It's Summer--Let's Read!

June 24, 2013

Remember those summer reading lists we used to get when we were in school—books that were either required or “recommended” for us to read before school started the next year? Even though I’ve always loved reading, I used to hate those lists. Rarely did they contain something I wanted to read, and somehow it took some of the fun out of reading when it was assigned. Even now, I’m an extremely random reader—drifting from book to book as suits my mood. I don’t often plan out a course of reading, though I admire those who do, and I love to see other people’s reading lists (like Danielle’s at A Work in Progress) and summer reading recommendations (click here for some fun ones).

This summer, to make the most of what I hope will be extra reading time (when most people are preparing to get outdoors more in summer, here in central Florida, I’m planning ways to stay indoors as much as I can—it’s just too dang hot and humid), I thought I’d try making up my own reading list in an effort to read more widely and carefully instead of just reading more.

I started my list with books from the pattern that has emerged the past couple of years. For instance, every summer, I read a biography or autobiography of a writer. In past years, I’ve read about Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louisa May Alcott and Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. This summer, I’ve picked up a volume of L.M. Montgomery’s journals (she’s the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, see below), and I think I might also tackle Mark Twain’s autobiography

Interestingly, for the past two summers I’ve read a book by Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone and The Woman in White). This year, it’s No Name, the story of Magdalen and Norah Vanstone, who find themselves orphaned and penniless when their inheritance goes to their uncle.

I also like to pick up a classic. I’m already working on The Three Musketeers (which I started months ago—not a reflection on the story, but on the fact that I’m reading it on my tablet, which I dislike for reading). I’m also considering Eudora WeltyDelta Wedding, which is described on Amazon as “A vivid and charming portrait of a large southern family, the Fairchilds, who live on a plantation in the Mississippi delta. The story…[is] centered around the visit of a young relative, Laura McRaven, and the family’s preparations for her cousin Dabney’s wedding.” I’m just discovering Welty’s work, and so far I’ve loved everything I’ve read.

I’ll continue with my vintage mystery challenge—with Ngaio Marsh’s Spinsters in Jeopardy—what a great title!—up next.  I’ll probably also sneak in another Georgette Heyer mystery. I’m working my way through the Sourcebooks Landmark editions with their terrific vintage covers.

What would summer be like without a comfort reread (or two…or more!)? I’m thinking of revisiting Mary Stewart’s The Moon-Spinners (especially for the Cretan setting), and Anne’s House of Dreams, the fifth book in Anne of Green Gables series. And I think it’s about time I reread an Agatha Christie mystery. 

And lest you think I’m eternally stuck in the past, I also want to read Barbara Kingsolver’s newest novel Flight Behavior, I’m working on the fourth Maisie Dobbs mystery, Messenger of Truth and I’m already more than halfway through Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. (Jenny is better known as The Bloggess.) 

My summer list also includes Dave Barry’s I’ll Mature When I’m Dead and Val Frankel’s memoir, It’s Hard Not to Hate You, as well as Debbie Macomber’s Between Friends and Patricia Wentworth’s The Catherine Wheel, another vintage mystery.

Whew. That should more than take me through the summer! And if it doesn’t, I still have quite a mountain of choices on my shelves, despite my efforts to whittle them down. (Tip: in order to effectively reduce one’s total “mountain” of books, one must quit buying books. So much easier said than done.)

What will you read this summer?

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  1. Sounds like a perfect line up of summer reading! I started No Name a few years ago but got bogged down (no fault of WC's as I love his work, but more of a matter of bad timing). I love his work and I am tempted to pick up one of his shorter novels--I was reading one or so a year for a while, too, and should get back to that. I love Mary Stewart--maybe I'll take one of her books with me on vacation again this year (maybe too soon to be thinking of that yet?!). I'll keep up with my mystery reading though it is mostly random at the moment--I am reading a Lord Peter Wimsey and think I'll start Joan Coggins book soon. As there are a few challenges starting soon I might incorporate a little French and Canadian lit into my reading and have just seen a readalong for Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy (it's a year long read) that I am contemplating. If you do read Delta Wedding -- let me know if you'd like company as I would love to read more of her work! Great list--you tempt me with some of your titles, too! :)

  2. That's a lot of reading for the summer! Hope you get it all done.

  3. I agree with Timaree - that's a lot if reading for one summer, but I know you can do it.

    My reading challenge this year is on the American Revolutionary War, and I've had a hard time finding books of interest. But I've finally found a few. I,m currently reading Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara, and I'm enjoying it. I have a couple more books I've requested from PBS that I'll be reading soon. Other than those, I haven't really planned out my reading.

  4. Looks like you will be pretty busy this summer diving into that pile of yours. And you're gonna be in for a thrill ride with No Name! Enjoy! :)

  5. Danielle-As always, you've got a nice line-up of books going/on the horizon. I will let you know when I start reading Delta Wedding--it would be fun to have someone to read it with!

    I've started the volume of L.M. Montgomery's journals, and I love it! Now I have to find the first two in the set, as the one my library had is volume 3.

  6. Timaree--I know...I didn't realize there was so much until I started writing about it! Don't know if I'll finish everything, but I'm going to give it a try.

  7. Cheryl--Are you reading fiction, non-fiction or both for your Revolutionary War challenge? (That does sound like it would be *challenging* reading.)

    I don't usually plan out my reading in this detail, either, but I am really trying to make some headway on my shelves of unread books. Guess I should stop borrowing books from the library, huh?

  8. Michelle--I know you love No Name, so I'm expecting good things! Just writing about it on the blog made me want to start reading it, but I really want to finish The Three Musketeers first. I keep forgetting about it, because I don't have an actual book sitting on my nightstand. Somehow my tablet sitting there isn't very alluring.

  9. Hi Kathy!

    It has been so fun catching up on here. Great posts that you put a lot of work into.

    What do I want to do this summer? Relax and go camping.

    What do I want to read this summer? I just grab one out of my own "mountain" of books and see where it leads me. Often, I do read when I watch tv., because I'm not in charge of the remote most of the time.

    It sounds as if you are enjoying your summer. I am too, now that things have settled down at work. It is going to be 100* today, and we are walking the kiddos to the library.

    Take care,

    Kathy M.

  10. Whew--it's hotter there than it is here, at least without the heat index! Hope you enjoy your camping and reading and relaxing. (I read or do crossword puzzles while the TV is on because, like you, I seldom have control of the remote--I think it annoys my husband, but wouldn't it be worse if I just left the room and did my own thing? Sometimes I wonder.)