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(Pat Wellenbach)
(Pat Wellenbach)

A Globe Books special

It's summer, not dumber Add to ...

If you don't plan on spending your entire summer in a hammock, you have recourse to one of the Dortmunder novels - say, What's the Worst That Can Happen? or Don't Ask - by Donald E. Westlake, unmatched master of the comic caper. They star Westlake's sad-sack burglar, John Dortmunder, whose best-laid larcenous schemes inevitably go wrong. The worst that can happen is that you'll fall out of your hammock laughing.

Fraser Sutherland's most recent work is the book of poetry, Manual for Emigrants.

DIANE ACKERMAN Last summer, when I was craving literary snacks, I read a dozen novels in a row by Muriel Spark and grew quite addicted to their subversive charms. Invariably, one first meets a small group of people soon to be invaded by someone hypnotically sinister or disturbing, who will unpack one surprise after another, and tumble the moral physics of their world. These troublemakers are only as bizarre as anyone is when viewed up close, and they remind us how utterly convincing and persuasive romantic figures can be even at their most preposterous.

One of the characters in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, a pivotal member of the "Brodie set" of schoolgirls, who ultimately becomes Sister Helena and enters a reclusive convent, publishes a book titled The Transfiguration of the Commonplace. That's it in a nutshell, Spark telling us with a wink that she understands her own magic: the intricate details of speech, bend of hat brim, twitch of hand - small, ordinary details of everyday life that loom, when picked out by wit and steeped in meaning. She's not subtle, but precise, and part of what makes her satire so wicked is how true the details are.

Refreshingly, in her fictions, people rarely get what they deserve, providence is on vacation and she moves characters from page to page on waves of romantic farce and social satire. After so much merriment, I find her gift as a storyteller and creator of mysteries a delicious bonus.

Diane Ackerman's most recent book is The Zookeeper's Wife. Her next, Dawn Light, will be out this fall.

MICHAEL ADAMS My ideal summer book is one that takes me to another time and place. The other seasons are for deep immersion in the here and now: The Globe and Mail, The Economist, Gladwell, de Botton, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and the scores of articles people forward me.

Summer is for fiction, for deeper truths and evocative narratives. Last year, it was Middlemarch, George Eliot's portrait of early 19th-century England, when everyone - no matter how inwardly complex - was ultimately a footnote to his or her gender, birth order and parents' station.

This year, it is Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger, in which 21st-century India has striking parallels to Eliot's England, but with a rather intriguing escape from the prisons of race, religion and caste. And when I want to come back home to the western Ontario of my youth, there is always our Alice (Munro) whose stories of the mundane always seem to startle.

Michael Adams is president of the Environics group of companies and the author of four books, including the Donner Prize-winning Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values.

HADANI DITMARS I shall always associate summer reading with travelling. Especially on trains. I blame it on my first Inter-Rail trip through Europe as a backpacking 18-year-old, with a dog-eared copy of Jack Kerouac's Lonesome Traveler as a constant companion. I read it on the floor of the trains when the sleeping compartments were full, and at train stations trying to stay awake for early morning voyages when the hostels were full.

Eventually, the binding came undone and I believe I left bits of it all over Europe. I always wondered who would find the page that read, "Beethoven was a hobo who knelt and listened to the light."

I remember reading William Langewiesche's Sahara Unveiled, which removed me from the confines of a rather placid Vancouver beach one summer when I longed for some place darker, hotter, saltier. His journey across the desert was exquisite escape.

Now, I'm reading Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory as I prepare to write a political travelogue of Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.

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