Poolside escapes

Summer is the season for bodice rippers and serial sci-fi

Photo by Tom Angel

Lets face it, lying in the sun is not exactly conducive to deep thinking. Who cares about the deeper meanings of Marxism when bathed in Ban de Soleil?.What are people reading this summer?

Helena Sylvester, manager of Readmore Books, in Chico, says that most of the summer reading heading out her door is in the form of magazines. Maxim has become the magazine of choice for men. So, while he’s reading “How To Drive Off a Pal’s Girl” or “Fake Your Way Into Her Bed,” what are women taking off the magazine rack? Oprah, Rosie and Martha Stewart.

Yep, women are reading up on relationships, decorating, cooking and well-being. But nothing beats Cosmopolitan or Glamour in the poolside reading competition. How can “Making the Perfect Picnic” compare to “Kick These Creeps out of Bed” or “X-Rated Answers"?

“Women buy more books than men do,” said Sylvester. “Nora Roberts is really popular. She writes both romance and mysteries.” Roberts, who also publishes under the pseudonym J.D. Robb, fills book shelves with titles such as Montana Skies and Loyalty in Death.

Jude Deveraux is a popular romance writer, but her stories have a slightly different twist. Deveraux’s heroines do not fit the mold of the traditional Harlequin pulp romance. They are smart, driven and can stand on their own—in several novels, it is the men who need rescuing, not the women. In Deveraux’s latest, The Summer House, three women find a way to go back and re-write their lives.

Said Chico romance novelist Susan Aylworth, “The woman who sits around waiting to be rescued is not a compelling read.” In her six-book Rainbow Rock series (published by Avalon Books), Aylworth has her heroines rescue the male lead both physically and emotionally. “A lot of women are still writing alpha males, but the women aren’t putting up with them. Alpha females aren’t letting them get away with it.”

Other recommended romance reads:
Breathing Room by Patricia Elam, published by Pocket Books.
An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser, published by Random House.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner, published by Pocket Books.

When men do get into the book mood, the authors are reasonably predictable: Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz and Stephen King. “Younger men really go for Tom Clancy’s new Ops Center books,” Sylvester said. “The books are written by Clancy and another author. Older men don’t really like them.”

For true summer reading, pick up a tome from the serial science fiction racks. Star Trek and Star Wars novels are great afternoon reads—and an afternoon is all it takes to read them. The number of books available in both series is staggering. Star Trek, thanks to three program spin-offs—The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager—and a new book spin-off called New Frontier, offers the largest number of titles.

For those who don’t want to go the predictable route, there is a slew of fantasy/science-fiction to choose from.

While mystery may seem to be a different genre from science fiction, Aylworth confirmed that the two follow the same format. The only difference really is the setting, with the sci-fi books keeping true to their off-world environment. What mysteries does Aylworth recommend? “Dick Francis, an English novelist.” The Francis mysteries have their foundation in the world of horse racing.

Other fantasy/mystery titles to try:
Tropic of Creation by Kay Kenyon, published by Bantam Spectra.
The Summer of the Danes by Ellis Peters, published by Mystery Press.
Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell, published by Putnam.

“Men and women do read different things,” added Aylworth. “If you look at the book covers, the typical men’s novels are dark or in red and black. Women’s covers tend to be in pastels.” However, she also said that we shouldn’t let the covers decide what we read. “My husband and I often swap books we think the other would like.”

Summer is a great time to cross over the cover barrier. In fact, it’s a great time to cross the age line too. Said Aylworth: "I suggest reading the Harry Potter books. They’re fun but don’t tax the mind."