Summer reading: Quirky and unusual
Agonizing Love

The Golden Era of Romance Comics

Michael Barson

Harper Design: $29.99

Forget Spider-Man or the X-Men. Instead, with "Agonizing Love," dip into the adventures of a young lady confronted with the horrible creature known as "Mother's Boy"! Or listen to the inner probings of an anguished woman, at her husband's hospital bedside, asking the burning question, "Was I a wicked wife?" Michael Barson has selected excerpts from the love comics genre that thrived from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. It was a wildly successful genre, although, as Barson points out, it declined after "publishers sowed the seeds of their own undoing, glutting the market to the point where even the assembled legions of female comic-book readers couldn't keep all of these love publications afloat." Barson's book offers a rich, overlooked angle on the comics industry. Here you'll find stories that usually (but not always) reach for that best of all romantic endings: "No words were necessary in that wonderful, breathless moment …our kiss said more than a thousand words!"

The Art of Roughhousing

Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It

Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen

Quirk Books: $14.95

50 Dangerous Things

(You Should Let Your Children Do)

Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler

New American Library: $18

The idea behind these two books — that a good childhood involves some healthy, sometimes reckless play — isn't what's quirky: The diagrams are! Want to know the proper position for launching your son like a human cannonball? This falls under the "hard" category in the levels of difficulty and requires a crucial item, as illustrated by a diagram: a mattress. The last thing you want is for your 6-year-old to do a face-plant on the family room floor. These two books are fun, worthy successors to the bestsellers "The Dangerous Book for Boys" and "The Daring Book for Girls."

The Good Book

A Humanist Bible

A.C. Grayling

Walker & Co.: $35

If you're seeking reading of the more meditative sort, British philosopher A.C. Grayling has drawn on a variety of world traditions to create the prose of "The Good Book." The book is formatted to resemble the traditional categories in the Bible — sections are titled, for instance, "Genesis," "Parables," "Songs," "Epistles." The similarity, however, ends there. In a section titled "Histories," "offered to preserve remembrance of what mankind has experienced," Grayling draws mostly on ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers; the section "Songs" (passages are drawn from Chinese and Persian poetry) celebrates divinity as we find it in each other: "Do I love you for the fine soft waves of hair/That fall about your neck when you undress?"