyptic vampire saga, but with literary cred (author Cronin is an alum of the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop), this is the most-talked-about novel of the summer. Thankfully, it's also scored uniformly positive reviews -- the Post's Ron Charles wrote, "by the third chapter, trash was piling up in our house because I was too scared to take out the garbage at night." Two more installments are forthcoming. And, of course, a movie is already in the works.

"The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner" by Stephenie Meyer (Available now)

A genuinely developed work of fiction, or a movie tie-in disguised as a novella? You make the call. Either way, this companion piece to "Twilight: Eclipse" -- which, coincidentally, arrives in movie form June 30 -- is a big deal within the Meyer fan base. And if you need a vampire fix, it's certainly lighter, in all manners of the word, than Cronin's "Passage."

"Imperial Bedrooms" by Bret Easton Ellis (Releases tomorrow)

Aficionados of '80s culture may be especially interested in this sequel to "Less Than Zero," the novel that launched Ellis's literary career and spawned a film adaptation starring Andrew McCarthy and Robert Downey, Jr. The books reconnects with the core characters, but 25 years later. Apparently, though, they're still acting like it's 1985.

"Lucy" by Laurence Gonzales (Available July 13)

This story of a primatologist who adopts a charming young girl, only to discover she's half-human, half-ape, sounds intriguing; it also apparently cannot be described without comparing it to the works of Michael Crichton.

By Jen Chaney  | June 14, 2010; 1:13 PM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture, Reading  | Tags:  Books  
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nothing there for me - and i've been book shopping for an impending 14 hour flight...
The Windup Girl is what I ended up with - so we'll see how it BBBBBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (sorry... vuvuzela moment)

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | June 14, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I have "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" in my hold queue at my local library; I'm hopeful I'll get it sometime in August. In the meantime I'm going to get on board with the Charlaine Harris novels (peer pressure at work here), and there's a new Stephanie Laurens due out in July. Yes, I'm content to swim in the shallow end of the pool. :)

Posted by: northgs | June 14, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"A post-apocalyptic vampire saga" is all I need to know that I'll not be reading it.

Posted by: marybindc | June 14, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, none of the above. The search continues.

Posted by: epjd | June 14, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

For the folks who like non-fiction summer reading, "Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America" has been interesting and informative...

Posted by: CJH2 | June 14, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Meh, not for me. I'll stick to Nemesis, the new Horus Heresy novel.

Posted by: DCCubefarm | June 14, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I'll be reading Pat Conroy's "South of Broad," since I've got a meeting in Charleston later this year. Might as well have all the fictional facts at my fingertips...

Posted by: kbockl | June 14, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Really? Two books on the vampire theme?

No thanks - - - - - None of these appeal.

Posted by: animmer | June 14, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm adding my novel to the list because I'm self-publishing for now on, so it's only available for digital downloads right now, but I'm hoping that if I get enough buzz going, I'll get a publishing contract!

You don't need a kindle to be able to download it either--you can download it to a computer, an ipod touch, iphone, ipad or blackberry!

Please check it out! And if you like it, spread the word!


Posted by: saragood | June 14, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

No "none of the above" option?

And how come the Stephanie Meyers "novella" rates a whole entry on such a short list? It's so short, you'll be finished with it before you have to re-apply the sunscreen.

I'm finally going to give in to all the gushing, and read Water for Elephants. After that, Wolf Hall.

Posted by: WDC2 | June 15, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

This is going to be a perfect beach read when it publishes in August -- Stiltsville, by Susanna Daniel (

Posted by: jmwash1 | June 17, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson is TERRIFIC! For all who have not tried them, read them in order and carve out a great chuck of time. You will not be sorry.

As for Stephanie Meyer and the whole vampire silliness, there is nothing like Mormon sex for teens disguised as vampire-chic garbage!

Posted by: suec716 | June 21, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

For those who like non-fiction, "The City of Falling Angles" by John Berendt (he wrote "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil") is an excellent book. It is about the city of Venice, Italy and some of its most convoluted and intriquing true stories.

Posted by: AmyReeder1 | June 21, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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