Publishers are convinced that readers want unsubstantial books for summer reading, but I’m not sure where that comes from. Sure, winter’s cloistered depths are a great time to read Kafka and Tolstoy, huddled under heavy blankets locked in cold rooms inside, but who says that warmer temperatures mean that we can’t use our brains?
Granted, I’m not reading anything very deep right now. I’m at the last few pages of last few pages of one of Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes pastiches, a thoroughly convincing series featuring Holme’s wife as the lead character. A great read but, admittedly, not the most substantial read of recent years.
Still, summer is a perfect time for reading poetry. It fits the A.D.D. attention span of beach trips and evening porch sitting. I tried to make a case in our last issue of Biblio Unbound for one of my longtime favorite poets, Robert Hass. His uber-cool California intellectual poetry makes me nostalgic for the summers I never experienced, drinking white wine with friends on the deck by the shore.
Or, books featuring a landscape of sand: The English Patient by Ondaatje, Bowles’ classic Sheltering Sky, or J. M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K: A Novel, set in the arid landscape of South Africa. Summer can be a theme, not just an excuse to read trash.
Like music, the right book for me has to fit the moment and the circumstances. Like music, the only thing that I consistently want is quality.