It’s that time, once again: we have signed up (Maddie and I, but also Owen this year) for the Summer Reading Club at our local public library. We’ve done this before, in 2009 and 2010. This is a great way to encourage kids to read over the summer: I just wish the summer camps we often enroll one or both kids in would also encourage reading by allowing some quiet time during their usually packed days! I know their main goal is to keep kids active, but reading is an activity too. However, there are evenings and weekends, and also not as many weeks of camp this year as in the past (for Owen especially–he’s getting a bit old for the available options). So we’ll just make sure some of that time is spent in the company of books! One way I encourage the kids to persist is by pledging to match them, which means this year I am supposed to get through (cough cough) 30 books in the next 8 weeks. For some people (I’m looking at you, Steve Donoghue!) that’s nothing, but … Mind you, they don’t all have to be long or serious books, and I believe re-reads are acceptable, at least occasionally. Last summer I read some YA fiction, which was helpful! Maybe it’s time I read Philip Pullman.
Anyway, I have lots of ideas, some of them ones that I see were on my mind this time last year: Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, William Volmann’s Europe Central, War and Peace. Maybe (following Woody Allen’s lead) I can speed read that one: it’s about Russia, right? I’m glad to see I did get through some of the other ones there, including Bad Blood, The Children’s Book, and The Giant, O’Brien. I mentioned in my last post that I’m looking forward to Testament of a Generation, which I began today–the pieces are short and the voices are emphatic and impassioned, making it a good choice for a sunny holiday. I am keen to try the Maisie Dobbs mysteries; I actually just bought the e-book of the first one from Kobo (they tempted me with their special offers!) so that may be up next. And I’m interested in the Elly Griffiths series, of which I also have the first, and Annie has convinced me to try Helene Tursten. That should set me up for mystery reading!
I have read a couple of the short stories in the big Elizabeth Bowen collection I took out of the library soon after reading The Heat of the Day; I’d like to read more, and also The House in Paris and The Death of the Heart. Rosamond Lehmann’s The Weather in the Streets is sitting right next to the Bowen volumes on my shelf here, and nearby are the two Rebecca Wests I picked up last week. That looks like a great cluster. Also nearby is Penelope Lively’s City of the Mind, which perhaps I will save to read on the plane to London in late August. And then there’s Old Filth not far away, and also Laila Lalami’s Secret Son still waiting from my Boston book-buying binge. You see why I think I should put off getting State of Wonder? No matter how good it is, I’m sure it isn’t really more worth reading this summer than all these ones I already have.
Somewhat less enticing are the rest of the Richard III novels I’ve got stacked on my desk, which I need to at least look at before I feel I can get my essay quite underway. I’m not sure if it’s kosher to count them towards my summer total if I kind of skim them…but I’m just not sure, either, if I will care to read them patiently. They look like easy enough reading, but to some extent that’s my objection (the Philippa Gregory novel in particular looks like it’s written for simple-minded people, with the short sentences, short paragraphs, short chapters, and laboriously simplistic first-person narration–is this why she’s so popular, do you suppose? because she gives her readers no work to do? or do I underestimate her books?).
Probably it makes more sense to talk about reading ideas then reading plans. Who wants to plan out their reading in some rigid way? Sure, it’s nice to cross things off your list, but it’s also nice to follow where things lead, from one book to another, from one interest to another. My sabbatical is over (more about that in another post) and pretty soon, once again, reading purely by choice will be a luxury. Even now, with fall classes looming and thesis chapters still appearing with regularity in my inbox, there are plenty of things I have to read. We’ll just have to see, then, where my summer reading takes me.
If you are looking for ideas for your own summer reading (which seems unlikely, since anyone reading this is probably, like me, quite overwhelmed with possibilities already–but just in case!) you might enjoy browsing through the two-part summer reading feature I ‘curated’ and contributed to for the new issue of Open Letters Monthly (which itself is a good reading option, I think). The members of the team pitched in to suggest books we love that we think are good for taking along to the cottage or enjoying on the back porch. I found it fascinating, and often surprising, which books people decided on. I think the two I find most tempting are I, Claudius (how have I not read that already?) and Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts. Here are the links to the feature, in case you want to take a look: Part I, Part II.