One of my innocent pleasures is collecting and then creating my own summer reading lists. Book recommendations at any time of the year are always pleasurable, but there is something seductive about the idea that there will be even more time for reading in the summer.
Where did that notion come from? I wonder if it started when I was a child and June, July, and August meant open, no school days to decide how I wanted to spend or waste my time. I recall days entirely spent reading; days when I simply changed my location from bedroom to backyard lawn chair, to basement rec room, if it was really hot, to a chair in the living room, which my mother said I wore out one summer, and then back to my bedroom at night. Often we moved in the summer, which usually meant no friends and no planned activities until school started in the fall. Except for babysitting my younger brother and sister, my time was my own.
Summers seem busier now, but still the Summer Reading list beckons. National Public Radio offers lists, as does the New York Times, of course, and local newspapers and favorite magazines. Book stores and libraries label tables "Summer Reading." Just Google summer reading lists, and you will be amazed by all the possibilities. As a list junkie, I am willing to consider and consult them all.
Here's my list, knowing I won't be able to read them all and knowing I will add other titles along the way. (no particular order)
1. Z, A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
2. How It All Began by Elizabeth Berg
3. Mission to Paris by Alan Furst
4. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
5. The Pleasing Hour by Lily King
6. Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
7. Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon
8. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
9. Summer by Edith Wharton
1. Willa Cather's Letters (Bruce and I are planning a road trip to New Mexico this fall and will route ourselves to Red Cloud, Nebraska, her birthplace. I not only want to read her letters but of course reread my favorite Cather novels--more titles for the fiction list, oh my!)
2. The Monk and the Philosopher, A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life by Jean-Francois Revel and Matthieu Ricard
3. Paris to the Pyranees, A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James by David Downie
4. Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light by David Downie
5. Team of Rivals, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Now that everyone else has read it, but since a friend and I are planning a trip to Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln lived, I will dig in.)
In addition to my list of what I intend to read, here's a list of what I have read recently. Lately, I have had a run of reading memorable novels.
1. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
2. Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg
3. The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen
4. A Lady Cyclist's Guide to the Kashgar by Susanne Joinson
5. Benediction by Kent Haruf
6. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
One nonfiction book needs to be mentioned, too--Lean In, Women, Work and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
One more recommendation goes beyond summer reading lists: BookWomen, A Reader's Community For Those Who Love Women's Words is published six times a year by Minnesota Women's Press and is a wonderful source for titles and discussion about books and reading. (www.womenspress.com) The most recent issue focused on the topic of changing reading habits. Does what we read change as we get older, for example. Many women commented that they are reading more nonfiction than when they were younger. I have noticed that over the course of a year my fiction/nonfiction titles are more balanced than when I was younger and primarily preferring fiction. An intriguing exploration. How about you?
What's on your summer reading list? My list is open-ended and I am always open to additions. Now, where's my hammock?