Hot summer reads took on a whole new meaning for me yesterday when I retrieved a couple of books from the backseat of my car. It had been parked in the sun for several hours, so "scalding" summer reads was probably a more appropriate description. The temperature in the Northeast was just beginning its relentless climb from pre-heat to what has now become a full scale human bake-off competition.
Thanks to air conditioning, those books have since cooled back to normal temperature for tree-based material, but the sub-Fahrenheit 451 singeing of my fingers did shock me into a bad summer books mood. Maybe the official demise of Borders after a long illness had its effect as well--something along the lines of "If you can't take the heat..."
So I decided to get out of the proverbial kitchen with a quick virtual tour of some New England bookstores via their e-newsletters, blogs and websites, just to see how they are staying cool in the face of that most bookish-sounding of weather gauges, the "heat index." Brookline Booksmith
, Brookline Mass., offered some helpful summer pointers for its customers: "It's going to be hot this week. We all know it, we all will go through it together, and complaining about it won't cool any of us down. Let's find solutions. We sell umbrellas to keep the sun off our heads. We sell little portable fans to dry the sweat on our brows. We sell books, because when your mind and imagination are fully engaged, heat and humidity are trivial. Except that the pages curl. So... we sell e-books! We also have author readings, which are held in an air-conditioned room, and are free. Make this your mission and your pleasure this week, to come to your local indie bookstore and find out what these humble traveling authors have to tell us."
In its e-newsletter, Galaxy Books
, Hardwick, Vt., observed: "You only need to look at the multitude of summer reading lists that have been collecting over the past month or so to know that summer is a great season for book lovers.... You can even find our own Linda Ramsdell's top picks
at VPR's Vermont Edition
, where she had a guest spot on the program's summer reading show. We hope you'll find some time to enjoy a book or two (or more!) this summer, and we would love to help you find the perfect read."
Many bookstores feature staff-driven beach reads lists, of course, but Josh Cook of Porter Square Books
, Cambridge, Mass., offered a cautionary note in addition to his recommendations: "Since I've been out of school, I stopped buying into the whole 'Summer Reading' idea. There are books you read to relax, books you read for entertainment, books you read to stretch your intellect... and it's the use and not the season that determines what book I pick up. That said, the idea of 'Summer Reading' provides a great opportunity for book people to tell the world about the best books out there, and so here are two great books that have come out this summer that make great reading whenever you get to them."
Chilling as a morgue slab. Mystery on Main Street
, Brattleboro, Vt., featured a "Deadly Summer" list of authors who "will be giving us some great reads during the summer months."
For a cool summer visual effect, try the cove-view Camerascotta webcam
at the website for Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta.Titcomb's Bookshop
, East Sandwich, Mass., is in a celebratory beach reading mood: "Summer on Cape Cod! Could anything be nicer? People are happy.... The shop is bustling.... There's an energy all around us that is fueled with warm summer breezes, barbecue, homemade ice cream, suntan lotion, miniature golf--and good books.... One of the joys of the summer is taking time to read a good book, especially if you're sitting on a porch or out on the beach."
Looking ahead, R.J. Julia Booksellers is teaming up with the Madison, Conn., Chamber of Commerce on August 18 for Beachcomber’s Night
, "an evening of shopping and entertainment in downtown Madison," and will host an Ice Cream Giveaway
And yesterday an e-mail hit my inbox from the Book Rack Bookstore
, Newburyport, Mass., that featured an intriguing subject line--"Free Dogfish Head Beer and a Cool Author to Listen to!" The reminder for an upcoming event ended with an irresistible invitation: "Join us for some cold beer and treats and listen to some great stories... in our air conditioned store."
Staying cool. An excellent indie bookseller I know judges a nonfiction book by the quality of its index. Maybe we should judge a good summer read (and great summer bookshop) by its ability to make us forget momentarily about that heat index.--Robert Gray
(column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now