It’s pushing 100 degrees in my neck of the woods, which means it’s Summer. And with the heat, come the annual beach reading lists. The Wichita Eagle recently interviewed Sarah Bagby to pick her brain regarding her selections for summer fare. Bagby, co-owner of Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, suggests there are several types of summertime readers:
There’s the Guilty Pleasure type, who can’t wait to pick up a romance, some chick-lit or a cheap, cheesy mystery and blame it on the heat.
There’s the Big Book type, who considers summer — and perhaps some quality vacation time — a perfect chance to savor the 900-page biography they’ve been meaning to read.
And there’s the Buzz Book type, who’ll read just about anything if it seems like everybody’s talking about it.
I’m probably more the Confused and Intimidated by Summer Reading Lists type. But whatever type of reader you are, you’ll find plenty of seasonal suggestions.
Slate recently asked some well-known authors about their summer reading schedule, or Favorite Beach Books. When I think of “beach reading,” I think of soft, mindless, breezy tales. You know, like half the stuff on the NY Times Bestseller List. But this year, the lists appear to be, shall we say, bulking up. Other than Joan Acocella actually recommending The Da Vinci Code, the Slate interviewees made some interesting selections. Like Michael Kinsley tackling Trollope, Thomas Mallon touting Kenneth Anger’s cult classic Hollywood Babylon and Robert Ferrigno commending H.P. Lovecraft’s horror classic, At the Mountains of Madness.
Exploring the natural history of a tortoise by adopting its own sensibility, Timothy is the story of a creature whose real life was observed by the 18th-century curate Gilbert White, author of The Natural history of Senborne.
and The Futurist by James P. Othmer, with this plotline:
From the hideously ugly Greenlander nymphomaniacal artist to the gay male model spy to the British corporate magnate with a taste for South Pacific virgin sacrifice rituals, The Futurist manages to be wildly entertaining and deadly serious at the same time.
Sounds, um, interesting. The Guardian offers The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes novels, edited by Leslie S Klinger, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw and Philip Roth’s Everyman for “pre-death pleasure.” Hmm. Nothing like a little pre-death pleasure.
The Arizona Daily Star compiles its Beach Reads into categories like Pure Escape, Travel, Education and Sports. At the top of their list: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. In a nutshell, it’s about a changeling and the boy whose place he took in the world, which sounds right up my alley. Then it’s Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Thomas M. Myers and Michael P. Ghiglieri. Described as “a comprehensive guide to slipping, sliding, falling, jumping, drowning, murdering, helicoptering and the myriad other ways people have crossed over in and around the Big Ditch.” But how it ended up in the Travel section, I don’t know. It’s neat to see Masuk High School recommend Peace Like a River by Leif Enger in the American Literature category. And of course, NPR’s summer reading list contains some oddities. Like Monsters, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler’s “story behind the horror story, documenting Mary Shelley’s creation of Frankenstein” and The Book of Lost Books wherein Stuart Kelly chronicles “the vanished (and sometimes recovered) works from Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath and others.”
I’m not one for reading lists, not because I don’t enjoy scanning the shelves, but because they only serve to make my own lists exceedingly long. But I have acquired a stack of classics which I’ve begun tackling. (You’ll recall I’m woefully ingnorant of “the Great Books.”) Right now, I’m finishing Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has been a delightful read. (As a side note: I’m amazed at how many people actually read the book somewhere in school. Guess the nuns at St. Joseph’s Academy kept Twain away from us impressionable students.) Anyway, my “beach reads” for 2006 — or let’s just say, Books I’ll Try to Finish this Summer–looks something like this:
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
St. Thomas Aquinas, by G.K. Chesterton
Raising Lazarus, by T.L. Hines
Short Stories of Anton Chekhov
Okay, so I’ve not completely shunned all contemporary reading. I’ll be receiving a pre-ordered, signed copy of Tony Hines’ book sometime soon, which I’ll dig into upon its arrival. Don’t know how he feels being stuck between Chesterton and Chekhov though. Anyway, that’s my list. Just don’t hold me to it. Most of my “beach reads” usually become beached. So what about you? You’ve loaded the kids, the umbrella and the boogie boards, studied the lists and made your selections. What are you reading Summer ’06?