Beach books, brain candy and river reads

New books for summer—plus the best river books

Even people who don’t read all the time tend to read over the summer. It’s a good time to slow down, stretch out in a shady spot and open a book. Here are some new ones to consider for the summer, as well as a list of books about rivers and water that would be great for reading as you sit alongside Sacramento’s own natural resources.

Vampire books galore

The venerable Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series gets a new entry, and the never-ending angst that is the Twilight series gets a summer prize, but the real gem is a thriller in which the bloodsuckers are really, truly bad. In Justin Cronin’s The Passage (Ballantine Books), he posits a near-future post-apocalyptic world in which most people have been infected with a vampire virus. A handful of human survivors live in the Colony, which is surrounded by a bank of lights that protect them from the “dracs.” But the power source is about to fail. How will they survive? At 784 pages, The Passage can be used for a doorstop when you’ve finished it.

Bullet (Berkley Books), the latest in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and Stephenie Meyer will add to the Twilight Saga with The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (Little, Brown).

More from The Girl Who

The top pick for mysteries this summer has to be The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Knopf), the third in the late Stieg Larsson’s trilogy about punk computer-geek girl (and borderline sociopath) Lisbeth Salander. This book takes up where the cliffhanger in The Girl Who Played With Fire left off; Lisbeth and her journalist friend Mikael Blomkvist plan to get even with the people who want her silenced.

Also worth checking out: So Cold the River, the latest from Michael Koryta (Little, Brown). This mystery takes on elements of the paranormal as filmmaker Eric Shaw goes to a resort town to make a video about the life of his client’s father-in-law. But there seems to be two different men with the same name, and Shaw starts having visions after he drinks the town’s trademark mineral water.

Sand and sea—and food

Ann Vanderhoof’s second book about life with her husband on a boat in the Caribbean arrives just in time to give your summer cooking a bit of island flavor. The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating, and Island Life (June 23, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) mixes memoir with food writing—a winning concept of late—and includes 71 recipes for Caribbean food. Just because you can’t afford to live on an island—or a boat—doesn’t mean you can’t eat like a Caribbean queen.

Best river reads for the summer

Here are the top 10 books to read while enjoying the summer on local riverbanks:

1. Run River by Joan Didion (her first novel, this tale of a family that lives on the Sacramento River opens with a murder)

2. The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time by Simon Winchester

3. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (only if you’ve never read it; if you have, substitute Life on the Mississippi)

5. Goodbye to a River: A Narrative by John Graves

6. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

7. When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes by Jay Feldman (local author)

8. Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee

9. A Week on the Concord and the Merrimack Rivers by Henry David Thoreau

10. Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner