As book critics, the Babes are used to reading ARCs -- Advance Reading Copies. These are basically books without covers, which makes them less expensive to produce. They're sent to reviewers and booksellers prior to publication in hopes of stirring up interest and media coverage.
Much as we love the sturdy feel of a hardback, for travelling we can't live without these trimmed-down versions of the latest books. They're so darn portable. In that spirit of lightening your load this summer, we'd like to suggest some terrific paperbacks for your reading -- and travelling -- pleasure. Bon voyage!
1. IF YOU'VE EVER MOURNED A LOST LOVE... Read "Evening," by Susan Minot (Vintage) -- and also see the movie, which will be released June 29. This is a poignant story about a dying woman's memory of a long-ago summer love affair. It was a terrific novel when it first came out in the '90s, and with a cast including Vanessa Redgrave, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Patrick Wilson, Glenn Close, Natasha Richardson and Meryl Streep, it should make a superior movie. Minot wrote the screenplay with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham.
2. IF YOU NEED SOME GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE ... Read "Love in the Present Tense," by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Vintage). This novel from the author of "Pay It Forward" captures the same affirmative spirit, telling the story of a bond between a 5-year-old abandoned by his mother and the man who unintentionally gets the job of raising him.
3. IF YOU'RE HEADING FOR EUROPE (OR WISH YOU WERE!)... Read "The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece," by Jonathan Harr. Any trip to Italy requires a full immersion in Renaissance art, but if you can't get there this year (especially with that pricey euro!), this book is a good substitute. Harr describes the real-life search for a long-lost painting by a 16th-century master and, in doing so, highlights the dedication to recovering the work of major artists.
4. IF YOU DREAM ABOUT BEING SOMEWHERE ELSE... Read "Swapping Lives," by Jane Green (Plume). The irrepressible Green (who claims that she doesn't write chick lit, or if she does, why must people call it that?) hands the weary mom or working woman a tasty after-dinner mint with this breezy novel about a magazine editor in England who switches places with a suburban housewife in America. What a difference a month can make!
5. IF YOU FEEL READY FOR A COCKTAIL... Read "And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails," by Wayne Curtis. Curtis takes you from the grog that entertained sailors in the 18th century to the mojitos supermodels sip today, showing how important rum has been to the American economy and culture. By book's end, you'll definitely want to raise a toast to Ernest Hemingway and the bartender at El Floridita in Havana, where the daiquiri was born. Bonus: Rum drink recipes included.
6. IF YOU USE BOOKS AS YOUR GREAT ESCAPE... Read "Literacy and Longing in L.A.," by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack (Delta). When Dora, the heroine of this novel, is depressed, she goes on a book binge. So, in telling the story of her crumbling life, she can't help making use of the characters and plots she's read about. The result is a summer book binge that you can be part of: The authors provide a book list at the end for your own bender.
7. IF YOU TAKE VACATIONS IN MINUTES, NOT DAYS... Read "Tourist Season," by Enid Shomer (Random House). If you're time-deprived, short-story collections are one way to get out of your skin for a few minutes at a time. Tampa poet Shomer delivers 10 exquisite choices, from the story of a Florida Jewish woman who is told she is Buddha reincarnated, to the tale of a couple struggling to cope with life together in retirement. Consider this as a pick for your book club: Included are a reading guide and an interview with the author by her friend and fellow poet Maxine Kumin.
8. IF YOU LIKE TO REMEMBER THE PAST SO AS NOT TO REPEAT IT... Read "A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918," by G.J. Meyer (Delta). This is where the trouble all started, you know. The course of modern history can be traced to this paradigm-shifting, psyche-shattering event, which set the stage for WWII and helped shape the Middle East as we know it today. Meyer's hefty book is not definitive, but it's a highly readable, thorough look at a piece of the past that will keep you occupied for days if not weeks!
9. IF YOU NEED REMINDING THAT THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME... Read "Stuart: A Life Backwards," by Alexander Masters (Delta). This unusual memoir about Masters' friendship with a homeless man is, indeed, told backwards. You trace Stuart from his days as a friendless drunk back through the crime and violence and drugs to find the promising man he once was.
10. IF YOU THOUGHT ARMCHAIR TRAVEL WAS ENOUGH... Read "A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler," by Jason Roberts (Harper Perennial). Blind from the age of 25, James Holman was a legend of the 19th century -- the Blind Traveller, as he was called. He not only trekked across the world -- a much more arduous task then than now -- but also did it solo, racking up more kilometers than anyone else in his day. Reading about Holman's ordeals in sub-zero Siberia should offer a bit of perspective when you learn that the airline lost your luggage.