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Video: Books for your beach bag

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    HODA KOTB, co-host: Time for TODAY'S HOT SUMMER READS and the books to pack in your beach bag. From chick lit to crime novels , we've got three authors standing by to help make your book shopping a little easier this summer. And we begin with Ms. Paula Froelich , columnist and author of The New York Times ' best-seller " Mercury in Retrograde ." Hello, Ms. best-selling author.

    Ms. PAULA FROELICH (Author, "Mercury in Retrograde"): Hello....

    It's out in paperback. I've seen it floating around.

    KOTB: It is. It's recession chic.

    Ms. FROELICH: Well, I like that. OK, so you're picky about what you read. You like the chick lit books.

    KOTB: I am.

    Ms. FROELICH: What have you -- what have you decided on as your favorites this time around?

    KOTB: Well, let's start with an oldie but goodie.

    Ms. FROELICH: Which is?

    KOTB: The original " Sex and the City ," Candace Bushnell.


    KOTB: Because, let's be honest, she writes the way we talk . She started a whole movement.

    Ms. FROELICH: Yeah.

    KOTB: And it's just funny and interesting. And frankly, a lot of the people she writes about are still kind of prototyping around today.

    Ms. FROELICH: Are -- now, if you've seen the movies, will you still enjoy this book?

    KOTB: It's different.


    KOTB: The thing is is that the movies were written by someone else.

    Ms. FROELICH: Right.

    KOTB: This is the original. And it's smart, it's fun, it's sassy and very pro-lady.

    Ms. FROELICH: Cool. I like it. OK, what's your next one?

    KOTB: "Spellmans Strike Again."

    Ms. FROELICH: Uh-huh .

    KOTB: The latest in the Spellman , like, series from Lisa Lutz .

    Ms. FROELICH: Uh-huh .

    KOTB: I'm telling you, it's the wackiest, craziest family. It's like a nicer version of " Running with Scissors ."


    KOTB: And they're fabulous. Jennifer Weiner, " Fly Away Home ."

    Ms. FROELICH: I lover her books.

    KOTB: Oh, j'adore.

    Ms. FROELICH: She writes beautifully, yeah.

    KOTB: Well, not only that, but like every single character is you.

    Ms. FROELICH: Yeah, yeah.

    KOTB: And it's also really topical because it's about a couple that basically, you know, they kind of have a big break-up in public and what happens and blah, blah, blah.

    Ms. FROELICH: Which we'll...

    KOTB: Love it, love it, love it.

    Ms. FROELICH: ...blah, blah, blah.

    KOTB: You'll love it.

    Ms. FROELICH: Very important. OK.

    KOTB: Then " The Rehearsal " by Eleanor Catton.

    Ms. FROELICH: Mm-hmm.

    KOTB: This is a debut novel and it's really, really good.

    Ms. FROELICH: Mm-hmm.

    KOTB: It's a coming-of-age story. It's in like drama class, which I love.

    Ms. FROELICH: You?

    KOTB: A little musical theater.

    Ms. FROELICH: Uh-huh .

    KOTB: And then I'm going to end with the ultimate that just still gives me a giggle because, let's be honest, what's a beach read without a fabulous giggle? " Bridget Jones 's_Diary."

    Ms. FROELICH: That's the one?

    KOTB: Oh, please.

    Ms. FROELICH: Good luck with your paperback, recession-proof version of your book.

    KOTB: Thank you.

    Ms. FROELICH: All right, let's go upstairs to Kathie Lee .

    KOTB: All right, Hoda , thank you. Time for the literary genre, and I'm here with award-winning writer Justin Cronin , author of " The Passage ." Good to see you, Justin .

    KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, co-host: Thanks. Nice to be here.

    Mr. JUSTIN CRONIN (Author, "The Passage"): A little more serious fare here.

    GIFFORD: Yes.

    Mr. CRONIN: What have you brought for us?

    GIFFORD: In no particular order, they're all terrific.

    Mr. CRONIN: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: The first book is Alan Furst 's "Spies of the Balkans ." He is my favorite living spy writer. I think he's probably our best.

    Mr. CRONIN: Really?

    GIFFORD: What I say about his books is they're so rich in period

    Mr. CRONIN: atmospheres, you can smell the......smoke coming off the pages.

    Oh, what period is that?

    GIFFORD: All his books are set in Eastern Europe and in occupied France in the early days of the second World War .

    Mr. CRONIN: OK.

    GIFFORD: And I -- he cannot write it -- write fast enough for me. He is always my summertime go-to.

    Mr. CRONIN: Wow. That's a rave. OK. "Strangers at the Feast ."

    GIFFORD: "Strangers at the Feast ," Jennifer Vanderbes. I think she's one of our great underrated writers, and I think she's going to win many new fans with this book. I think this is the first great novel of the financial crisis.

    Mr. CRONIN: Oh.

    GIFFORD: It's a story -- it's a story of a -- of a family trying to get together on Thanksgiving , and they're actually on a collision course with two young men whom they have inadvertently wronged. And if it sounds like a serious book, it is. But it's also very, very funny.

    Mr. CRONIN: And timely.

    GIFFORD: Yeah. If you do not see yourself somewhere on these pages, you have never been to Thanksgiving dinner .

    Mr. CRONIN: OK, good. Larry McMurtry , he never disappoints.

    GIFFORD: Yeah. I mean, this is -- I'm so lucky that I get to talk about his book. It's -- they're coming up with a 25th anniversary edition of " Lonesome Dove ."

    Mr. CRONIN: Has it been that long?

    GIFFORD: Yeah, it has.

    Mr. CRONIN: Unbelievable. Yeah.

    GIFFORD: And that book -- that book changed my life as a writer. Somebody handed it to me when I was on a trip to Italy many years ago, I spent the first three days lying in my hotel room in Rome reading that book...

    Mr. CRONIN: Oh.

    GIFFORD: ...while the glories of Rome went on outside without me.

    Mr. CRONIN: OK. We're out of time...


    Mr. CRONIN: ...but just mention the other two.

    GIFFORD: "Angelology," Danielle Trussoni. Three little words: angels gone bad. " Earth Abides ," one of the great post-apocalyptic novels of all time.

    Mr. CRONIN: Whoa. Thank you, Justin . OK. Now for some good crime novels , let's go back to Hoda .

    GIFFORD: Yeah. If you like a good thriller, Lisa Scottoline , author of " Look Again ," has her page-turning picks for crime fiction . Lisa , a terrific author. How are you?

    KOTB: Great.

    Ms. LISA SCOTTOLINE (Author, "Look Again"): All right, tell me your top -- your top five here.

    KOTB: I love books where things happen that's dramatic.


    KOTB: First pick, Jodi Picoult , " House Rules ." Terrific story. A kid with Asperger's syndrome is accused of murder. Fantastic premise.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: She writes wonderful books. Every one's a home run.

    KOTB: Terrific. Right. David Baldacci , love him.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Yeah.

    KOTB: I think he -- nobody does it better in terms of the conspiracy thriller.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Yeah.

    KOTB: Deeply researched and a terrific villain. Nelson DeMille , a favorite from forever.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Huh.

    KOTB: " The Lion " is a follow-up to the great " The Lion 's_Game." If you want to understand how terrorists think, read it. And it's also some humor.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Did you -- did you have to read the earlier one to get this one?

    KOTB: No, you don't have to.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: OK. All right.

    KOTB: Denise Mina , I like to, you know, throw in some up-and-coming people. She's a Scottish author.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Mm-hmm.

    KOTB: But what matters in any novel is characterization. And her characterization of this detective, she's a woman, she's just like us.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Yes.

    KOTB: She's got problems in her marriage, you know.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Yeah.

    KOTB: And her brother's a real pain in the neck.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Yeah. All right.

    KOTB: It's a great book.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: All right.

    KOTB: And finally, Lisa Gardner , also somebody who deserves a greater following. Just -- this one is dark, but it's terrific.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Ooh .

    KOTB: Harrowing. A woman who has some issues, another detective, is going to solve the murder of an entire family and also kind of the riddle of herself.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: All right, when's your next book coming out?

    KOTB: October, for fun.

    Ms. SCOTTOLINE: Oh, good.

    KOTB: And for thrills, in the summer.


updated 6/24/2010 10:38:05 PM ET 2010-06-25T02:38:05

Stumped about what to read this summer as you relax on a sunny deck or board a flight for your long-awaited vacation? Not to worry! Read on for summer reading recommendations from three authors who really know books.

Book picks from Paula Froelich

"Sex and the City" by Candace Bushnell. The one that started it all. So different from the show but brilliantly written — and it really captures New York women. It's like a time capsule.

"The Spellmans Strike Again" by Lisa Lutz. The Spellmans are the weirdest family — and so fabulous because they're just like mine! Just kidding. This is the latest in the Spellmans series and I seriously bite my nails until the next one comes out. It can put you in a good mood instantly.

"Fly Away Home" by Jennifer Weiner. Jen just writes the way we speak. The people in her books aren't perfect, skinny or fabulous. They're real. And this book — about a marriage falling apart in the headlines — well, hello Tipper!

"The Rehearsal" by Eleanor Catton. OK, I LOVE a debut novel, and this one rocks. Drama and teenagers ... is there anything more interesting?

"Bridget Jones's Diary" by Helen Fielding. Even after all these years I read it again and still laugh my butt off. It just never gets old.

Book picks from Justin Cronin

"Spies of the Balkans" by Alan Furst. Furst is always my summertime go-to. I love good espionage fiction, and Furst is arguably our greatest living spy novelist. All of his books are set in either occupied France or Eastern Europe during the early days of World War II and are so drenched in period atmospheres you can practically smell the Gaulois smoke. His latest, "Spies of the Balkans," is one of his best.

"Angelology" by Danielle Trussoni. A sleuthing nun, a hidden library and a secret society to combat angels-gone-bad — Trussoni's novel is irresistible in both its ingenious set-up and its brilliant execution. My daughter and I went to war with each other on a recent vacation for who would get to read this first.

"Strangers at the Feast" by Jennifer Vanderbes. Following up on the magnificent "Easter Island," Vanderbes has gone in a completely new direction here, telling the story of a single New England family on a collision course with history. It's also the first novel of the recent financial crisis. Funny, mordant and timely, and certain to win her many new fans.

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"Lonesome Dove 25th Anniversary Edition" by Larry McMurtry. I first read McMurtry's great epic of the West many years ago on a trip to Italy. I got so lost in its pages that for three full days I lay in my hotel room reading, while outside my windows the glories of Rome went on without me. If you've never read it, now's your chance. If you have, now's your chance to read it again.

"Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart. Stewart's stately tale of the survivors of a global epidemic is a touchstone for writers of speculative fiction, just as thought-provoking and convincing today as it was when it was first published in 1949. It reads like a beautiful hymn to a vanished world.

Book picks from Lisa Scottoline

"House Rules" by Jodi Picoult. A boy with Asperger's syndrome is accused of murder in this beautifully written book about family and the bonds that tie us together — and sometimes tear us apart.

"Deliver Us from Evil" by David Baldacci. This is a straight-up page-turner with a credible and fascinating woman character, Reggie Campion, who has a secret agenda of her own.

"The Lion" by Nelson DeMille. I couldn't wait for this book because "The Lion's Game," its prequel about a ruthless terrorist, was one of my favorite thrillers of all time. You won't be able to put this one down, and you learn about the roots of terrorism to boot.

"Still Midnight" by Denise Mina. This is an engrossing read about a female detective solving a kidnapping in Glasgow, written by an up-and-coming Scottish author who is in a class by herself.

"Live to Tell" by Lisa Gardner. "Live to Tell" features a troubled heroine, Detective D.D. Warren. You'll root for her as she solves a horrible crime that echoes uncomfortably close to home.

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