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Hot Summer Reads

Add these great books to your beach reading list.

By Darcy Jacobs

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Darkness My Old Friend
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Darkness, My Old Friend

By Lisa Unger

Retired cop Jones finds himself drawn back into the troubled lives of his Hollow neighbors—to the possible detriment of his marriage. Meanwhile, Bethany struggles to control her daughter Willow. Then Willow spots a man digging for a body, and they are all brought together. The beauty of this unconventional crime novel is that the focus is not on whodunit but on the darkness that drives us.

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What Alice Forgot

By Liane Moriarty

If you erased part of the past would the present be any different? A fall on the head leads 39-year-old Alice to lose 10 years of her life. Good news: Her body is killer. Bad news: She's in the midst of divorcing her adored husband. She also has three kids (including a hostile tweener), a tenuous relationship with her sister—and no idea how it all got so bad. Wise and funny.

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Sister

By Rosamund Lupton

Straitlaced Bee has returned to London from New York City in search of her missing free-spirited, pregnant sister. At every turn she sees suspects—including the married art professor with whom Tess was having an affair. As Bee deconstructs Tess' final days she finds herself rebuilding their bond, which she thought had been broken. A gripping, exquisitely paced mystery and tribute to the sororal relationship.

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State of Wonder

By Ann Patchett

In this bewitching psychological drama and multilayered love story, Marina Singh, a 42-year-old scientist, is sent to the Amazon by her boss and lover to track down a possibly mad doctor working on a new wonder drug. While looking for answers, Marina becomes adrift in her own questions, memories and conflicted emotions. Patchett is a master at creating atmospheric, character-driven literary gems.

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Staffer's Favorites

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton, owner of Prune, Manhattan's beloved 30-seater restaurant, dishes in Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef about coming to NYC at 16 after her parents split. Delicious details about 20-hour shifts, cooking at a camp for kids with food allergies and palate-tuning European travels on a shoestring stay at a perfect simmer throughout, thanks to Hamilton's honest, satisfying writing style. —Jonna

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Friends keep telling me about Wilkie Collins—a 19th-century English novelist. First on my list is The Woman in White. While I'm not usually a fan of Victorian novels or even ghosts for that matter, this sounds like the perfect page-turner. I'll save it for a summer afternoon appropriately darkened by a thunderstorm! —Kate

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When I'm not thinking about what to cook, cooking or eating, I like to read about ... food. John F. Mariani's How Italian Food Conquered the World traces Italy's cuisine from Roman times to the shores of America, where it went from being viewed as lowly peasant chow to haute cuisine. Bonus: recipes too! —Lisa K.

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It's hard to believe that the quirky Swamplandia! is Karen Russell's debut novel. The story surprised me at every turn. Not to sound trite, but for 300 pages I cried, I laughed and I was amazed. —Lisa M.

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Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo is the account of a 4-year-old boy who had a near-death experience after his appendix ruptured. The revelations about heaven that he slowly shares with his parents create an uplifting and believable story that touched and inspired me. —Regina

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Laura Hillenbrand has an apparent soft spot for the underdog (or horse). Just like in Seabiscuit, Unbroken weaves very human and emotional stories into a historical fabric that hooks the reader instantly. —Stephanie

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More Staff Picks

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff —Celia

The Long Run by Matt Long —Cheryl

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan —Karmen

Room by Emma Donoghue —Melissa

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda —Tracy

Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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