Summer readin’, had me a blast!
Right under my profile photo, my Facebook “intro” simply says, “Lit lover, through and through.” I don’t remember when exactly I wrote that, though it was definitely before I opened a bookstore. I also don’t remember when exactly it was that I fell in love with books, but summer reading most definitely had something to do with it.
I was a nerdy kid. Like, bookishly nerdy. While most of my classmates were counting down the days, hours, minutes until no more pencils, no more books, I was itching to get a hold of that magical (to me, at least) reading list. Sure, I spent plenty of sunny days getting prune-skinned at the neighborhood pool, but I was just as happy to evade the Southern swelter by staying inside and diving into a story.
Summer reading introduced me to the likes of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, along with others. My within-the-pages summer adventures included a log-raft journey along the currents of the Mississippi River and an action-packed (if doomed) whale-hunting expedition on the swells of the Atlantic.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing, of course. I wasn’t immune to procrastinating and sometimes had to cram a book or two into the last couple days of summer break. I was also initially, admittedly, terribly bored by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (with its snooze-inducing abundance of “thous” and “haths”). But then something clicked. I adjusted to — appreciated, even — the gorgeous lusciousness of the language to the point of finding it difficult to put the book down.
These days, one telltale sign of summer’s arrival at my shop, Her Bookshop, is that folks come in asking for recommendations of what to read on their vacation — a “beach read,” even if their destination is the mountains or only as far as their front porch. This usually means they’re looking for something not too dense or difficult. A page-turner.
No, I do not recommend The Scarlet Letter.
Instead, I ask, “Fiction or nonfiction?” And begin pulling books based on the answer (to this and a few follow-up questions). This summer’s go-to lighter fare includes Less by Andrew Sean Greer, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, Chemistry by Weike Wang, Calypso by David Sedaris, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, and Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny, along with perennial favorites like Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.
But what about this desire, as an adult, to read something “brainless” during the warmer months? Could it be a rebellion of sorts against the “chore” of required summer reading? I’m just hypothesizing, because (see above). As for these days, when I’m on a beach, I confess that I have trouble concentrating on a book at all, my attention preferring the mesmerizing repetition of breaking waves (and the people watching, of course).
What say you? Did you enjoy or despise summer reading while you were growing up? As an adult, do you prefer lighter books when the days themselves are lighter longer? I’m curious and hope you’ll consider popping into the shop to chat about this or any other bookish topic that’s on your mind these languid, perfect-for-reading, summer days.