Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Summer Reading

Yes, it is that time of the year again--or finally! It is the time of the year when lists of suggested books for summer reading are abundant and hard to resist. This past Sunday the New York Times Book Review devoted itself to the subject, as did the book section of our local paper. National Public Radio always has a good list to offer, too, along with numerous online resources, but one of my favorite ongoing sources is BookWomen, A Readers' Community For Those Who Love Women's Words. The most recent issue is loaded with good suggestions from BookWomen readers. 

Even though I don't need to make a distinction between reading in the summer and reading the rest of the year, there is something seductive about creating a list of books I want to read during these summer months. I know I don't have any more or less reading time in June, July, or August, for reading is part of my daily life no matter what. I resonate with what Wendy Lesser said in her book, Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering:
       Time is a gift, but it can be a suspect one, especially in 
       a culture that values frenzy. When I began this book,
       almost everyone I knew seemed to be busier than I was.
       I supported myself, contributed my share to the upkeep
       of the household, and engaged in all the usual wifely
       and motherly duties and pleasures. But I still had time
       to read…I had constructed a life in which I could be
       energetic but also lazy; I could rush, but I would never
       be rushed. It was a perfect situation for someone who
       loved to read. p. 3

I have always made time, found time, to read, but still, never was there enough time. Summer seems to promise more time, so perhaps that is why I plot out what I want to read during these months. Here are my lists:

Books Currently On My Shelf 
1.   Mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear. I have read the first five in the series, but have several more to read. Set in England in the 1930's, the main character, Maisie Dobbs, was a nurse during WWI and is currently a detective-psychologist. To be honest, I thought the first book in the series was quite lightweight, but the character and the plots have deepened since that first one, and I am quite attached to Maisie. 
2.    The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol--a recommendation from my husband. Written by a French author and set in Paris, the book is about ghostwriting a book that becomes a literary sensation. 
3.     The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin. This book has been on my shelf for a LONG time. With "summer" in the title and a setting in Maine, I think it's time has come. 
4.     Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson. Do you know the catalogue Bas Bleu? I get some of my best reading recommendations from that source--books never on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, I might add.  This is another book about writing a novel--is there a theme developing for this summer? The plus for me is the English setting. 
5.     Love Falls by Esther Freud who is the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud. This time the setting is Tuscany. We won't be traveling this summer, but I can still travel, thanks to my book choices.  The main character "sets off on a summer adventure full of danger, first love, and untold consequences that will irrevocably change her life." This is another one of my Bas Bleu finds. 
6.     The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg. Short stories for in-between other books. Cleansing like sherbet between courses. 

1.     Travels with Myself and Another, A Memoir by Martha Gellhorn. Gellhorn was an important war correspondent and Ernest Hemingway's third wife. I have always been more interested in Hemingway's wives than in Hemingway himself. Perhaps you read the novel The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, about his first wife, Hadley and now there is a new novel that may tempt me this summer, Mrs Hemingway by Rachel Wood. 
2.   Crossing the Borders of Time, A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed by Leslie Maitland. Maitland's mother, a German Jew, fled to Cuba in 1942 and lost touch with her love, a Catholic Frenchman. Maitland sets out to find the man her mother never forgot. My father read this book and passed it onto me. 
3.    Geography of Home, Writings on Where We Live by Akiko Busch. This seems like a perfect title for me.
4.    One Square Inch of Silence, One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World by Gordon Hempton. Traveling across the U.S, the author listens. 
5.    On Looking, Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz.  After a book on silence and listening, then a book on seeing. 
6.    The Circumference of Home, One Man's Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life by Kurt Hoelting. The author lives in the Pacific Northwest and from his concerns about global warming, he discovers an "adventure of body and spirit." 
7.    Inner Christianity, A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition by Richard Smolley. My spiritual reading tends to be more spontaneous--being led to a book that helps me deepen my relationship to the Divine or one that fills a need based on my practice as a spiritual director. This book feels important to me, but I don't yet know why. 

Books I Want to Read Because My Granddaughter Is Reading Them.
1.     The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I bought her a copy of this book, and she is reading it now--probably has finished it. Maybe after I read it, we could watch the movie too.
2.      The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Another movie tie-in. She recently read this and liked it very much and said I should read it, too. That's all the incentive I need. 

Books Coming Out Later This Summer
1. A new book by the mystery writer whose books I devoured last year--Louise Penny --out in August.
2.  A new book by another mystery writer, Susan Hill, whom I enjoy as well. 

Books I Am Currently Reading and Will Definitely Finish
1.    The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, the Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. No matter what you thought of her memoir, this book is quite the different animal. Rich characters with a fascinating look at the 19th century world of botanical exploration. Sounds dull? Not at all. 
2.     No Saints Around Here, A Caregiver's Days by Susan Allen Toth, a Minnesota writer whose previous down to earth memoirs have always appealed. This book does as well. 
3.     Handling the Truth, On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart. I am trying to trick myself into returning to a large writing project. 

One Book I Read and Wonder Why It Won the Pulitzer
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. What did I miss in this 800 page book that so intrigued everyone?  I found it to be repetitive and in great need of editing. I wearied of the ongoing drug scenes that seemed to be included for their own sake. Yes, there were some amazing paragraphs, and I did keep cheering for the main character, but enough is enough. 

This Month's Book Group Selection
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich. A series of related short stories. I loved this collection and look forward to rereading before we meet. I also read her memoir, Shelter about her cabin in Northern Minnesota. I can't resist sharing her last paragraph: "In a dawning that has come to me with glacial slowness but with the clarity of my long-ago barefoot moment on the grassy shoreline, I've realized that while living wedged between the memories of a life and an uncertain future, perhaps the best place to be standing is here. Now." p. 208

One Last Note
A friend sent me a delicious treat recently, a book called Women Who Read Are Dangerous, a collection of paintings and photographs of women reading. Karen Jay Fowler paints her own picture of of female readers in her foreword to the book. I leave you with this:
      She is young and in her own bed. Her parents allow a certain
      amount of bedtime reading, but all too soon her mother 
      or father will come to turn out the light, tell her that
      it's time to sleep. The door will be left open when the 
      parent leaves to ensure the light stays off. The girl will
      wait until she hears her parents' voices in another room,
      knows they are occupied with other matters. Then she will
      make a cave under the blankets, open her book inside the
          That girl knows the value of a good flashlight; she 
       learned that from Nancy Drew. She will read until she
       falls asleep, and neither her parents not anyone else
       will ever be the wiser. p. 19

I hope you have stockpiled batteries for a summer of reading.

An Invitation
The obvious questions is what do you plan to read this summer and what suggestions for summer reading can you offer. I would love to know.  
You may want to refer to my 2013 post about summer reading:

Happy reading!

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