"Beach read" seems to be the operative term for all discussions regarding summer reading lists, but many of us were landlocked during our formative years and associate hot weather reading with the cheap, sun-drenched folding lawn furniture upon which we draped our lazy bodies as we buried sunburned noses in great books.
"Get outdoors!" my mother would yell, and outdoors I went to claim reading space on the weathered, transient furniture of summer.
After writing about my first summer book last week
, several readers checked in with their own recollections, including Karen Jaffe, who read Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind
when she "was 14 or 15." Melanie Manary, from Petoskey, Mich, called Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety
"a terrific summer book. I've reread it every summer for about 15 years."
Linda Malcolm of Indigo Books, Johns Island, S.C., "can remember vividly the first time I read Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel
." In 1964, as she was "reclining on a daybed between two corner windows in a wonderful old house in Raleigh, N.C., I was captured by the poetry of that great melancholy novel. I have reread it several times in the succeeding years, using a different color pen each time to underline or highlight a phrase or figure that caught my soul--a rainbow history of an oft-repeated journey."
Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar
was the first summer book for Cindy Pickle of Powell's Books
, Portland, Ore.: "I was still a stone's throw behind puberty. I may have read some of Brautigan's poetry first, but I can't be sure. I do know that the words on the cover--'In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar.'--were to me both a poem and a promise. Right away I loved the phrasing and the immediate image of another world.
"Throughout the story the concepts of indoors and outdoors are blurred and the weather becomes another character in the story. There is mystery and an uneasiness that contrasts fantastically with the incredible beauty of a place where the sunshine is a different color every day. The dialogue is sparse, the descriptions of characters based more on how they move about than what they look like. It gives you a view through a uniquely distorted lens, like a strange dream you had on a night that was a little too hot for sleeping. I've read this book probably three or four times but not recently. I may have to read it again this summer."Exodus
by Leon Uris was the first summer book for Patricia Zeider, senior library supervisor at the Brand Library & Art Center
, Glendale, Calif.: "I read my parents' Book of the Month Club copy as a teenager around the time it was first published. The story had everything--history, drama, passion, romance." She also recalled an early summer read from her childhood: "Missee Lee
, part of the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. I took the public library's dilapidated old copy out of desperation when I needed books to take on a beach vacation. Kids having an adventure on the ocean with pirates really hooked me."
Children's author Natasha Wing
recalled that the "first summer book I remember reading was The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore
. I think it was my mom's book as a kid, and because we lived a few blocks from the beach I thought it was cool that characters were also at a beach setting. After reading the story, I wished I was a twin."Honestly, Katie John
by Mary Calhoun is the book Kathy Patrick, owner of Beauty and the Book
, Jefferson, Tex., read as a kid "that always reminds me of summer. Also the first book that turned me on to reading by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Boulden." Patrick shared one of her favorite summer books for 2010 as well--The Mountain Between Us
by Charles Martin. "Talk about a page-turner and one that is set in temperatures freezing cold." Charlotte's Web
by E.B. White was the magical one for Brenda Logan of Loganberry Books
, Shaker Heights, Ohio: "In late summer of 1952 I was finally 10 years old; my baby brother was getting all the family attention; small town South Carolina was miserably hot and boring; I had read all the Bobbsey Twins, the Little Maid series, Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children books in the public library, and I wanted more. I walked by myself to the library, often, and Miss White knew me as a regular. One day she handed me that rarest thing in this small, poor place: a NEW book. I ran right home, curled up under the ceiling fan (no A/C in South Carolina in those days) and read the best book ever written, and written just for me."
On her Facebook page, author and Shelf Awareness
contributor Laurie Lico Albanese said she "re-read Huck Finn while pregnant with my daughter 20 years ago. It was a sweltering summer in Chicago." Commenters mentioned Freddy the Pig ("a whole summer (or seemed like it) sick with bronchitis, that pig saved me"), Laura Ingalls Wilder ("the entire series in a summer when I was 10"), the Tintin books and multiple votes for Harriet the Spy
"Harriet was my role mode, too," Albanese noted. "She taught me young what all honest writers learn; you really can't write about friends and family and then go home again."
So many books... all written just for us. It's summer! Go find a cheap lawn chair and read!--Robert Gray
(column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now