Whether it's the indulgent hours or lighter genres, summer reading is characterized by its reverie. In My Summer Books, NPR hosts and reporters share their memories of summer reading and books. Today, foreign correspondent Ivan Watson.
Do your reading habits change with the seasons?
Summer doesn't really change what I read as much as it changes where I read. Ideally, the location becomes more relaxing and exotic. If I get to have my way, I try to end up somewhere beautiful and peaceful near the sea.
There are a couple of villages on the coast of Turkey that are my favorite destinations. I've spent lovely afternoons reading and dozing in a hammock by the Mediterranean -- or in the garden of an old Greek house, accompanied by my host's giant golden retriever.
A final favorite -- the beaches on Martha's Vineyard.
My least favorite summer reading location is Baghdad -- where I worked during August of 2003 and 2004. It may be hot and sunny there, but there's no ocean and the food is awful. The explosions also make it hard to concentrate. This August, I'm scheduled to work in Jerusalem, which will be a definite improvement.
How about what you read?
I typically enjoy alternating history books about the regions I work in with novels, usually recommended to me by a college buddy who now runs a bookstore in New York.
I kicked off this summer with Glen Duncan's Death of an Ordinary Man. Magnificent. Another favorite all-time summer reads was In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje. The book was so damn good, I rationed out the last couple of chapters, slowly savoring every sentence.
During one of those Baghdad Augusts -- I hid in my hotel room at night and "escaped" by reading My War Gone By, I Miss It So by Anthony Lloyd. Lloyd, a British war correspondent, described his simultaneous addiction to heroin and the adrenalin of covering the Balkan wars.
One final dark secret. When I really, really want to indulge in some escapist fiction, I plow through stacks of comic books. That's right! Brightly colored, paneled comics full of superheroes and super villains where the text is all in word balloons. In fact, I just caught the red-eye to Beirut for an assignment, and I have a bag of comic books stashed in the bottom of my suitcase.