Sunday, 26 June 2011

Summer Time

There are certain sure signs that Summer is here.  For each of us they are probably very different.  It used to be the sound of the first ice cream van jingle, but round here they were still trying to ply their trade when I couldn't get the car out of the garage because of mounds and mounds of snow, so I've had to ditch that as one my sure fire indications.  Sadly, these days I complete the statement

I know that has Summer has come when.....

with the words

I can drive onto campus at 11.00am and find a parking space.  

Usually you have to be there well before nine.  The pleasure of not having to fight for a place is immense.

One universal signal, however, is the appearance in the Sunday papers of the lists of Summer Reading and this morning, the first really warm day we've had this year, The Sunday Times has provided fifty fiction and fifty non-fiction choices along with a handful of audio and children's suggestions.

I always pour over these lists with real interest.  The New Year equivalent, when people are asked for their 'books of the year', are terribly 'worthy' and I don't believe for a moment that half of them have ever really been read.  They have just been chosen to make the people recommending them sound good.  These Summer recommendations are different.  Oh, very few people actually come out with the real 'beach reads', but what you do get are suggestions of good, solid readable fiction; the sort that will see you through the next six months or so whatever the weather.

Amongst this morning's list there are several books that I have earmarked for any free days that I might discover hidden in my diary, including Ann Patchett's new novel, State of Wonder and Jane Harris's story of an English spinster who attaches herself to the family of a painter in the Glasgow of 1888, Gillespie and I.  There are also a couple that I seem to have missed when they came out, but which look very interesting.  I've enjoyed Justin Cartwright's earlier books, so I shall definitely see if I can find a copy of Other People's Money and Cynthia Ozick's Foreign Bodies set in post-war Paris sounds fascinating as well.

Reading through the list made me think, however, about all the plans I have made for Summer Reading over the years and about how rarely I have been able to stick to them.  When I was studying or teaching there was always a reading list for the following term that needed attention and each year I promised myself that I would get started early and make sure that I didn't end up having to rush.  After all, how many people had the privilege of a working life where reading fiction was a central activity?  How many would have killed for such a life?  But it never worked out like that.  There was always something on the library shelf, or something I'd been storing up all year that found its way into my hands instead.  And I don't suppose this year will be any different.  I might state my intention of reading certain books, but I strongly suspect that the same thing will happen as in the past.  I have eight books that have to be read for one reason or another before the second weekend in September, all excellent novels in their own right, but I don't mind betting that I shall be desperately trying to finish them at the last moment just as in previous years.

Am I alone in this?  Or are you all far better at meeting your objectives than me.  If so, what is your secret?  Please, do share it.


  1. I have Gillespie and I and had intended to read it before now! So, you're not alone, as I find the best way to delay reading a book is to plan to read it! Other books always get in the way.

  2. Hi Annie,

    It has been a real scorcher today. Unfortunately I have spent all of it indoors, helping to prepare my local hopsice charity shop, where I volunteer, for it's grand reopening tomorrow after it's expansion and re-fit.

    I make so many plans for my next read and they always seem to fall apart, for one reason or another. Someone will either lend me a book which they want back and I feel guilty if I don't read it right away, or an author or publisher will ask me to review a book and again I feel that I should give these requests prompt attention.

    I also keep promising myself to read more of the 'classics', especially now that I own a Kindle and many of them are free to download, but that is also a forlorn hope most of the time!!

  3. No answers here, another patient.

    But, just remember when you lot all start talking about Summer reads, Beach reads, etc we downunder are descending into winter! Ever since the online world began we down here have had to listen to you all talking about your summer plans. Somehow we never get our own back! We just don't have the critical mass. So, a little tact please! (Says, she, tongue firmly planted in cheek)

    PS I planned to read more classics on my Kindle too but it ain't a happening thing!

  4. Margaret, I think it must be a default position for an avid reader. I suppose it's better than having nothing we want to read, although if I were to say that tomorrow despite the fact that the number of unread books in this house must go into three figures, it wouldn't be the first time.

    Yvonne, I don't feel guilty about review copies unless I've asked for them and I've started to refuse to borrow books however much they are urged on me. It takes too much pleasure away from my greatest joy and it simply isn't worth it. I just add the titles to my ever grow must read pile. In general that takes up less space and energy than the volumes themselves would.

    WG I'm definitely not going to feel too sorry for you. We are in the middle of summer here. It started yesterday and will finish this evening when the threatened thunderstorms arrive. That will be it for this year, I can almost guarantee! At least you might get a whole week!!

  5. OK, then, I'll feel sorry for YOU! We do get read summers when it's our time!

  6. Make that reaL summers!

  7. I used to think it was summer when the mosquitos appeared but even though they were late this year because of the cool spring, summer hasn't properly arrived yet. As for reading, I think all avid readers always have too much on their reading plate at any one time. It's all part of being voracious :)

  8. I had to laugh at your comment about finding a parking space--but then I drove in to campus this morning and the near lots were all jammed! Weird. Usually that is one of the perks, though I do try to walk in during the summer if I can (it's about 30 minutes in nice weather).

    You should definitely plan to read all the recommended books that will be discussed on the forthcoming Open Letters Monthly "summer reading feature" in the July issue! He he. I don't usually set specific reading goals for summer because I read as much as I can during every season. That said, I have my eye on a few things that are in my "I've been meaning to read for ages" pile, including Colm Toibin's Brooklyn and the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary. Plus I'm interested in trying the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, which seem like good options if it should ever get to be actually warm and sunny here and reading can move out onto the deck with cold beer in hand!

  9. I've made a pact with myself to spend lots and lots of time at the beach reading. I don't have a reading plan other than the thought that, "Oh, this looks good." I've been taking my new Kindle for a spin most weekends (a gift from a kind son - who probably wants to be remembered in my Will), and there's so much stuffed into it, who knows what will be next in line?

  10. Stefanie, it's ants with us. I'm not certain which is worse, ants or mosquitos. I'm scratching just thinking about both of them!

    Rohan, Another list! Wonderful, whatever I say, I really do love lists. And I will be really interested in what you think of 'Brooklyn'. I loved it, but a number of people in my Monday reading group simply couldn't see what the fuss was about.

    Grad, the thing I love about my Kindle is that I can push it into the smallest of bags and take it anywhere. You might want to watch that sand though. It's probably best kept out of the internal gubbings.

  11. I often have some books I need to read over the summer for the fall semester, and while I'm not as good as getting them finished as I would like, I do tend to start them fairly early. I started reading one today. The thing is, though, that I hate being busy -- really hate it -- so it's worth while for me to do a little work now, so I don't have to do as much later. If I'm disciplined, it's in the service of making sure I never have to work all that hard. It's disciplined laziness!

  12. Dorothy, I do know what you mean. I really need a steady routine that takes me through the year without ever having to feel rushed. I like the notion of disciplined laziness and ought to adopt it now, before I let things get on top of me again.

  13. I am a wonderful list-maker and planner, but I am pretty awful at following through. My intentions are good, I swear, but as you say, some book comes along and throws my plans all out of whack! Several books you mention are on my list as well.

  14. Danielle, I suppose we shouldn't complain. How awful would is be if there were no wonderful new books screaming for our attention?