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No sentences longer than 10 words. No words so long you need a java-hit to understand them.

Now that's summer reading, magazine-style.

Grazing the periodical racks, couple of this, couple of that. Some slick and glossy, some maximum PC, some total trash. You're not getting graded on your reading habits, anyway. And any summer mag choice is going to end up with a coaster-sized cold-drink circle on the cover (or else you're taking it too seriously).

Do a walk-through with this handful and you'll have enough dirt, buzz words and name-dropping, party-hopping brain mush to last all summer. Start with Utne Reader, XXL and Wired. Reading Utne's more like clicking around the Web than ever before. So many connecting links to explore, you need a highlighter. And although Slim Shady might be topping the charts, XXL is where you'll find out what Dr. Dre says. Read Wired cover to cover every few months and you'll understand why hugging a tree isn't such a flaky idea after all.

Maybe the "Harry Potter Smackdown" next month will pull a few kids off the flat-screen MP3 carousel. Until then Teen People and Jane rule. What, you sit there reading Vanity Fair and expect your kids to be reading Herman Melville? Let 'em go for the gloss; school's out.

For yourself, try the feature article on the Jayhawks in June's No Depression and the sheer vitality and cool confidence of the July issue of Paper. It's obvious that people in New York never sleep, or eat something simple like a grilled-cheese sandwich or an apple.

On the local scene: Every year, the Sonya Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center at UNC-Chapel Hill showcases its best and brightest in their magazine, sauti mpya (Kiswahili for "new voice"). The first African-American literary journal published on the campus in the university's history, sauti mpya contains poetry, graphic arts and photography by artists from all over North Carolina.

Finally, for beachgoers, Coastwatch, published by N.C. State as part of the North Carolina Sea Grant, celebrates our shores from an ecological and political perspective, kind of a Southern Exposure meets the coastline. Katie Mosher is the versatile editor, publicist, writer and networker, and Durham author David Cecelski contributes a regular "Historian's Coast" column.

More by John Valentine

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