Putdown that cheesy romance novel; there’s heartier fare out there thatyou won’t be embarrassed to be seen reading on the beach. Check outthese four takes on summer from some of literature’s heavyweights. --K.B.R.


Summer of ’49 by David Halberstam (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, $15)
Nomatter what his subject is, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalistHalberstam entwines social commentary, investigative reporting, andengaging storytelling into masterful narratives. The foreground of thisliterary portrait is a nail-biting midcentury pennant race between theNew York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. But the background is that ofa postwar America looking to baseball for a sense of comfort andfamiliarity amid the uncertainty of changing times.

The Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner, $15)
Hemingwayis in his element here, returning to his beloved Spain to chronicle therivalry between two top matadors during one brutal summer ofbullfights. The celebrated author reveals much about his personalstruggles with mortality in his gripping descriptions of thebullfighters’ “regular appointment with death.” Hemingway’s ownappointment came just one year later, making this his last major work.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper Perennial, $15)
Kingsolvertackles the birds and the bees in both the literal and figurativesenses in this intricate lyrical novel. Her three interlaced stories ofneighbors in southern Appalachia serve as moralist tales reflecting onour connections with one another and with the fragile planet we allshare.

The Summer before the Dark by Doris Lessing (Vintage, $10)
Accordingto the Nobel Prize committee, which awarded Lessing with a 2007 prizefor literature, the British author brings “skepticism, fire, andvisionary power” to her explorations of the female experience. Thisnovel follows a middle-aged British housewife whose summer travelsthrough Europe turn into a journey of self-discovery as she findsromance and madness along the way.