Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On the Meaning of Summer Reading

I guess it isn't technically summer yet, and even the weather has me half-convinced that this is true. So strange that we had a lighter winter this year and yet it is supposed to be warmer this time of year than it is. The sun was warm today, but there was a strong and cold wind. Cold wind at this time of year? My, my.

I was contemplating summer reading. I think the first time I really dove into summer reading was when I was reading the Little House books; by that time I had already read Laura's original books and was making my way into the newer ones that other people wrote about her mother and grandmother as girls. I read pretty much all day. Another year I picked up a lot of books at the library, Dear America books and things like that. This was the time when I still liked historical fiction--before it began to increasingly disappoint me with its genre-ness.

Things were different once I made my way into high school: I had to do summer reading for Honors/AP English classes. So I would add less light material to the hefty, required reading. But sometimes the required reading was good. I chose to read Villette one year and Shirley another; you can't have enough Charlotte Brontë. In the week before I started college, I decided to reread The Chronicles of Narnia, one book a day. I think that was the same summer that I read The Woman in White.

I don't always fancy the Summer Reading piles. I don't like to read complete nonsense books, and summer is no exception. (Granted, everyone has a different opinion on what nonsense is.) But it does also feel wrong to pick up a dense and thick and somber book during summer. Yet I think there is more to it: a dense and thick and somber book is nice to read in short draughts, and that is not generally what one looks for in summer reading. You can read in short draughts when you're busy. But when you're on vacation, you may have more time for reading. Even if you will be reading with vacation-related interruptions, you still have more time overall. And those interruptions mean that you need something that can be interrupted.

Little House was pretty good summer reading. It's light and interesting and you learn some things and think about some things. The Woman in White, though a long Victorian book, was also a good one: it's a mystery, so it keeps you thinking and wanting to read more, but it also has a great range of themes and issues to ponder if you wish. The Lord of the Rings, hearty in its familiarity, would be fantastic.

But I suppose my current theme is movie books. I just have so many of them right now, and I kind of just got a couple of new ones, too. Right now it is I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto. What's more lighthearted and summery than that?

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