Perry Como may think Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but what does he know? In truth, late June wins that accolade. With school winding down in a sodden heap of unmotivated humidity, I traditionally turn my attention to whiling away the months of July and August with books.
This is when I get carried away and, like a grandparent bent on spoiling as an inherent right, look the other way as I click CART on amazon or pull the plastic in some brick-and-mortar bookstore. Often my “beach reads” are leviathans of a sort — books I’d get bogged down in during the school year because their pages require duration, momentum, and moxie.
Tops on my behemoths this year? Robert Fagles’ The Odyssey. It’s been so long since I traveled to Ithaca that I’m not sure I ever did. These are the deceptions of age, when your reading legacy is as much speculation as it is historic record. And there’s something to be said for a warder named Calypso, especially in the summer months.
Another big boy I’m not sure I’ll take to (and I reserve the right to give up, especially in the summer) is The Three Leaps of Wang Lun — a futurist novel about China written by a German. (Can you say “impulse buy”?). It’s the type of thing I will stubbornly love or toss into the lake as largemouth bass chum.
There are no such worries about my fourth trip down Knausgaard Lane. Like the three before it, My Struggle, Book Four will undoubtedly hold its navel-gazing charms. Young Karl Ove is now a teenager, so all Norwegian (by way of Sweden) bets will be off. Like big Harry Potter books, these gentle giants go down easily.
It wouldn’t be summer without a teacher PD book (I’m a hopeless addict of finding a better way, even though I realize by now that “better ways” are like the Northwest Passage — elusive). I’ve got it narrowed down to either Teach Like a Pirate or Assessment 3.0. Or both.
I’ve read some pretty big poetry collections lately — Louise Gluck, Wislawa Szymborska, and Charles Simic, to name a few. I’m casting about for more in July. If you’re going to speak the language (write it), you’d better listen to the language (read it). Calypso told me that. In between grapes.
Finally, each summer I like to entertain one reread. The criteria? Simple. I must have read it long ago, loved it, and flat-out forgotten it. This year the nominee is (drum roll, please!) The Sheltering Sky.
I’m also forever patching my leaky female-author resume. This year, thanks to countless recommendations, that honor goes to Muriel Sparks’ The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (who by now must be well past her prime). A Goodbye, Mrs. Chips, maybe? Summer school of a sort? Whatever. It’s short and fits the bill.
Will there be more?
Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full. All I need is time — and more summer.