School's out. Forget school. I'm not talking about a school's requirement that its students do some amount of book reading over the summer. I'm not talking about obligation. I'm not even interested in any studies about what reading over the summer does or doesn't for a student's intellectual retention or school readiness. It's a far more selfish focus I have now.
No, I'm talking about me, you, and the rest of us, and what the summer offers. Reading! What a glorious time this is to be alive and reading! It's what summers are for, isn't it?
Having just finished up a little getaway weekend with my family at what is the start of the summer for us (as in, school is officially over, let's get the hell out of town), I can proudly say that between my wife and I, we polished off three books during the 2-day stint. No, we aren't speed readers; she was over halfway through her book and I was nearly finished with mine, which allowed me to start and finish another.
Suddenly, during this brief opening of summer, between us we've notched Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and A Feast For Crows (the 4th Game Of Thrones book) and I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (an oral biography of Warren Zevon) on our summer reading belts.
The last one I read in less than 24 hours, inhaled it in that summer kind of way where when you have a stretch of hours and you're really not doing much, you just keep getting pulled back and back into a good book. And little lends itself to that kind of approach like an oral biography of a troubled genius (no, I do not use the word lightly) like Zevon with his multiple demons of OCD, alcohol addiction, and sexual addiction. coupled with his financial woes and underwhelming career success. Yes, it is one of those lives that is impossible to look away from. And it certainly sends you back to the songs, hearing them in a whole new way.
While I can hear a student saying, 'Man, that trip must have sucked,' the reality, as you all well know, is the exact opposite. The chance to stretch out on a hotel bed with a book during down times? To read into the night, knowing there's no pressure to get up at any certain time? The ability to bust out a book or a Kindle during a 500 mile car trip because a child is willing to/wants to drive? Are you kidding me? Some people would pay good money for that. That is practically the epitome of summer--traveling to and from a place and getting to do what you want during and in between?
And what I want to do when summer comes is read books. Life may have become speedy and technological, distracted and multi-tasked, but that doesn't undercut the need to read, at least not in the summer. During the other months, books that don't apply to whatever I'm doing right then can fly right past me. I don't keep up anymore with what book won what award or what's being featured at Barnes and Noble when you walk in or publishing controversies or any of that. It isn't often that I glance through the New York Times Review Of Books.
Those aspects of reading have changed. But based on an ethnographic study of one person's reading, namely me, if anyone wants to suggest that the amount of reading that people do has diminished these days because of technology, I'd have to say that viewpoint is false. In fact, I may be reading more than ever; it's just that those damn Game Of Thrones books take such a long time to finish. It's during the summer that I get to play catch up.
Maybe I'm even more excited about what awaits during these hot months: A Dance With Dragons, that latest George R.R. Martin book flying invisibly onto my Kindle right now, the lure of Billy's recommendation, The Sisters Brothers, which I started last night, which hooked me in after three brief chapters, the last 2 1/2 books on the blues that I'm reading for my summer grant, Hemingway's Boat, which I received for Christmas and can only know begin to consider. And all of those unknown titles that wait for me at a public library down in Florida later in the summer.
People tend to talk about summer and movies, like there is going to be some great treasure trove of films to look forward to. The reality is a bit of diversion and a lot of noise and, maybe, if we're lucky, a pleasantly-literate surprise. But most of that money spent will lead to mild disappoint or worse.
SIMPLE ECONOMICS: A book and a movie are the same price. Where is the greater value? The deeper pleasure?
Yeah, I've got to work all summer (or most of it), just like you, and I've got a yard and a garden and weddings and trips and obligations out the wazoo, but doesn't it feel different anway? Doesn't it feel like books?