My friends who teach year 'round get tired of my rubbing it in--three months off to refresh and renew. With a bookstore gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket, I shopped around the local Barnes and Noble this week, taking time to peruse the table of school summer reading assignments. As usual, it's an eclectic mix of new books and classics. I remained baffled by parents who object to summer reading requirements, considering them an encroachment on personal family time. As I recall, reading was one of the best parts of time together. I would probably still welcome a list. As I've probably mentioned before, the summer before my first full-time teaching job, I was given a list of the books my students would be reading. They actually had choices--and I was teaching three grade levels--so I had about fifteen books to read just to be ready for the school year. With few exceptions, they were wonderful.
Now, though, I make my own list, changing it as I go along, at suggestions that crop up from other book-loving friends I encounter. This summer, I want to put together a list for myself and then in early August to weigh it against the list I actually complete.
Already this year (this week) I have finished Helen Simonson's first novel Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, a charming book set in England that deals with late-in-life love, class and generational struggles, just about everything. It's a perfect summer read--some serious issues but not wrapped in cryptic language--and some genuinely engaging characters.
I am midway through Colum McCann's novel Let the Great World Spin, a darker, more serious story pulling the threads of several lives together, centered around the day the man walked a tight rope between the two towers of the World Trade Center.
Other books I plan to read include these:
Neil Gaiman's American Gods--I was so taken by The Graveyard Book and Anansi Boys that I
wanted to try another.
Orhan Pamuk's My Name Is Red--because I plan to travel to Istanbul for ten days this summer,
and I always want to read something set in the area where I travel.
Barbara Kingsolver, Lacuna--So far, everyone who's read this one says it's a good read.
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran
Elizabeth Kosova, Swan Thieves--I always love some kind of art connection in my books
Francine Prose, Anne Frank
Julia Alvarez, In the Time of Butterflies
Ruth Reichl, Tender at the Bone
Perry Deane Young ,Two of the Missing (about Sean Flynn and his colleague's disappearance
I'll be honest, just sitting here, looking at the shelves is enough to make me weep that summer is only three months, as time keeps ticking away.
I'd love to hear other recommendations for books absolutely not to be missed. I'll report as I go, and I'll tally my summer reading at the end. For me, this will be the only test.