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The books of summer


When people ask me to recommend a summer reading list, my advice is always, look to the classics: Judith Kranz's "Scruples," Stephen King's "Pet Sematary," anything by Bob Uecker.

Here's a look at some hot new books that should prove equally stimulating:

* "The Passion and the Fury" by Danielle Steel. Nick Fagio has it all: incredible wealth, a loving wife, an eager mistress, a lawn mower that starts on the first pull. Suddenly his world seems to collapse. He's deposed as CEO of Intelltech amid a nasty cocaine scandal. His wife dies in untimely automobile accident. And his mistress runs off with a one-armed carnival worker, leaving Nick with nothing except his mower, a three-year-old Toro which somehow escapes the greedy clutches of his creditors.

Summoning an inner strength he never knew he possessed, Nick starts a lawn care service and meets Gina, a beautiful convenience store clerk who rings up his coffee each morning and captivates him with her sultry greeting: "Anything else with that?"

This is their story -- a story of greed, lust and redemption set among the perfectly manicured grounds of Pelham Manor in New York's tony Westchester County.

* "They Tortured Me With Cattle Prods," by Patti Davis. In this powerful autobiography, the former first daughter details the unspeakable cruelty of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, including the time Nancy tied Patti to a chair and forced her to watch the sitcom "Good Times" while Henry Kissinger bellowed Jimmie Walker's signature cry of: "DY-NO-MITE!"

Patti also reveals that the Reagans made her sleep in a meat locker, took turns placing shards of broken glass in her food and had Secret Service agents follow her around the White House making funny faces behind her back, then feigning innocence whenever she whirled around.

* "The Frugal Gourmet's Survivalist Cookbook" by Jeff Smith. Paranoid? Reclusive? Convinced the end is near? Hear the footsteps of the armies of the night?

Before you head off to that underground bunker or remote cabin in the mountains of New Hampshire, tuck this impressive little tome in your knapsack with the matches, Sterno and assault pistol.

Recipes include a delicious stew consisting of grub worms, tree bark and berries and "Dirty Bean Soup," reportedly the last meal of Che Guevara. Includes 13 ways to kill an enemy with a can opener, as well as favorite on-the-run foods of the Sandinistas.

* "Making Sense of Your Dreams," by Dr. Lon Boccio. Ever dream of cattle stampeding through your house? It could mean you're a latent bisexual, according to America's foremost dream expert.

Do your dreams include clouds? Or fluffy beds of lettuce? Uh-oh, says Dr. Lon, you have the makings of a serial killer. In Chapters 14 and 15, erotic dreams are interpreted through enhanced computer graphics and Gypsy fortune-tellers.

* "Time to Love" by Leo Buscaglia. Who are you? Where are you going? Where have you been? How did you get in here? What time is it?

These are just some of the questions tackled by internationally renowned writer and fuzzy feel-good guru Leo Buscaglia in his latest collection of deep thoughts on the subtle art of loving.

"My goal," Buscaglia says in the foreword, "is to have every single person on Earth love every other person on Earth -- except, of course, Leona Helmsley."

* "It Ain't Boise" by Bob Uecker. Laugh along with "Mr. Baseball" as he chronicles (for the 15th time) his uproarious major league career with the Braves, Cardinals and Phillies, including the hotfoot that sent legendary Dodgers skipper Walter Alston blue-faced and gasping to the coronary care unit of a Los Angeles hospital.

In an all-new chapter, Uke reveals how he once sent a call girl to producer Fred DeCordova's house, and was rewarded with his first appearance on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. Also detailed is a long-simmering feud with Hall of Fame catcher and Rustoleum pitchman Johnny Bench -- Bench wouldn't pick up the check at dinner -- as well as the accusations of a pedophilia that dogged him on the set of "Mr. Belvedere."

* "Goo" by Stephen King. The master of modern horror has done it again. Something strange is going on in Bellvale. A horrible slithering mass of green goo is slowly covering homes, schools, parking lots, everything. It throbs with evil -- as well as tiny bits of pimento. Only the town drunk and a local 5-year-old boy seem immune to the unholy terror; now the two begin a frantic search to discover exactly which vat in a nearby guacamole factory is leaking.

* "Huh? C'mon, Speak Up!" by Regis Philbin. The tiny, high-strung talk-show host pulls no punches in revealing his intense personal dislike for co-host Kathie Lee Gifford -- whom he accuses of stealing loose change off his dressing room table -- and a cross-dressing fetish that dates back to his days as Joey Bishop's sidekick.

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