There's nothing wrong with reading for entertainment. 

Three for Pleasure

Reading doesn't always have to be continuing education. There are books that can be read for simple entertainment. A good one of this type should probably be saved for an airport or a waiting room.

Earl Hamner of "The Waltons" fame has given us just such a book in his "The Avocado Drive Zoo" (Cumberland Publishing, $16.95). The story of his and his wife Jane's love for and care of animals (ranging from turtles to coyotes) is guaranteed to give you a laugh no matter how late your plane or your doctor is.

Another new read, "Ethel & Ernest," by Raymond Briggs (Knopf, $21) is entertainment, but with the addition of tenderness, understanding and nostalgia. In the form of an enchanting comic book, Briggs tells us the story of his parents from their meeting in 1928 until their death. Ernest is a milkman, Ethel a housemaid. Both are English and together they live through the events that changed England and the world. The love and respect that Briggs has for his parents shines through this little book.

It is a big stretch to call Stephen King's "Hearts in Atlantis" entertainment. The only justification for this is that it is a story that is almost impossible to put down before you finish its 522 pages.

King is clearly serious when he tells us eloquently about the '60s and the Vietnam War. By the time the reader finishes "Why We're in Vietnam," the fourth segment of this big book, he's given us a huge dose of the horrors of that war and a vet's assessment of the Boomer generation: "... I loathe and despise my generation. ... We had an opportunity to change everything. We actually did. Instead we settled for designer jeans, two tickets to Mariah Carey at Radio City Music Hall, frequent-flyer miles, James Cameron's "Titanic," and retirement portfolios ..."

Despite a few silly plot twists, this is a book worth reading.

Heads Up: On Oct. 28 the new Patrick O'Brian book, "Blue at the Mizzen" (W.W. Norton, $24) will be released. Fanatical fans are already on waiting lists. If you are one of them and knowledge of this new release skipped you, this is a word to the wise. Also, planned for release in April is a life of Patrick O'Brian by Richmond's Dean King, author of "A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O'Brian's Seafaring Tales" (Henry Holt, paper, $16).

As for mysteries, look for "Occam's Razor," by Archer Mayor (Mysterious, $23.95). This one had a starred review in Publisher's Weekly and will be released in November.

If you are looking for a new set of mysteries, enthusiastic readers tell us that Arturo Perez-Reverte's thrillers, which have been translated from the Spanish, are wonderful and very accurate in the descriptions of Spain. Try one of these:

"The Flanders Panel" (Bantam Books, paper, $12.95)

"The Club Dumas" (Vintage Books, paper, $13)

"Fencing Master" (Harcourt Brace,

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