It’s summer and, as usual, I have reading plans. Also as usual, my plans are too ambitious. I’m sure I won’t have finished everything I want to read by Labor Day. Does this happen to you?
My reading list is idiosyncratic, a reflection of my personal interests and feelings. I did not consult the copious lists compiled by the NYT, WaPo and various literary journals. There are no recent releases, no best-sellers on my shelf. Not even one of the classics I’ve been meaning to read for years.
I began thinking about summer reading in March when I was deep in book launch mode – writing articles, being interviewed on podcasts, posting on social media. It was a frenetic time. As an antidote, I envisioned myself on a beach reading novels. Specifically, Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, which I first read in Greece in 1973. What I’ve held on to, more than the plot, is the aura of mystery and romance that Durrell evoked. It echoed what I was feeling, as a young American on my first visit to Athens and the Aegean islands. Fifty years later and thousands of miles away, I’m curious to see if I can recapture that feeling.
But it’s the beginning of July and I haven’t started Justine, the first book in the Quartet. While browsing in a local bookstore, I got waylaid by Geoff Dyer’s extended essay on World War One, The Missing of the Somme, and haven’t been able to tear myself away. Each page is a master class in essay writing. I picked up a collection of Marguerite Duras’s essays at the same time, and they surely will be the same.
Like many of you, I am an avid consumer of political news. Since so many of the issues we grapple with today are rooted in America’s history, I want to refresh what I learned in high school, college and law school. These Truths covers 500 years, from Columbus to Trump, The Framers’ Coup is about the making of the Constitution, and Grant focuses on the Civil War and its aftermath. Obviously, Grant and Eleanor are biographies, but individual lives are an excellent way to see history in action.
Then there are books written by friends – Wild Women of Boston by Dina Vargo (who conducts historical walking tours of Boston) and The Moon Always Rising by Alice Early (a novelist from Martha’s Vineyard), to name just two.
All in all, I have something like 5,000 pages ahead of me. Will I finish everything? Not by a long shot. My summer reading will spill over to the fall and winter, and I will be tempted by other books, ones I haven’t even considered yet, that will feed some other interest or passion.
Now that I have shared what motivated my choice of reading for the summer, tell me what moved you. How did you decide what to read these summer months?