It’s Summer Reading Season!


Remember when you used to be able to get pizza parties or prizes for reading books during the summer? Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT program was my home town’s summer reading incentive program of choice. That was awesome.

But I’m not sure I get the whole “Summer Reading” phenomenon. The marketing of “summer reading” seems like just that: a marketing gimmick to convince mothers, kids, beach-going 20-somethings, and barbecuing dads that reading is a summer activity, and so they should buy! buy! buy! super! summer! accessories!

I grew up near the Atlantic, and most people at the beach treat their books as accessories: placed face up on their bright beach towels to signal to the buff dudes: “I’m cute in this zebra-print bikini, but I’m also literate! And interesting! Buy me a pina colada!” (NB: I am pro anything that gets people reading, including Oprah’s Book Club and the Twilight franchise.)

The attributes of “summer reading” books, as far as I can tell, include:

  • Gripping, engrossing plot
  • More-or-less convincing characters
  • Thrilling cover
  • Not too serious

And let’s be honest, we all like books like that all the time, not just in the summer. We might also like serious books of lyric prose or dense asides or whatever: it’s OK to like both. (Check out, if you will, the Artifice Editors’ Goodreads account. You can sort our books to show which are mine and which are Tadd’s.)

In fact, I think I prefer my “summer reading” books in the winter, when Chicago’s grip has given me a major case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and no one will come to visit me, and I’m tired of eating potatoes.

I am not a teacher, nor am I a student any longer, and my 9-5 job doesn’t really leave me with anything resembling the summer vacations of my youth. (Sidenote: the summer vacations of my youth involved me sitting in a lawn chair under a tree, daily, with stacks of hardcover Nancy Drew books. I had the whole set, just about.)

BUT. There is something about the extra light, and the improved nutrition I get that makes me want to read, long and lazy, through entire weekends. About five years ago, I read everything Flannery O’Connor had ever written, plus her collected letters. It was a good, good summer.

If you want some help with what to read (summer or not) No Tell Motel’s blog, No Tells is doing a series of summer reading recommendations by No Tell contributors, which I’ve been enjoying.

NPR has started their annual “Summer Books” series. (If you’d like to know which vampire books Margot Adler thinks you should read, go here.)

This week, I ordered The Collected Letters of Robinson Jeffers, with Selected Letters of Una Jeffers: Volume One, 1890-1930 a few nights ago. (Stanford University Press, Cloth $95) Volumes Two and Three are yet to be published.

I’d been thinking about getting it for a while (–Since I got my tattoo of a scrap from a Jeffers poem. I’m not trying to be all “Hey, my tattoo,” but merely to explain the extent of my love and fascination with Jeffers) but like lots of scholarly texts, it’s prohibitively expensive. (Sigh.) But reading letters is like nothing else. It’s just lovely. This 1000+ page book, plus Jeffers’ books of poetry, will keep me company this summer.

Here’s Jeffers reading “Wise Men in Their Bad Hours.”

And here, for your pleasure, are the links to books shelved on Goodreads as “summer books” and “summer reading.”


What are you reading this summer? What is your Summer 2010 Reading? Are these the same? Why or why not?

5 responses to “It’s Summer Reading Season!

  1. i don’t think i’ve ever read a book of letters. i have one of bukowski letters that i’ve been meaning to read, but it’s packed away with most of my other books right now. of course, now that your post has put me in the mood to finally pick it up. sheesh.

  2. This will sound awfully pretentious, but I’m reading Ulysses this summer, very slowly, on my phone, and only because I’ve never managed to finish it before. That’s what it’s going to take for me to do it–a whole summer. I’ll make it through by rereading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series at the same time.

  3. Wow, "Book It." I’d forgotten the name. I earned 33 coupons for free personal pan pizzas out of that program, but my family never went to Pizza Hut so I couldn’t redeem them.I think I might go for an all-sci-fi-or-fantasy summer. And I’d like to work on Godel, Escher, Bach and perhaps re-read Infinite Jest. Oh my, yes.

  4. Couldn’t you just lie about how many books you read for the Book It program and take whatever prizes you wanted? I wouldn’t know, as I spent my childhood summers watching TV from the time I woke up pretty much till the time I went to bed each day and that’s really not an exaggeration. Remember when the Sci Fi channel used to show two episodes of Dark Shadows in the morning? That was great. Way better than reading and participating in things the other kids participated in.

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