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Top authors pick best summer books

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  • Jackie Collins recommends "Whacked," by Jules Asner, a tale of revenge set in L.A.
  • James Patterson picks the thriller "No Country for Old Men," by Cormac McCarthy
  • For a long weekend, Danielle Steele likes Joel Osteen's "Become a Better You"
  • Sophie Kinsella: "[Jane] Austen is a perennial delight"
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Real Simple

(REAL SIMPLE) -- With soaring gas prices and travel costs, the cheapest route to whisk yourself away this summer is through a good book. Ten top-selling authors share their favorite lazy-summer-day reads.

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One-day reads

Augusten Burroughs
"The Member of the Wedding," by Carson McCullers
"A slender 163 pages, but it inhales all the light, matter, and gravity in the vicinity. Stunningly evocative and gorgeously written, this truly magnificent book will replace your entire life for one perfect day."

Jackie Collins
"Whacked," by Jules Asner
"She's a first-time author, married to director Steven Soderbergh, and this delicious tale of revenge -- set in L.A. -- rocks!"

The Authors

Augusten Burroughs is the author of "A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father."

Jackie Collins has a new roman à clef, "Married Lovers," due out in June.

Nelson DeMille, the author of numerous suspense novels.

Janet Evanovich writes romance and mystery novels, most recently "Fearless Fourteen."

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote "Eat, Pray, Love."

Philippa Gregory writes historical fiction. "The Boleyn Inheritance" is now in paperback.

Sophie Kinsella is the author of "Remember Me?" released in February.

James Patterson writes for both adults and children. "The Final Warning" came out in March.

Jodi Picoult is the author of 15 novels. Her latest is "Change of Heart."

Danielle Steel will publish book number 75, "Rogue," in June.

Nelson Demille
"The Prince," by Niccolò Machiavelli
"It's, well...Machiavellian. A great help if you're dealing with a summer landlord or a difficult au pair."

Janet Evanovich
"The Concrete Blonde," by Michael Connelly
"A classic in Connelly's Harry Bosch detective series -- and one of my favorites."

Elizabeth Gilbert
"The Principles of Uncertainty," by Maira Kalman
"Gorgeous and touching. A quirky year-in-the-life as told by one of our most wonderful illustrators -- short in words, but rich in little visual pleasures."

Philippa Gregory
"Dragonwyck," by Anya Seton
"A gothic novel set in 1844 America. At times it's utterly ridiculous, but it is truly haunting. Think an American Jane Eyre at high speed. A great book to gulp down in a day."

Sophie Kinsella
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," by Mark Haddon
"Its hero, an autistic 15-year-old, is one of the most poignant in contemporary literature."

James Patterson
"No Country for Old Men," by Cormac McCarthy
"The only thriller I have ever read that also qualifies as art, at least in my mind."

Jodi Picoult
"The Third Angel," by Alice Hoffman
"I inhale anything Alice writes, but this stunning book is among her loveliest. Once I started it, I didn't put it down."

Danielle Steel
"Change of Heart," by Jodi Picoult
"Anything by Jodi Picoult."

• Books for a long weekend

Augusten Burroughs
"The House of Mirth," by Edith Wharton
"The only thing more delicious than spending a weekend reading The House of Mirth is reading it in the grass or on the sand. Mosquitoes will leave you alone. It will not rain. This is Edith Wharton. Nature bends."

Jackie Collins
"The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Jay Gatsby is so charismatic, sexy, and mysterious, and I love him. Good to share with a guy in bed!"

Don't Miss

Nelson Demille
"The Gold Coast," "by me"
"What can I say? Read it on the beach and attract favorable comments."

Janet Evanovich
"The Two Minute Rule," by Robert Crais
It's Crais, for crying out loud! Who wouldn't want to spend a weekend with Robert Crais?"

Elizabeth Gilbert
"The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down," by Anne Fadiman
"The heartbreaking true story of an immigrant Hmong child's epilepsy and the American doctors who tried to 'cure' her (not realizing that traditional Hmong families see epilepsy as something of a blessing). A story of moral and cultural complexity."

Philippa Gregory
"Lottery," by Patricia Wood
"A hugely feel-good novel that had me laughing out loud at the hero's rise to happiness from absolute despair."

Sophie Kinsella
"The Tenderness of Wolves," by Stef Penny
"A gripping, atmospheric murder story set in the snowy wastes of Canada, with some wonderful descriptions of an extreme landscape. I never knew I could be so riveted by snow!"

James Patterson
"Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge," by Evan S. Connell
"Astonishingly different points of view, in two books, from a wife and a husband, on the history of a family's life in Kansas City."

Jodi Picoult
"Skeletons at the Feast," by Chris Bohjalian
"A Bohjalian novel is guaranteed to be rich in character and gorgeous writing. This latest, based on a real journal, delves into the history of World War II."

Danielle Steel
"Become a Better You," by Joel Osteen

• Books to savor all summer

Augusten Burroughs
"Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, and Tillie Olsen. Spend the entire summer with them. It doesn't matter what you read or which order you read them in. The wisdom and heartbreak centers of your brain will be electrified. I do not have the words to tell you what a fine summer you will have and how much you will never regret it."

Jackie Collins
"The Godfather," by Mario Puzo
"You can re-reread it all summer and it will still seem fresh and so true. The characters jump off the page."

Nelson Demille
"Of Human Bondage," by W. Somerset Maugham
"Not for the beach, but for rainy days and quiet summer nights. One of my favorites."

Janet Evanovich
65 Years of Little Golden Books
"Pictures, smiles, happy endings -- a trip back to simpler times."

Elizabeth Gilbert
"The Treasury of Oz," by L. Frank Baum
"If by some miracle I had a summer to sit and read, I would treat myself to rereading the most delightful books of my childhood -- the Oz books. Baum sent plucky Dorothy back to Oz more than a dozen times after The Wizard of Oz, and her wondrous adventures just get better. If you can borrow a 10-year-old to share this experience with, all the better!"

Philippa Gregory
"History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe," by Rodney Bolt
"This takes you into the fictional heart of Shakespeare's England, suggests a wonderfully imaginative explanation of the genius of the Bard's plays, makes your head spin with possibilities -- and makes you wonder who did write all those wonderful plays."

Sophie Kinsella
Jane Austen: The Complete Novels
"Austen is a perennial delight."

James Patterson
"One Hundred Years of Solitude," by Gabriel García Márquez
"Absolutely magnificent magical realism, and probably my favorite novel ever."

Jodi Picoult
"Sadly, the only books I'll be savoring all summer are college information guides, since I have a senior in high school next year."

Danielle Steel
"Danielle Steel :)"

• Books to dip into and out of

Augusten Burroughs
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
"We know Emily Dickinson lived in olden days and she was a poet and seldom left her home. But read one of her poems -- any one will do -- and you'll see the evidence of a glittering genius. You will be amazed by what one brilliant woman can accomplish alone in her bedroom without e-mail, a telephone, or a best friend."

Jackie Collins
"Anything by Elmore Leonard. Short, smart, hilarious."

Nelson Demille
"The Atlantic Book of British and American Poetry," edited by Edith Sitwell
"Sitwell picked the best of the best in the English language. Excellent with a bottle of wine on the porch or the patio."

Janet Evanovich
"Disney Princess The Ultimate Sticker Book"
"Stick Snow White and Cinderella on the pages and make up your own stories."

Elizabeth Gilbert
"Meditations," by Marcus Aurelius
"I keep a copy by my bed. And the fact that the ruminations of a second-century Roman emperor bring me comfort, delight, and inspiration is a clue to how timeless this is. Even those of us who aren't governing empires can benefit from these musings on courage and decency."

Philippa Gregory
"Sappho: A New Translation," translated by Mary Barnard
"It sounds fearfully heavy, but it is absolutely contemporary in feel. A friend who teaches a course in Sappho sent me one poem: 'Don't ask me what to wear.' This is a poet who lived thousands of years ago, yet her work will make a modern woman laugh with recognition."

Sophie Kinsella
"The Portable Dorothy Parker," edited by Marion Meade
"I adore her wit and dark humor."

James Patterson
"Nine Horses," by Billy Collins
"Collins makes writing accessible poetry seem easy."

Jodi Picoult
The Best American Short Stories
"I am a sucker for this collection and keep a copy of the 2007 edition, edited by Stephen King, in the guest room of our lake house."

Danielle Steel
"Anything religious."

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