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'50 Shades of Grey,' and 5 Less Painful Books for Beach Reading

Abe Lincoln's 'secret past' among summer pleasures

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
$7.99 paperback, $7.99 e-book

Abraham Lincoln

Who knew Abraham Lincoln kept secret diaries? That's the first thing we learn in this clever historical mashup, where our future 16th president "reveals" that the undead killed many of his loved ones, including his mother, forcing young Abe to swear vengeance on every last bloodsucker among them.

Goofy? Blasphemic? Hardly — this lively read is above all fun. Grahame-Smith weaves vampire-centric explanations into the pivotal events of Lincoln's day, going so far as to invoke period photos to support his theory. Interest in this story should spike when the Tim Burton movie hits theaters in late June.

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The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg
$25.95 hardback, $9.99 e-book

Stone Cuttter

The latest thriller from the popular Swedish novelist risks committing "vacation sabotage": After page 1, you'll abandon your lofty plans for a beach run in order to uncover the secrets of a coastal village where the residents know wa-a-ay too much about one another's business. Fans of English mysteries should devour this Scandinavian noir. Fair warning on that front, though: When it comes to exploring the darkest recesses of human nature, Lackberg rushes in where Dame Agatha feared to tread.

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
$35 hardback, $14.95 e-book

Steve Jobs

You long to sink your teeth into a meaty life story, but the recent rash of rock bios entices you not one bit. If that describes your summer wish list, try this juicy tale; Steve Jobs is lodged like a barnacle on best-seller lists.

Jobs, the Apple Computer founder who died of pancreatic cancer last October at age 56, granted Isaacson unlimited access to his eventful saga. The result runs nearly 600 pages — a bugs-and-all tale of how a smelly teenager (Jobs rarely showered) tinkering in his parents' garage became the most colorful computer mogul of our time. You may not fall in love with the mercurial Jobs — he could treat people deplorably — but you'll marvel at the myriad ways in which a single personality shaped the technology we use every day.

related video

Kids need books to read at the beach, too. The younger ones can be fully occupied with the work of writer Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Watch

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