Salad Days and Salty Tears

book cover

hide captionCover of When the Sky Is Like Lace by Elinor Lander Horwitz.

Whether it's the indulgent hours or lighter genres, summer reading is characterized by its reverie. In My Summer Books, NPR hosts and reporters talk about their reading. Today, All Things Considered host Melissa Block.

Do you have a favorite summer reading memory?

In my salad days, I'd head off for a week at the beach with my car trunk packed full of books. I'd park myself on the beach in the morning and read straight through the day, cooking to a deep, unhealthy crisp and burning through book after book. Now that I'm a mother of an energetic toddler — and more mindful of SPF ratings — those free-reading days are gone. I'm more deliberate in my book choices.

What's on tap for this summer?

Our friend Michael Phillips' new book, The Gift of Valor. Mike is a colleague of my husband at the Wall Street Journal. This book sprang from an article he wrote for the paper about a 22-year-old Marine corporal named Jason Dunham, who was serving in Iraq. Dunham managed to place his helmet on a live grenade, saving the lives of his fellow Marines, but he ultimately died from his injuries.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Geraldine Brooks about her brilliant Civil War novel March. Now, I want to go back and read her earlier novel Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague.

I love reading about food, and Ruth Reichl has written yet another food memoir before I had time to read her last one. So if I don't get to her latest, Garlic and Sapphires, maybe I'll finally make it through her earlier Comfort Me with Apples.

What about for your daughter? Do you have anything new set aside for her?

My most regular reading now is when I read to my daughter. She doesn't know it yet, but she'll have a new book for her birthday this summer, and I can't wait to read it with her.

It's a reissue of a book that was previously out of print, When the Sky Is Like Lace, by Elinor Lander Horwitz (coincidentally, she's the mother-in-law of Geraldine Brooks) and illustrated by the marvelous Barbara Cooney. The pictures are gorgeous, and just listen to the music of Horwitz's language:

Because on bimulous nights when the sky is like lace, the trees eucalyptus back and forth, forth and back, swishing and swaying, swaying and swishing — in the fern-deep grove at the midnight end of the garden.

You will also find that, on bimulous nights when the sky is like lace, the grass is like gooseberry jam. It's not really squooshy like jam, because then the otters' feet would slurp around and snails might drown. It only smells like gooseberry jam. But if you walk barefoot, it feels like the velvet inside a very old violin case.

I should add that my most embarrassing summer reading moment came about 10 years ago. I was reading on a beach in Martha's Vineyard and was supposed to be keeping an eye (or preferably both of them) on a toddler. I got lost in my book for who knows how long. (What was the book? I've chosen to forget.) When I finally looked up, my charge was nowhere in sight. My heart sank. I looked out at the ocean. I looked down the beach. Nothing. I looked the other way and there she was — quite some distance off, standing alone in a pile of stones, crying. When I scooped her up, I could feel the salty sting of the other beachgoers' judgment. Lesson learned: beach reading and children just don't mix.

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