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Column: Mary's hot summer reads

With the weather finally heating up, it's time to turn the page from winter to summer, and put together my poolside reading list. A team of local all-star readers here in Farmington inspired me to head out to the library. Earlier this month the Independent reported that Sara Drazkowski's fifth grade class at Akin Hills Elementary scored as one of the top 100 reading classes in the Pizza Hut Book It! Program. That is the top 100 for the entire country. These fifth graders deserve a round of applause for a whole year of dedication to reading. After seeing what Ms. Drazkowski's class accomplished this year, I'm inspired to set a few reading goals for myself, and I'm sure you are too. So I decided to share a few of my top picks for summer books, just to get you started.

If you haven't read a book yet by Malcolm Gladwell, this is your summer to pick one up. Gladwell is an irreverent journalist with a crazy halo of curly brown hair. But more importantly, he is a guy that combines real science research with all of the fun of pop culture. If you feel like you missed your chance to do something great in life because of a lack of genetic endowments, then you need to read Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success. Science shows your success is not an accident of birth, but a combination of a few good genes with 10,000 hours of hard, sweaty practice. There is definitely something to be said for hard work, and Glad-well does the re-search to prove hard work is just as critical as talent is to success. If scientific research sounds a little heavy for your summer reading, believe me, Gladwell's writing is science you can enjoy by the pool. I read his entire book of essays on social science, What the Dog Saw, while soaking in a hot tub in Arizona. By the end of the chapter on investment strategy, my skin looked like a prune, but I still couldn't put the book down.

If music is more your bag than science, than pick up Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman. As a small-town North Dakota native, Klosterman's words hold a humorous modesty that rings true for small-town residents like us. Klosterman's tale of growing up as a big-time rock fan in a tiny town had me laughing out loud, from the hair-metal posters on his bedroom walls to his pilgrimage to Wahpeton, N.D. to buy Motley Crue tapes at Pamida. I read the book cover-to-cover rocking on a boat in the lake in the July sunshine. My left arm was sunburned from holding the book at the same angle for the entire afternoon. That night I re-read the best parts under the stars.

Science and small town rock and roll aren't the only topics I indulge in over the summer. If you're thinking about firing up the grill, then I have a scrumptious treat for you. However, you'll have to excuse at least one swear word to find this treat. Mitch Omer, the chef and owner of Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis, divulges his recipes for wildly delicious Bison burgers in his cookbook, Damn Good Food: 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen. I promise, I'm done swearing for now, but I had to give you the actual title so you could Google this book. Not only does Omer share the real recipes for treats like his Mahnomin Porridge (which I'm addicted to), he shares his personal roller-coaster ride through life in this unique book. As Omer reveals his exciting, and sometimes painful past, you begin to get a glimpse behind the dark décor of Hell's Kitchen.

While three books is a short list, I hope this is just enough to get you started on your summer reading. This summer promises some of the hottest reads yet. Pop a book in your beach bag, slip into flip-flops, and pull up a chair on the deck of the Farmington city pool. I'll see you there, book in hand.