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Lynn Neary

There is no one definition of a summer book. It can be a 1,000-page biography, a critically acclaimed literary novel, a memoir everyone is talking about — or it might be your favorite guilty pleasure: romance, crime, science fiction. Whatever you choose, it should be able to sweep you away to another world, because there is nothing like getting totally lost in a book on summer day. Here are a few books that swept away some of our favorite critics.

Shopping at a farmers market on a weekend morning can turn bittersweet if your eye for just-picked summer fruit is bigger than your refrigerator and appetite.

That's a crisis first-time cookbook author Kevin West found himself in a few years back. After one particular farmers market spree, West's buyer's remorse came from a big package of fresh strawberries.

Walk into any bookstore or library, and you'll find shelves and shelves of hugely popular novels and book series for kids. But research shows that as young readers get older, they are not moving to more complex books. High-schoolers are reading books written for younger kids, and teachers aren't assigning difficult classics as much as they once did.

About five years ago, Colum McCann stumbled upon a small piece of history he had never known: In 1845, Frederick Douglass, then an escaped slave who was already famous for his anti-slavery writings and speeches, visited Ireland to raise money and support for his cause. McCann says he knew almost immediately that he wanted to turn this historical fact into fiction: "This intersection between history and fiction, between what is real and what is not real, fascinates me," he says.

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In 2008, during the brief window when it was legal for same-sex couples to get married in California, perhaps no couple drew more attention than Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.

After their wedding, photos of the couple were everywhere; DeGeneres, beaming, in a white suit and holding hands with de Rossi, the very picture of the princess bride so many young girls dream of being one day. It was a cultural touchstone, and Dietram Scheufele, a communications professor at the University of Wisconsin, says it was neither the first nor the last time DeGeneres has played that role.

On Dec. 26, 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala was vacationing with her husband, her two sons and her parents in Yala, Sri Lanka. The day was just beginning when she and a friend noticed that something strange was happening in the ocean. Within a matter of minutes, the sea had wiped out life as she had known it. In a new memoir, called simply Wave, she recalls her experience with the tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people, including her own family.

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Barnes & Noble Chairman and chief stockholder, Leonard Riggio, is looking into the possibility of buying the company's retail book business, but not the Nook, the e-book, the company had staked it future on.

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