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Summer Reading Sampler

And all of this is just a quick peek into the book's rabbit hole. Through it lies a vast network of symbols and metaphors that run rampant through the entire book — many of which only hint at but fail to reveal the nature of their deeper meanings. The reader is forced into a state of passive acceptance of the numerous plot twists and mind-bending surrealism that for some will prove to be the novel's charm and for others may appear as its downfall. But taking its lead from the works of authors such as Vonnegut, Bulgakov and Garcia Marquez, "Kafka on the Shore" moves magically and with a dizzying momentum that is sure to treat kindly those readers who celebrate raw imagination. — Hutch Hill

In "Garlic and Sapphires" (The Penguin Press, $24.95) Ruth Reichl describes her years as restaurant critic for The New York Times in an eminently readable narrative that reveals Reichl's talents as a writer, a gourmand and an intimate of New York City. Much of the fun develops as Reichl describes the personalities and costumes she invented to avoid the preferential treatment accorded her position. Her premise: Dining out is theater; thus ambience and service supersede flavor. Her egalitarian principle: Every diner must be accorded the same amenities as the rich and famous.

Each epicurean adventure reappears as the review that actually appeared in The New York Times, often accompanied by the recipe for the starring dish. But sometimes the recipe is a favorite of her young son, who desires her to eat at home more often, foreshadowing her eventual leap from Times critic to editor-in-chief of Gourmet. Another reason for leaving is the prickly atmosphere at The Times, and her revelations of foibles of the bigwigs at the newspaper are often as juicy as her recipes. Several of the recipes are for the Asian cuisine she champions. Reichl takes us on a memorable outing to Flushing to experience sushi as we'll never know it in Richmond. However, if the reader is vegan, beware: Reichl's predilection for foie gras (liver of force-fed geese) and dancing shrimp (shrimp boiled alive in wine) reveal that her egalitarianism is reserved strictly for hungry humans. — Jennifer Yane

"Antiques Road Show" meets "Murder She Wrote" in "Stealing With Style" (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $22.95), due for release this month. Local author and experienced antiques appraiser Emyl Jenkins introduces us to the first of her mystery series with more of a how-valuable-was-it than a who-done-it. Reluctant divorcée and antiques expert Sterling Glass finds herself following a trail of missing valuables from their late owners to New York auction houses to antique dealers on rambling paths that never quite converge. Each chapter opens with an informative mini antiques advice column whose relevance is discovered as the chapter unfolds. The history and intrinsic value behind highlighted pieces of furniture, jewelry, figurines and silver tea urns take a front seat to the dilemmas of the characters or the plot of the novel. Indeed, the true life and verve of the book are found within the animation of the inanimate. Rich with Southern colloquialisms but riddled with the prosaic advice of the leading lady's dead mother, the language of the book jumps from fresh and funny to clichéd and digressive. "Stealing With Style" does an excellent job of making the complicated world of old and rare things more accessible to the average reader, but leaves those with a craving for high-stakes mystery hungry for more. — Valley Haggard

It's time for a summer reading list from the guy whose favorite "reading" has included an audio version of a pocket French medical dictionary. Yes, David Sedaris, the dark child of the memoir who battled language in "Me Talk Pretty One Day," has another book out, "Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules" (Simon & Schuster, $14.95). This time around, though, he's trying his hand as editor.

His introduction reveals his first tentative steps as a reader of literature at a small community library and his discovery of the community of authors he brings together in this book, published to support a student writing center in Brooklyn. Here he culls together some of his favorite short stories, ones he says have stuck with him over the years. And they all hold a mirror up to his own style, a fine black humor entwined with the horrors, rather than the joys, of revelation. Katherine Mansfield dresses up the cosmos of upper-class entertaining with giddy girls, cream puffs and a beautiful dead man in a slum. Jhumpa Lahiri and Richard Yates give us silly, sad tales of disappointment from faraway yet familiar cultures. Then there's Jincy Willett's brilliant look at the collapse of an advice columnist. From the cockeyed views of Dorothy Parker and Frank Gannon to the gross intimacy of the body as revealed by Lorrie Moore and Tobias Wolff, it's interesting and a little scary to see that Sedaris' warped talent has such strong roots. And that he's influencing the next generation. — Brandon Reynolds

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