June 12, 2012
That Summer Reading List
This is the time of year when we see Summer Reading Lists popping up. I just saw one this morning. These lists play a subtle magic on me until I stop and think about them.
Then they strike me as holdovers from school days, mementos of a time long past—in illo tempore—when our lives were simpler, when summers were an extended idyll and children enrolled in summer reading programs at the local library. You recall those days of summers past, of long days of relaxation—warm days, toes in the sand, Adirondack chairs facing still waters.
I also suspect the Summer Reading List is perpetuated by academics as well as the professional, chattering and leisure classes who retire (or make like they do) for a month to vacation homes at the lake, the beach or in the mountains. And of course the Summer Reading List phenomenon is a cheap and staple filler for magazines, websites and such, particularly the ones that thrive on feeding dreams.
But to tell the truth, I think my reading time drops during the summer. Regionally, where I live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a time for getting outdoors. In my world there are fish to catch, bays to sail, mountains to climb, trails to hike and clams to dig. There are farmer’s markets, festivals of all sorts, concerts in the parks and baseball games. If you have time to spend and don’t play out the long daylight hours for all their worth, you’re not thinking. And lest we forget, there are houses to paint, gardens to tend and lawns to mow. And why should we think our day jobs will be any less demanding or punctuated by fewer crises? As an adult, have you ever noticed how summers have gotten shorter? Way shorter. But maybe things are different in other parts of North America.
Being in publishing, I’m not complaining about Summer Reading Lists. These days we need all the help we can get in turning people’s attention to books and reading. And if the summer reading list slides into your fall and winter reading list, well that’s just fine. Only don’t quit buying books during those gray seasons—even if you buy them for “next summer.” I do wonder, though, why we don’t see as many fall or winter reading lists, aimed at those interminably long evenings when options seem few? Or does everyone else live in Florida or Southern California?
Since I’m an editor, I do quite a bit of reading at work. Sometimes it’s quite enough for a day. So my summer (or fall/winter?) reading list—and it turns out I do have one!—is slender in number but otherwise (I like to think) substantial. And it intentionally draws on other publishers:
Marilynne Robinson, Home. I’m currently reading this one. And I love it. I read her Gilead a few years ago, and I just completed Housekeeping.
Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism (OUP). This one has been floating to the top of my list for a few months, and I just read another enticing review this morning. I’m in!
Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. There’s been some interesting discussion of this book, and I look forward to having my understanding of the Reformation rearranged by Gregory.
Something by Ray Bradbury. I’ve never read him. Sci-Fi has never been my thing. But with his recent death, the acclamations of his work have caught my attention. Perhaps I will have the same experience as I did with Patrick O’Brien. I was not aware of him until he died and NPR did a piece on him. Then I picked up one of his books and ended up reading his entire series of Aubrey-Maturin seafaring stories. And then I bought an old sailboat, which further ate into my summer reading time.
The Amazon order is placed, and I can already feel the sand between my toes.