Playboy.com's Late Summer Reads

By Playboy.com Staff

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The Playboy.com editorial staff present our favorite lit picks for you to delve into this summer.


Don’t shoot the messenger, but we’re approaching midsummer, which definitely casts a pall over the sun-loving Bunnies hanging around the Grotto. While summer is a great time to go out and party, hit the waves with your board or spice up your evenings with a new lady friend or two, there’s something to be said for literally lazing about all day — relaxing at the pool, beach, park or even in your own backyard, and there’s nothing better to complement this than an ice-cold beer and hot new read to expand your horizons. Here are some of our favorite books for the late-summer languor, from paperbacks that take you on an adventure through the history of pop culture and cyber battles to a gripping autobiography by Jarhead author Anthony Swofford, who is struck with so much fame, fortune and grief that it is almost the end of him.

Ready Player One

Released last year to critical acclaim, Ready Player One is the highly addictive story of Wade Watts, a teen in dystopian 2044, where the inhabitants of Earth live primarily connected to the fantastical cyber universe known as OASIS. When a mysterious video game maven and creator of OASIS dies, an epic war to control the money and minds that his empire commands emerges, taking the form of a treasure hunt reliant on clues and challenges from 20th century pop culture, gaming, television and music. A new classic for fans of sci-fi or adventure, this Alice in Willy Wonka-esque thrill ride is a nonstop adrenaline rush that will leave you ready to plug in. It’s rare when an author has the ability to transport his readers into a superbly illustrated world of complex design in the vein of Tolkien or Orson Scott Card, but when it takes the form of a debut novel, we’re looking at an imagination of Rowling’s magnitude.

Buy it here: US or Canada

Hot Art

Joshua Knelman won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Nonfiction for a reason. His book Hot Art, which chronicles the four years he spent in the seedy world of international art theft, is hard to put down. It’s a great read for any man who can’t stand the thought of wasting his time reading fictitious stories while still getting the fun and pleasure of good old brain-numbing pulp fiction. Seriously, this book is like eating an entire bowl of cherries. They taste like candy, but they’re good for you! We can’t believe that all the crazy stuff that takes place in this book is true. By the end of the book you’ll be itching to share your niche knowledge of the world of art.

Buy it here: US or Canada

Shadow Show

It is appropriate that Shadow Show, a collection of short stories dedicated to the memory of Ray Bradbury, should start with a piece titled “Homecoming” written by none other than the enigmatic author himself. Along with being a tribute to the short story of the same name that propelled Bradbury to science fiction stardom (and who could deny that a self-written foreword from beyond the grave is a classically Bradburian idea?), Shadow Show is indeed a homecoming of sorts. In the piece, Bradbury parallels the relationship between the author and his influences to that between a father and son and reflects on his transition from one to the other. What follows is undeniable evidence that the former is true; Shadow Show has on display authors like Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman, all paying tribute to the dystopian themes and complex characters of the Bradbury tradition. Anyone who had their world turned upside-down by Fahrenheit 451 will be impressed by this one last hurrah for one of sci-fi’s leading men.

Buy it here: US or Canada

Click below for the other great reads we have on tap!

The Dog Stars

Releasing next week, The Dog Stars is a compelling debut from author Peter Heller, which decisively strikes at the ever-arching desire to know what makes us human. Set in near-future America after an unknown virus has depleted the majority of the population, the reader is introduced to old Hig, the novel’s cynical protagonist who’s left with nothing but his gun-toting comrade, faithful canine and undying love for his ’52 Cessna, christened “The Beast.” Gruff, tormented and inspirational, Heller has the astonishing ability to make you laugh, cringe and feel ridiculously vulnerable throughout the novel that will have you rereading certain passages with a hard lump in the pit of your stomach. One of the most powerful reads in years.

Buy it here: US or Canada

In the Garden of Beasts

A must-read for history buffs, Erik Larson’s meticulously researched In the Garden of Beasts reads more like a novel than a history text. Told mainly from the perspective of the new American ambassador to Germany and his party-girl 20-something daughter Martha, the book details the events of 1933-34, giving an outsider’s perspective of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. Although every reader will know at least the broad details of World War II and some of the events leading up to it, the book manages to build an almost thriller-like air of suspense, showing the ambassador and his family’s initial infatuation with gay 1930s Berlin and their gradual disenchantment. All the major historical figures make at least brief appearances, and unexpectedly, many of them are represented in Martha’s social life, from her affairs with a Russian spy, the head of the Gestapo and the son of the German crown prince to, perhaps most shocking for present-day readers, a blind date with the Führer himself.

Buy it here: US or Canada

Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails

Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails is Anthony Swofford’s second memoir. Readers of Jarhead looking for more of Swofford’s Gulf War experiences may be disappointed: Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails details Swofford’s life after his homecoming, his struggle to reconcile his soldier past with his civilian present through a haze of alcohol, drugs and promiscuity. But first and foremost, HHaJ is about family: about the legacy a veteran passes on to his children, and about Swofford’s attempt to come to an understanding of the dying father whose choices he abhors yet whom he greatly resembles, to learn to love him while learning how not to become him.

Buy it here: US or Canada


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