Introducing the July Shortlist

1book140_icon.JPGWe're hurtling toward the end of the first month of our big, collective read-along. We've had a bang-up June reading Margaret Atwood's Blind Assassin. A complex tale of deceit, loss, and tragedies on more than one planet, we (and by we, I mean you) couldn't have chosen a better book for our inaugural 1book140. For July and August, however, we thought we'd try for something a tad lighter. For the next two months, then, we'll indulge in the time-honored tradition of the beach read: Books that pair perfectly with hot, lazy days and ice cold libations.

We collected over 100 nominations over the past several days, and have winnowed these down to five novels. Can any Murakami book be considered a beach read? I suppose that's a subject question. You literary lot didn't nominate any Robert Ludlum thrillers. Here are the titles:

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
An "optimistic, uplifting debut novel ... set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver." (Publishers Weekly) The breakout debut best-seller has been widely praised by readers and critics alike.

Right Ho, Jeeves
, by P.G. Wodehouse
Stephen Fry, the British comedian (and Twitter personality), considers this novel "the single funniest piece of sustained writing in the language." He might be biased, having ridden Wodehouse's incomparable wit to comedic stardom in the BBC series, Jeeves and Wooster. He also happens to be absolutely right. I'm a Wodehouse fanatic, and can promise that you will be too after reading this gem.

State of Wonder
, by Ann Patchett
"In State of Wonder, pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh sets off into the Amazon jungle to find the remains and effects of a colleague who recently died under somewhat mysterious circumstances," writes Amazon reviewer Jessica Schein. "Emotional, vivid, and a work of literature that will surely resonate with readers in the weeks and months to come, State of Wonder truly is a thing of beauty and mystery, much like the Amazon jungle itself."

Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
To know Murakami is to love Murakami. Or so say his fans. I get vertigo when I read him, but he unquestionably is one of the most wildly inventive and original writers working today. Here's this from PW: "In this latest addition to the author's incomparable oeuvre, 15-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away from home, both to escape his father's oedipal prophecy and to find his long-lost mother and sister."

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby
Would any list of beach reads be complete without something by the author of High Fidelity? If this sounds like faint, damning praise, your idea of an airy romp is probably William T. Vollman. The New Yorker once called Hornby's books "shamefully readable," and there's nothing wrong with that. This novel, published in 2009, takes Hornby back to familiar territory: Music, romance, and the rigors of middle age.

The polls will be open until Wednesday, June 29 at 5 pm Eastern. Vote Now, Word Nerds, or forever hold your peace. At least until next month.

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Jeff Howe is a professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He helps run @1book140, The Atlantic's Twitter book club. More

Jeff Howe is a professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He previously worked as a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, where he covered the media and entertainment industries. In June 2006 he published "The Rise of Crowdsourcing" in Wired. In September 2008 he published a book on the subject for Random House. The book has been translated into 11 languages. Before coming to Wired in 2001 he was a senior editor at and a writer at the Village Voice. In his 20 years as a journalist he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has written for Time, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and numerous other publications. He lives in Cambridge with his wife and two children.

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