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It's late. The clock is ticking. You have to be awake again in 6 hours. You're exhausted.
But you just really want to finish this one chapter.
One of your eyes starts to close — that's OK, you'll rest it for a minute, and then you'll rest the other one. You just want to stay awake to finish the next couple of pages.
This book is too good. You can't stop; you must know what happens.
Sometimes a book is better than sleep. Here are five recommendations for reads that will keep you up late.
Want to get your midnight chuckle on? Reviewer Heller McAlpin is your gal. She wrote this summer roundup of the five funniest books of the year so far.
There's an English dinner party that makes Downton Abbey seem tame, a bored housewife who discovers the erotic possibilities of Facebook, a Gen Y-er working with autistic kids and a hero caught in a "suffer sandwich." There's also a feminist treatise by the British columnist Caitlin Moran, which covers everything from growing up with no money to "torturous stilettos."
McAlpin's advice? "Read the section on bikini waxes in private."
It's hard to focus on bikini waxes when you're just worried about staying alive. Author Diana Lopez (no relation to the fighting Olympian of the same name who will be competing in tae kwon do this August) wrote this Three Books essay on girls who are pushed to their limits — and come out on top.
Looking for a great read about a murderous, Japanese housewife playing a game of cat and mouse with the police? Diana has a recommendation for you. Rather read about a mother-daughter pair who finally snap after years of bullying? Or a girl who makes her way onto a ship, killing pirates and pretending to be a boy? It's all here.
Speaking of fighters, singer Elton John is the ultimate survivor. In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep about his new memoir, he talked about his addiction to cocaine and how he got clean.
Painfully shy, John says that "cocaine was the drug that made me open up. I could talk to people." But even though he became more outgoing, he missed out on some major events. "I was just — as I say — in and out of a drug-fueled haze in the '80s. I did nothing to help people with AIDS. I was a gay man who really sat on the sidelines."
But John is no longer on the sidelines: He has morphed into a prominent AIDS activist with a foundation that makes grants to prevention and treatment programs.
Elton John may have left his drug habit behind, but for some, the seedier side of life is something to revel in — or at least, to write about. Author Bruce DaSilva, a thriller writer who sets many of his books in his hometown, took NPR's Jennifer Ludden on a tour of Providence, R.I., for our series, Crime in the City.
"It is big enough to have the usual array of urban problems," DaSilva says. "But it's so small that it's claustrophobic. It's very hard to keep a secret in places like that."
DaSilva's main character is an investigative reporter named Liam Mulligan who doesn't mind moral gray zones. "Mulligan's job is to uncover corruption," DaSilva says. "But he sees nothing wrong with — or even inconsistent with — placing a bet with his bookie or paying a small bribe to keep his decrepit car on the road."
Some people are born with detective skills; others must learn them. For author Jonathan Hayes, solving crimes has always been a passion, sparked by a series of books that he read as a kid, detailing the life and adventures of kid detective Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown.
That kid's creator, author Donald J. Sobel, died last week, and Hayes wrote an appreciation of the books that launched his career as both a forensics expert and a crime novelist: "I loved the sense of order and balance restored to the world at the end of each story — the true resolution at the heart of all good crime fiction."
Hayes' cases are more "complex and brutal" than Encyclopedia Brown's ever were, but he writes that he was still inspired by the boy's "common sense and logic" and his "hunt for the wrong detail."
It's those details that make these childhood favorites into classics.
Rosie Friedman is a member of the NPR Books Team.
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