I’m sure it will surprise no one that when I was younger, I participated in my public library’s summer reading program. I’m sure it will be even less surprising to learn that I was pretty competitive about it.
On a weekly (or occasionally more frequent) basis, my mom, brother, and I would head over to Union Public Library to fill out our summer reading record sheets. These sheets were folded pieces of red paper with room to list about 30 titles. For every 10 books read, a colored dot sticker was added to each participant’s summer reading marker on the Children’s Room’s portable bulletin board (and you earned your marker after your first ten books). I always had multiple record sheets, which I took pride in folding around each other to form a sort of book of my own accomplishments. In my mind, the librarians are still talking about my compendium of summer reading sheets. Especially since my penmanship wasn’t going to win me any awards.
My favorite year was the one the markers were octopi, because, well, the dots filled them up faster, meaning I could really see how much ass I was kicking*.
That is what summer reading programs are really all about, right?
With a few notable exceptions, like the summer after I passed my exams**, I’ve always enjoyed summer reading. But this summer, the summer of car accidents and one-handedness, I’ve done even more than usual. As the posting rates on this blog can attest to, I’ve been pretty much out of the writing game except when forced by circumstance to communicate or explain myself. And, since I’ve also been pretty stressed, at some point I just decided to check out and read.
And based on a series of life choices and my personal history, I can actually get away with that.
But what’s surprised me the most is how much I’ve enjoyed the stuff I’ve read as I’ve learned to balance books on my splint. I haven’t loved everything I’ve read, but I’ve more or less devoured a few stacks. And, so, in the grand tradition of summers past, I’ve decided to compile a list of what I’ve read so far. Because I’d recommend them all.
So, here are the books of Summer ’11 (as of August 1):
- Sarah Vowell, Take the Canoli
- Cathleen Schine, The Three Weissmans of Westport
- James Patterson, Private***
- Harlan Coben, Caught****
- Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
- Brady Udall, The Lonely Polygamist
- Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked
- Jennifer Egan, The Invisible Circus
- Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
- Jonathan Ames, Wake Up, Sir!
- David Rakoff, Don’t Get Too Comfortable
- Dave Cullen, Columbine
And, in progress; David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest. I swear I’m going to finish it this time.
* This became a little more problematic as I got a little older, as the reading material in the Children’s Room ranges from picture to chapter books. And you know the librarians are not going to waste their time handicapping the children’s summer reading program to adjust for reading level.
** I did a lot of crosswords at the pool. And by a lot I mean A LOT.
*** I could have pretended like I don’t have a thing for this type of book, but a number of people would know that I’m lying. So I’m just going to own it.
**** Think what you want, but I love me a good Coben. I’ve read everything he’s written (except the new Myron Bolitar, because it’s in hardcover). And, just so you genre snobs know, he’s much, much better than Patterson all around.