When I was a kid, summer wasn’t about popsicles, running through sprinklers, or fireworks on the Fourth of July. To me, summer was all about books–stacks and stacks of books–and long, uninterrupted hours in which to read them. The summer between fifth and sixth grades was devoted to biographies about the wives of Henry the VIII; the last pages of Little Women were finished while sitting on a swing at a nearby park after my mom encouraged me to go outside and get some fresh air; and I read Nancy Drew mysteries at night when it was too hot to sleep.
Most of my books were borrowed from the library across town. There was a ten book limit for patrons under the age of 18, so I usually made two trips a week by bike. The black asphalt-covered streets radiated heat as I pedaled, but a backpack full of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries and Lois Lowry novels made the effort worthwhile. Each July, when I traveled to the South to see my dad, my suitcase would be half clothes and half books. If I ran out of reading material before my visit was over, I’d filch John Jakes novels from my stepmother’s bookshelves.
Even though I am now an adult and my summers aren’t as carefree as they once were, I still can’t shake my childhood habit of accumulating reading material as the temperature rises. Here are the books I have been hoarding on my “to-read” shelf, waiting for the weather to turn. My books for summer.
I still maintain that the best novels being written today are those within the Young Adult genre. They are sharply intelligent, timely, and insightful for teens and adults alike. Young Adult author John Green was recommended to me by the daughter of a friend. After reading three of his books (An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska, and, my favorite, The Fault In Our Stars), I declare him one of the best Young Adult authors currently on the shelf. His work is fresh, funny, and poignant. I have two remaining books by Green to read–Paper Towns and Will Grayson, Will Grayson–and I plan on savoring them in the next couple of months.
The other Young Adult novel on my summer reading shelf is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Published in 1999, this is the only novel written by Chbosky. He is better known as the screenwriter of the film “Rent” and producer/writer of the TV series “Jericho.” The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been called a modern-day Catcher In the Rye.
When it comes to Adult Fiction, I am looking forward to reading several novels by writers who are new to me. Coincidently, each story revolves around a child: In the Seas There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda is based on the true story of Enaiatollah Akbari who at the age of ten embarked on a five-year journey to escape from his home in Afghanistan and find asylum in Italy; Eowyn Ivey’s book The Snow Child, set in Alaska, tells the tale of a young girl’s sudden appearance at a remote cabin; and Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert is based on the disappearance of a child who may or may not have existed. I also plan on reading Joan Didion’s critically acclaimed memoir about losing her daughter entitled Blue Nights. Didion is the author of the brilliant The Year of Magical Thinking.
But readers can not live in fiction alone, so I will continue my exploration of food and health by reading Deep Nutrition by Catherine and Luke Shanahan. The Shanahans use research in physiology and genetics to examine how food influences our health and appearance. After reading Food Rules by food journalist Michael Pollan, I am interested in learning more about his eater’s manifesto “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plant.” So I picked up a copy of In Defense of Food. My oldest daughter has recently committed herself to vegetarianism, so she and I are going to take a journey into the subject by reading the titles A Teen’s Guide to Going Vegetarian by Judy Krizmanic and Vegetables Rock! by Stephanie Pierson.
My guilty reading pleasure is mysteries, specifically British mysteries. Nothing beats a good Agatha Christie novel. I purchased a used copy of The Mysterious Affair at Styles after noting that the main character in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Lacuna mentions this title several times. I am also excited to have acquired a copy of Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear. This is the ninth book in Winspear’s excellent Maisie Dobbs series, which is set in England in the period between the World Wars. After seeing the title The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King on a list of “Best Mysteries,” I figured it was a must-read and picked up a copy at my favorite used bookstore, East Side Books.
When my personal reading supplies run low, I am hoping to borrow library copies of the latest books by the “Annes.” Anne Tyler has a new character-driven book out this summer called The Beginner’s Goodbye; Anna Quindlen has written a memoir about friendship, marriage, and mothers entitled Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake; and in her memoir Some Assembly Required, Anne Lamott picks up where she left off in her hilarious book Operating Instructions . . . except this time she is the grandma not the mother.
Ah, the happy anticipation of summer reading.
So tell me, what are you planning on reading this summer? I’d love to know so I can add it to my shelf.