We see thousands of books and we covet hundreds of them, but ultimately we have to winnow, professionally and personally. So imagining ourselves with time on our hands in a sultry setting, what few would we choose? We could download to our heart's content, but if we had to carry? Read on...

Gilded Youth: Three Lives in France's Belle Époque

Kate Cambor (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

This is a Proust lover's idea of a sexy read: the tale of the offspring of three of belle epoque Paris's most celebrated figures—with a hint of glamour, scandal and approaching doom.—Sarah F. Gold


Olivia Darling (Dell)

Darling's tale of three women competing to produce the best bottle of wine sparkles with wit and glamour. Though hefty for a mass market title, it fits in a beach bag and has plenty of heady drama to distract those stuck indoors. —Rose Fox

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain de Botton (Pantheon)

Why read about work—that of cookie makers, rocket scientists, even accountants—while on vacation? Well, de Botton is that rare breed—a philosopher who delights with his language as well as his insight. —Sarah F. Gold

Strange Brew

Edited by P.N. Elrod (St. Martin's Griffin)

Fans of paranormal mystery will love this anthology, which provides plenty of magic and mayhem in conveniently small packages. Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher and other notables in the field offer nine short stories perfect for brain-melting hot days when even the fluffiest novel is overwhelming. —Rose Fox

Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone

Eduardo Galeano (Nation)

Impossible to classify, Galeano's latest is a series of loosely connected lyrical paragraphs (under such titles as “Mau Mau,” “Origin of Advertising,” “Sappho”) that make up a history of the dispossessed and a trenchant critique of current events. You've never learned history like this: the brevity of the mini-lessons and Galeano's sly wit and lapidary prose make for a smart yet never laborious summer diversion. —Parul Sehgal

Hunt at the Well of Eternity

Gabriel Hunt (Hard Case Crime)

Kicking off a pulp adventure series with classic style and modern sensibilities, millionaire explorer Gabriel Hunt (written by James Reasoner) relates the action-packed story of his travels through South America in search of the titular well. Escapism at its best. —Rose Fox

The Scenic Route

Binnie Kirshenbaum (Ecco/Harper Perennial)

It doesn't get much more summer than road trips and ill-advised flings, and Kirshenbaum's great new novel has both, a perfect story told with a huge heart. —Jonathan Segura

How to Sell

Clancy Martin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

A haltingly genuine teenager gets sucked into the slimy, disingenuous jewelry business in 1980s Fort Worth, Tex. It's very funny and very sad. Martin, who based this book partly on his own experiences, is now a Nietzsche-translating philosophy professor. (And a nice guy.) —Jonathan Segura

Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes

Mark Miller (Ten Speed)

Whether you're cooking fish tacos at your beach cottage or those filled with pork carnitas in your house in the country, these folded tortilla dishes will please family and friends. (N.b.: be sure to pack essential spices and ingredients before you leave for vacation.) —Mark Rotella

Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone

Stanislao G. Pugliese (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

What better way to revel in the luxury of vacation time than to read a book about a man who spent a good deal of his life in prison. In this wonderful, fluid biography, Pugliese tells the life of Ignazio Silone, a founder of the Italian Communist Party and one of that country's great writers. —Mark Rotella

Dreaming in Hindi

Katherine Russell Rich (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

When Rich's life falls apart, instead of eating, praying and loving, she heads off to Udaipur in northern India for a year to perfect her Hindi. Throwing oneself into the unknown is everyone's fantasy and everyone's nightmare, and Rich, with her wonderful journalist's eye, hands over the experience of language and culture so beautifully, it's okay for the rest of us to stay close to home. —Louisa Ermelino

The Dark Side of Love

Rafik Schami, trans. from the German by Anthea Bell (Interlink)

A doorstop of a novel, this story of love and blood feuds set in Damascus, filled with myths and legends and enough tragedy to last a few lifetimes, opens with a murder and goes deep into a century of Syria's history, politics and religion. Break out the baklava and let it rain. —Louisa Ermelino

The Little Stranger

Sarah Waters (Riverhead)

As a classic ghost story fan, I'm looking forward to reading this haunted house novel set in drab and dreary post-WWII England, if only as relief from those sunny summer days. —Peter Cannon

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories

Kevin Wilson (Harper Perennial)

In this remarkable debut collection, Wilson's stories are by turns sidesplittingly funny, wondrous and painful. A delight to read, his combination of quiet absurdity and deeply felt humanity has a haunting, bittersweet quality, like a perfect summer day that's gone too quickly. —Marc Schultz

The Motion of the Ocean

Janna Cawrse Esarey (Touchstone)

Love at sea was the idea when Esarey and her newly minted husband decided to honeymoon in a beat-up old sailboat on a trip across the Pacific. Eight hundred and thirteen hilarious, treacherous and, yes, romantic days later, she comes to some serious conclusions. Let's just say you'll be wildly entertained and glad to be on solid ground.—Louisa Ermelino