Sunday Salon: Summer Reading!

Do you know that old song from Carousel, that goes “June is busting out all over…”? Well, here in Spokane, June has been pouting and sulking, and hiding behind clouds and 65-degree temperatures. But I am adamant: school is out, and it’s summer, by golly, and time for summer reading!

I don’t actually know whether the rest of you read seasonally. I tend to read more spooky things in the fall, and more Dickens in the winter. And for me, for several years now, summer is the time for Really Long Classics I Haven’t Read Yet. One whole summer I spent reading the Chinese 18th-century novel The Story of the Stone. One summer, I read Of Human Bondage and The Brothers Karamazov. Another summer, I read War and Peace. Last summer, it was a whole bunch of Greek and Roman things I’d never read: the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Metamorphoses. I like to save the real chunksters for summertime; I have more brain space and more time available, because I’m not teaching in summer. I’m doing research, but the demands on me are fewer, because I don’t have classes to prep or students in my office. Long classics, ahoy!

So this summer, my plan is to read Don Quixote and The Tale of Genji. I have read shamefully little from Spanish, having focused on French and German, and I’ve got Edith Grossman’s 2003 translation at hand. I look forward to commenters setting me straight as I bumble through it. And The Tale of Genji also promises to be a hoot: reports to follow.

I have lots of other fun books planned (some Nabokov, some John Crowley, the new Laurie King novel, lots of excellent tidbits, maybe even another theme month like Teresa and I did in January) but that’s the backbone of what I’m going to be reading this summer. What about you? Do you do summer reading? Beach reading? Seasonal reading of any description? Did you do summer reading programs at your library when you were a kid? What will you be reading in the next couple of months?

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27 Responses to Sunday Salon: Summer Reading!

  1. Sly Wit says:

    I will be interested to hear your take on Don Quixote. I had a difficult time (very difficult!) getting through the First Part, but absolutely adored the Second Part. Note: I also read Grossman.

    I am taking on War and Peace over the next few months, probably with the Pevear/Volokhonsky because they are the only ones I’ve found who leave the pages of original French in the text. I’ve tried and failed once before (the same year I took on Don Quixote) and am hoping to make it through this time!

    • Jenny says:

      That is one of the reasons I also loved the P/V translation — I read French, so I didn’t have to rely on the footnotes, and it gave me a wonderful feel for the text. I found that translation very lively, and I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Alex says:

    I always make plans for the summer only to find that I haven’t kept to them, which then makes me feel really disappointed in myself, so this year I’m just going to read what comes to hand. By the way, I would definitely settle for 65 degrees. We have 55 and rain, rain, rain.

    • Jenny says:

      Lately, for almost the past year, I’ve been planning my reading three months at a time. It’s been wonderful for me, because I’ve been reading more than ever and getting tons accomplished, but also leaving room for serendipity and new books. I never used to be a planner, but right now it’s working really well!

  3. Jeanne says:

    I also read longer books in the summer, since I have longer chunks of time. I don’t make definite plans for reading, though. I have a passing thought of reading Infinite Jest this summer, at the urging of my 16-year-old son, who loved it.

    • Jenny says:

      As I said to Alex, I never used to be a planner with regard to reading. But lately it has been working very well, I think because I have certain things I want to do monthly with my reading (some nonfiction, some works by authors of color, etc) and other things I want to include (room for discoveries, books I’ve been waiting to read for a long time.) The structure seems to be doing me good. I’d love to hear what you think about Infinite Jest!

  4. Deb says:

    I work in the school system, so–theoretically, at least–I should have more time for reading in the summer. I find I do read more books during the summer, but I don’t have a particular type of book for summer reading. I did go to the library on Friday and checked out an armful of books, plus I have some books on request–including a couple of non-Maigret Simenons. I always look forward to reading mass quantities of books as summer rolls round; we’ll see in August how much I managed.

    • Jenny says:

      I love Simenon, but I’ve never read any of his non-Maigrets. I’d love to hear what you think! And I am going to be doing some traveling this summer, too, so that’s always conducive to reading a lot.

  5. Theoretically I like the idea of seasonal reading, but I don’t always end up reading seasonally after all!

    If I wasn’t already reading some big chunky books this summer, the ones you chose sound fab!

  6. Lisa says:

    I loved the library summer reading programs as a kid, and I still have one of the certificates I won – I don’t think there was even a prize. Our county library system does a program for adults as well as children, but you only have to read five books. I haven’t planned any special summer reading, I don’t seem to be able to plan much beyond the next book.

    • Jenny says:

      Doesn’t the bar seem kind of low to you at the library? If there were a prize for most books read, I doubt I’d win it, because I tend to average 8-9 books a month, and I’m certain there are people in my county who read stacks more than that, but I’d love to see something more for adults. Even for kids, you get a prize after 15 books or 15 hours of reading. My kids do that in a week, easy.

      • Lisa says:

        I do! especially spread out over the summer months. Despite the depressing stats about how many Americans don’t read one single book over the course of a year, it seems like most library patrons can easily read five books. I don’t think I’d win for most books read, but maybe if there was a prize for most pages read?

      • Jenny says:

        Good idea! I bet people would participate! Maybe get local authors to sign up.

      • I don’t think UK libraries run programmes like this so much (at least not the ones in my area!) but I think it’s great that the bar is a bit lower – 5 books a month isn’t bad going. I think kids that want to read lots will anyway, but those who have more difficulty getting into reading still have an achievable incentive. Much better to promote quality over quantity! (The same with some book blogs, actually – I wonder how they can possibly steam through as many books at they do while still giving them the attention they deserve!)

  7. pburt says:

    Just a typical Spokane spring where tradition states that the second to the last day of the school year be cold and grey. Oh well – our sunshine will come back….

    • Jenny says:

      Do you promise? :) I was at Artfest today and it was pretty chilly! But I will take it: long cool summers and no mosquitoes are a pretty good trade-off…

  8. Vasilly says:

    I’ve been really thinking about my summer reading lately. I usually read huge classics in the summer so I’m trying to decide between rereading Steinbeck’s East of Eden or finally dig into Grapes of Wrath. For sure, I know that I want to read from my unread stacks and get my books under control. ;-)

    • Jenny says:

      I read Grapes of Wrath in high school, um… 25 years ago or so, and I loved it! I really should read more Steinbeck.

  9. I don’t usually read according to season – it depends more on my mood. But I do sometimes follow a theme, or an author: I’ve got a lot of Trollope and von Arnim on the Kindle, and I’m reading my way though Barbara Pym. Trouble is I get sidetracked by other books! I must say, your weather sounds slightly better than our’s. We had a heatwave for two weeks. Now it’s so cold we’ve put the heating on, and it’s poured with rain for several days although today has been dry.

    • Jenny says:

      I have been enjoying planning for sidetracking! I have found that if I plan for about seven books a month, I wind up reading ten. It’s been pretty nice. And reading through Trollope and von Arnim and Pym sounds like a summer delight!

  10. aartichapati says:

    I plan to work my way through A Suitable Boy this summer! And perhaps one more big book. I LOVE reading outside on the porch with some iced tea or wine :-)

    • Jenny says:

      Oh, I loved A Suitable Boy! What a wonderful novel. And I loved his An Equal Music just as much, but differently. I think he’s a great author.

  11. Jenny says:

    I never do summer reading (unless you count the regularity with which I find I miss Harry Potter in the month of July and have to read the whole series again). Lately I’ve been awful about reading anything, even really really simple books that require almost no focus of my brain, so even new Georgette Heyer novels have been proving a challenge. I may have to downgrade to magazines until my brain recovers. :p

  12. sakura says:

    I love the idea of having a summer reading project. You just feel like tackling something big. I can’t wait to see what you think of The Tale of Genji. I’ve only read the manga version which was beautiful. This summer I plan to read 1Q84 and War & Peace!

  13. Aw man! Summer reading projects just take me back to school!

    I find it weird how when you’re in school you were always given reading lists, which often had a lot of ambitious stuff in, but now the idea of ‘holiday’ reading seems to basically be trashy novels. Not that I’ve got anything against a bit of Jilly Cooper by the pool (au contraire), but I think it’s great you’ve got something to really get your teeth into this summer, school-reading-list style!

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