It's time to plan summer reading! Beach reads. Or maybe for you they're porch reads, or (my favorite) charming-little-café reads. Wherever you love to curl up with a good book when it's blazing hot (or if you live in the southern hemisphere, cold and stormy) outside.
I'm always on the lookout for a good book, but many of the books that receive the most hype are disappointing for one reason or another. Leisure reading should be a joy, not a self-imposed obligation to finish the latest "must read" title. It should be relaxing and enlightening, not a chore.
According to worldometers.info there were over 328,000 new titles published in the United States in 2010. That's just one year. Hundreds of thousands more will be added every year, and that doesn't count all the great classics from the 19th and 20th centuries and earlier.
How many of those books will you actually read? I'm a fairly committed reader, and I probably read 60 to 70 books per year (plus my Bible, some magazines and about a dozen blogs I follow). A handful of those might be favorites I'm rereading, so not all of the titles will be new to me. You may read more or fewer books than I, but the comparison is clear. A million books clamoring for attention vs. fewer than 100 I will actually read.
Obviously, I can't possibly read even a tiny fraction of what's available, so why should I waste my time on a book I'm not enjoying and learning from? I never feel guilt about deciding not to continue with a book. I'm anxious to get on to books I will love.
Like a good minimalist, I'm going to use my time and energy wisely to get the most satisfaction and value from what I read.
That definitely means I don't bother with click bait, and I don't spend a lot of time scrolling through social media feeds. Worldometers.info indicates that so far today (it's 7:17 a.m. as I'm writing this) over 223,000,000 tweets and 76,620,000,000 emails have been sent. (How much spam is that?) That's mind-boggling and crazy. No one can possibly worry about all of that.
So I'm very old-fashioned. I call and text and email a few friends and family members, religiously unsubscribe from most email lists, and limit the time I spend on social media. I want to have time to read my 60 to 70 books.
So what do I have in mind for summer reading? For me that will be 12 to 15 books, mostly fiction, nothing too heavy. I used to look forward to the latest Maeve Binchy (alas, she passed away in 2012). But maybe this summer I'll reread one of my favorites, Evening Class or Quentins or Circle of Friends.
Sometimes an old-fashioned romantic thriller is fun, such as Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca or The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart. Both of these books (and others by either author) are beautifully written, with taut suspense and tons of descriptive detail that makes you feel that you are there with the characters.
I also enjoy novels about books or bookstores (though I haven't liked all of the titles that fit this description). My favorites in this realm are Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, and the wonderful memoir 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.
A few newer novels have caught my interest, and I will certainly give them a try (and maybe be rewarded with a great read). They include Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen, Karen Thompson Walker's The Dreamers (I enjoyed her debut novel, The Age of Miracles), and The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware (who's been called a modern Agatha Christie).
There are a lot of classic works I haven't read, and even though they might be a bit more of a challenge, they are often so worth it. Alice Walker's multi-award-winning The Color Purple is on my list this year. I love the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, but I've never read the book, so I'm interested in that as well, along with The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017.
And for non-fiction? Tara Westover's memoir, Educated, has been recommended to me by two different friends. It sounds both infuriating and inspirational, so perhaps I'll balance that with autobiographies by two smart and funny ladies, Yes Please by Amy Poehler and Bossypants by Tina Fey.
So many people have recommended Brene Brown's work, and I've never read anything by her. I think I'll start this summer with The Gifts of Imperfection. And I'm absolutely excited to read The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon. I think this is one book that will become part of my home library.
Time to order these books through the inter-library loan system. Hopefully I'll have one or two to pick up in the next few days!
Are there any books you're looking forward to reading this summer? Please share what's inspiring you in the comments below.