Monthly Archives: June, 2022

Pandemic Chronicles #30: Summer reading

Summer reading.

The phrase continues to enchant me, even if summers at late middle age fly by faster than ever before. And in this third summer of the pandemic, when life has morphed into a weird normal/not normal state and the world feels disturbingly unsettled, the idea of summer reading is the equivalent of literary comfort food.

Writing in the Boston Globe (link here), journalist David Schribman opens his reflection on summer reading this way:

I pack light for my summertime ramblings in New England.

For years I loaded in a pile of books for my trips — presidential biographies, World War II chronicles, Cold War spy novels, mysteries. Then I realized that I got to hardly any of them. I was distracted — by the cool waters of Echo Lake at the base of New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain, for example, and by the view from Mount Willard in Crawford Notch, and by the tang of fried clams from Harraseeket Lunch in South Freeport, Me., the cool relief of a mid-afternoon ice cream from Round Top in Damariscotta, the smell of the pies baking across the region, and the rich crunch of picked-today sweet corn from an unattended wooden roadside stand in backroads New Hampshire.

I was also distracted by the books I borrowed along the way.

In houses we visited or rented, in inns we frequented or visited just once, and sometimes even in chain hotels, there were tucked-away jewels and gems, sometimes out in the open (on yawning bookshelves), sometimes on stone mantelpieces (leaning one way or another), occasionally employed under a wobbly table (to keep the crockery from sliding).

Reading this and the rest of Schribman’s contemplative piece, I’m imagining a lazy summer spent in assorted New England venues…relaxing, brewing up some coffee or tea, and reading books. Ahhhhh.

Well, even for me, an academic who actually lives in New England, my summers typically aren’t so tranquil. I’m usually working on a research and writing project (or fretting about not making progress on same), as well as keeping busy with a variety of non-profit and advocacy commitments. While I am grateful for the flexibility of my schedule and the freedom to take breaks and occasional trips, I have yet to experience that truly idyllic “summer off” during some 30 years of teaching. (Perhaps I should make this a priority!)

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to a summer that includes some enjoyable leisure reading. I’ve started off with a twisty murder mystery novel, Sulari Gentill’s The Woman in the Library (2022). It’s set in one of my favorite venues, the Central Library of the Boston Public Library! The novel has been getting rave notices, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

As for summer reading selections after this one, I haven’t decided. When not reading more systematically for a specific purpose, I tend to go with the flow when it comes to picking out what to read next. There are many worthy possibilities, so at least it will be difficult to make a bad choice.

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