The 2011 HCG Summer Book Guide

booksHere Comes Gina is exceptionally proud to present our 2011 Summer Book Guide! Our 2010 Summer Book Guide was created upon the request of friend and reader A. Lud, and we realized we'd have to do a 2011 guide when people told us they were waiting for us to post it (and of course we were intending on doing an annual summer book guide anyway). While most of the books on this year's list are new or relatively new releases, we've included a few oldies we love as well. The books in our 2011 guide are narrated by a 5-year-old, a dog and even Death - there's something for everyone! We hope you have the chance to bury your head in one of these books while lounging on a beach this summer. And CDW, we expect to see you searching the aisles at your local library with this guide printed and highlighted. Happy reading to all! room-bookRoom by Emma Donoghue We won't beat around the bush: Room is incredibly disturbing. But it's also deeply powerful and resonates with anyone who reads it. Yours truly chose Room as our book club's February selection and it sparked great conversation (especially among the mothers in our group). The novel is narrated by 5-year-old Jack whose mother was kidnapped at age 19 and kept hidden and sexually abused in a soundproofed shed in her captor's backyard for many years. We know the subject matter isn't the easiest to discuss at a cocktail party, but we promise you Room is worth your while.

aboutauthorAbout the Author by John Colapinto About the Author is one of HCG's longtime favorites by The New Yorker staff writer John Colapinto. This thrilling read tracks the exploits of wannabe author Cal Cunningham suffering from a rough case of writer's block (sounds crazy so far, right?). Cal discovers his law student roommate Stewart has written a novel based on Cal's life and, when Stewart conveniently dies in a bicycle accident, Cal pawns Stewart's book off as his own and shit gets crazy. So many HCG books are geared toward the ladies, but this one is gender neutral; all the guys we know love it, too. If you're looking for an exciting, quick novel you can read in one weekend on the beach, About the Author is it.

beneath-a-starlet-sky-amanda-goldberg-and-ruthanna-khalighi-hopperBeneath a Starlet Sky by Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Set in the Cannes film festival, Beneath a Starlet Sky is packed with entertainment and fashion name-dropping and has enough celebrity gossip and scandal to appeal to even the most fervent of celebrity gossip junkies. We won't even give you a synopsis because the first line of this description mostly says it all. Basically, we needed some books in this guide to balance out Room and the pedophile priest book Faith (see below). We think this fits the bill.

boyslifeBoy's Life by Robert McCammon Another old HCG favorite originally published in 1991, Boy's Life is a magical read set in the Zephyr, Alabama hometown of 12-year-old Cory Mackenson. One cold spring morning in the early 1960s, Cory accompanies his father his route as a milkman when they see a car drive into a lake with a dead man handcuffed to the steering wheel. Cory's father's failed rescue attempt haunts him as he and Cory struggle to discover the secret behind the horrific murder. Boy's Life is an all-time favorite book of countless readers, and we have never met a person who wasn't as enamored by it as we were.

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford Our May book club pick, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was loved by all of our members. Henry Lee, a 12-year-old Chinese boy living in Seattle's Chinatown during the early years of America's involvement in World War II, struggles to fit in at the white school where he has a scholarship, is constantly bullied and is forced to serve lunch in the cafeteria. When Keiko Okabe, a Japanese girl, arrives at his school also on a scholarship, the two begin a sweet romance and enduring friendship despite the disapproval of Henry's anti-Japanese father. When Keiko and her family are sent to a Japanese internment camp, your heart will break along with Henry's. But don't worry; like all good love stories, this one has an upside.

hunger+gamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Like all young adult novels that are recommended to us, this one comes from our sister CF who absolutely loved this sci-fi trilogy. This novel is the first in three installments, and all are equally gripping and fascinating. If you keep up with celebrity gossip like we do, you probably already know that the movie version of this franchise is currently being filmed (starring Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role of Katniss). We're saving The Hunger Games for our upcoming trip to St. Maarten and we're hoping it fills the void recently left in our heart by our long delayed completion of the Twilight series.

bossypants-tina-feyBossypants by Tina Fey If you're from suburban Philadelphia - especially Delaware County - you probably already love Upper Darby native Tina Fey. Once you read Bossypants, you will wish you were married to her. We made the mistake of reading this book in public and on an airplane, and we found ourselves constantly apologizing to our seatmates for laughing aloud (we tried to stifle it. Then our shoulders just shook and our face turned red). Bossypants is required reading for the entire HCG community.

art-of-racing-in-the-rainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein Ever since he became the first (and only) author to comment on a Here Comes Gina book club post, Garth Stein has been held in the highest regard here. It helps that we absolutely loved his book which is set in Seattle and is narrated by a dog. No, it isn't weird, and yes, you will laugh a lot (especially when the dog curses). We've recommended this book to many friends, and not one complaint has been received. We read it in one six-hour sitting, and we bet you will too. P.S. We love you Garth Stein!

cover_swim_back_to_me_homeSwim Back to Me by Ann Packer Comprised of a novella and five short stories mostly set in the San Francisco Bay Area, Swim Back to Me is another fantastic read from the best-selling author or The Dive from Clausen’s Pier. Ann Packer's stories follow characters suffering from heartbreak and devastation of all types, and each story is equally as gripping as the others. Like many of our most solid book recommendations, this one comes from our friend K. Max.

aliceWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty Pregnant 29-year-old Alice Mary Love goes to the gym, passes out and wakes up 10 years later. That opening line is enough for us mostly because we're almost 29 and we go to the gym a lot. No, we're not pregnant and yes, we do want children eventually. We just aren't ready yet. When Alice recovers, her life is completely different from how she remembers it. Alice last recalls being happily married, about to give birth to her first child and best friends with her sister. 10 years later, Alice is now on the brink of divorce, has three children and no longer speaks to her sister. We imagine Alice was like, "WTF?"

fireThe Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson Since our 2010 summer book guide included Stieg Larsson's first installment in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we couldn't resist including the second installment this year (look for the third book in our 2012 guide). We know many people who couldn't get through the slow first 100 pages of Dragon Tattoo, but those who did were treated to one hell of a ride. In Fire, readers get more of what gives this series its spark: Lisbeth Salander. Fire remains one of the most thrilling books we've ever read, and the ending requires you to immediately locate and begin reading the final Millennium book The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. If you've resisted reading this trilogy so far, you should really give in. Maybe the poster of the upcoming U.S. movie of Dragon Tattoo will help convince you to join in the fun.

faithFaith by Jennifer Haigh Set in 2002, Faith follows the family of a beloved Boston-area priest who is accused of pedophilia (we never said all of our summer book picks were easy reading). As expected, intense family drama ensues when Father Arthur Breen, the dynamic young pastor of a large parish, is accused of molesting a little boy with whom he has spent a lot of time alone. Father Breen's devout Irish-Catholic family is horrified at this accusation as they struggle to make sense of it all. Jennifer Haigh's superb writing will have your attention locked until the last word of this riveting novel.

Spoiled-Cover-419x628Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan Recommended by our girl C, Spoiled is the debut novel from the hilarious duo known as The Fug Girls (see: Go Fug Yourself). Molly Dix is an ordinary 16-year-old girl living in suburban Indiana (if her parents were from El Salvador, she would sound like an adolescent MR). When her single mother passes away (similarities to MR end), Molly is shocked to discover that her biological father is world famous movie star Brick Berlin (MR wishes). Molly moves to Southern California and plunges head-first into the deep end of Beverly Hills celebrity life and all the craziness that comes along with it. According to C, this is one of the best beach reads to hit the shelves in quite some time.

operatingOperating Instructions by Ann Lamott Ann Lamott's memoir of her first year of raising her son on her own at age 35 covers it all. From finding out that her baby is a boy (and getting used to the idea) to finding out that her best friend and greatest supporter Pam will die of cancer (and not getting used to that idea), Lamott tackles more than just a Diaper Genie and "The Happiest Baby on the Block." Does Operating Instructions qualify as a parenting book? Maybe. But even if you don't have children, it doesn't mean you don't know any parents (or have parents yourself). Plus, you were once a baby. Reminder: HCG is not pregnant nor are we ready to have a child.

visitgoonA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan In A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan tells 13 stories of separate but intertwined characters whose pasts intersect over a period of 40 years in New York, California and Italy. The stories are centered in Bennie, an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Is this book a novel? A collection of short stories? We don't think it matters, because word on the street is Goon Squad is awesome. The book won a Pulitzer Prize just a few months ago and is currently being adapted into an HBO series.

bookthiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak Technically a young adult novel (who says young adults should get to have all the fun? Don't they already have it made? When was the last time you heard the voice of a young adult on a two-hour conference call?), The Book Thief is narrated by Death (!). Liesel Meminger is a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing. Liesel quickly discovers she can't resist stealing books, and soon she is stealing books from everywhere from Nazi book-burnings to the mayor's wife's library (even though she can't read). With the help of her foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. Everyone loves a good Holocaust book (see: Sarah's Key), but The Book Thief is so much more than just that. People go crazy over it!

MeTalkPrettyMe Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris Certain HCG staffers (CF) claim this collection of hilarious essays (many of which appeared originally in The New Yorker and Esquire) is even funnier than Sedaris's novel Naked, a 2010 HCG summer book guide selection. In Me Talk Pretty One Day, Sedaris recounts much of his North Carolina upbringing where his father Lou, after a failed attempt to get his children to form a jazz combo, insists on boosting David's career as a performance artist by heckling him from the audience. Smart funny people love David Sedaris so we do too.