Summer Reading Round-Up

I remember my first summer after graduating from Whitman College. Following four years of reading slow, heady texts by Kant and Cixous, Maimonides and Montaigne, I dove headlong into summer reading, whatever I could get my hands on: Dharma Bums by Jack Keroac, The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank, a little Heidegger just to keep sharp, long sections of Walden by Thoreau (re-reading those, of course), and many more that I can’t remember.

As I worked with fellow AmeriCorps crew members to eradicate invasive species on a rare floating sedge-mat in the Berkshire mountains, I must have read at least a book a week. Sunburned-proud, an open future ahead, and more pages of bad poetry drafted than I care to share…that summer at age 23 felt like one beautiful, unending, bookshelf of possibilities. [Read my essay about that summer, published in The Nature Conservancy newsletter, here.]

Back then, there were also periodicals I read cover-to-cover, every issue: Oxford-American, Orion, and The New York Times Sunday edition (most-anticipated section: The Week in Review, as it was called back then). Nowadays, I’m lucky if I get through one issue The Week (my absolute fave weekly news magazine in the history of my reading life). That’s not to sound bitter—I enjoy how I spend my time—but as so many families are in crises during this (latest) immigration issue, and as the United Nations (finally) wags its finger at our nation’s shameful practices, I feel a bit embarassed about being out of touch.

When I do dive into my summer reading list, it’s with the express purpose of deepening my knowledge and curiosity about real events (nonfiction), or inviting my mind to consider highly crafted literary fiction that does one of two things. The fiction must either entertain and inspire me at the sentence level, or it must move me by its persuasive renderings of complex, deeply human characters whose yearning has yet to meet the surface of their everyday lives.

Picky? Sure! And why not? Summer reading goes hand-in-hand with my long months of writing time. During my “busy season” I do still work on my own short stories, but at a much slower pace. Summertime, it’s all about “eating books,” as my mother would say, and about pouring out (as I would say)—in other words, word count and forward momentum.

Looking for recommendations? Librarians are a good place to start, as well as your local indy bookseller. For an ongoing list of my Goodreads Books in 2018 (or subsequent years), here’s a screen shot of my current shelf, or visit my Goodreads page for a vast archive:

May the force—of summer, of words, of turning pages—be with you!

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