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