Detail from the Penguin Classics cover of George Elliot's Middlemarch
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 summer reading. Today, NPR senior correspondent Ketzel Levine.
Do you have a favorite memory of summer reading?
I have two perfect pictures, both are from summers in the Northeast and both involve hammocks. I prefer reading prone, so hammocks in the shade (with the sun keeping my feet warm of course) are pretty much ideal.
One memory is from a few weeks I spent at a friend's cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. That was the August I read Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, which I think is about as perfect a compulsive, page-turning, summer read as you can get. Read two hours, roll over and nap, read another half hour then get up and eat, etc., etc., into the wee hours of the morning (admittedly one has to move from hammock to bed at some point).
I also devoured some John le Carre that trip (The Constant Gardener, loved it) and in-between, Tracy Chevalier's Girl With the Pearl Earring as a palate cleanser. I might add that I tend to read with a bowl of something beside me, so I can mindlessly stuff myself and complete this perfect vacation indulgence. (Over the years, I've progressed from peanut M&Ms to nuts and raisins to, sadly, carrots.)
My other favorite memory of summer was when I was living in the small village of Shushan, New York, on the Vermont border (closest movie theater: Manchester, Vt.). Our hammock there was on the wraparound front porch. I spent at least a month in the company of Edith Wharton, reading her entire fictional opus. I was lost in turn-of-the-century New York, and I've just about never had a more all-encompassing escape from the real world. (It helped that I also wasn't working.)
I can think of one other favorite summer read, also about a New York I'll never know (and suppose I'm grateful not to know it): Caleb Carr's The Alienist. I'm pretty sure that was another Lake Winnipesaukee indulgence from one of several summers I had the pleasure of reading there.
Do you have plans for this summer?
I'm looking forward to reading George Eliot's Middlemarch, and I hope to get there by August, but after just returning from Nevada looking for the real Deadwood (vs. my HBO obsession), I'm now immersed in non-fiction about mid-19th century mining towns and eating it up like candy. Perhaps I'll even re-read Honey In the Horn by Harold Lenoir Davis, a phenomenal 1936 Pulitzer Prize winner about Oregon pioneers that made Davis very unpopular because his characters are pretty gnarly.
I read all fiction all year. What sets summer apart is, of course, vacation, and the chance to immerse myself in a book rather than wade in every night before sleep. What doesn't change, whether August or December, is that I do my best reading flat on my back!