We whipped out the dreaded summer reading lists at the Boyne house last week.
Let me be clear. The dread is not coming from me. Two guesses who produced the moans when I brought up the topic.
I don’t dread the summer reading. I rather enjoy it. It takes me back to a simpler time, a time when I had endless days to sit and read, and memories of all the books I devoured as a youth.
I decided last summer that I would read some of what the boys were required to read for school. I thought it would fill in some of the blanks in my literary arsenal and give me a clue as to what they were writing about in their assignments. You know, to see if they actually read the books.
I am not as well read as some might assume a sharp, college-educated writer to be. This used to plague me, making me feel inferior around those tossing about the current hot book titles, discussion themes and subtext, drawing parallels between classic novels and current fiction.
I hated being asked, “What’s your favorite book?” I would gauge my response depending upon who was asking. Rarely could I admit it was Judith Krantz’s “Scruples.” I would rifle through my brain to retrieve an appropriate title that I may have perused well enough in high school to write a paper on or throw out a quip to cover: “Who can choose just one? It’s like choosing your favorite child.”
I have gotten over that. I am what I am. I enjoy a humorous, character-driven story about life and love and friendship. In other words, my sweet spot is in chick lit. Yes, I said it. If someone else wants to judge and think less of me because I have not forced myself to slog through all 1,400 pages of “War and Peace,” well then, God bless them.
Let it be known, however, that I do expand beyond my genre from time to time. But I have realized one must learn who to take book recommendations from. This, unfortunately, for those with limited reading time such as myself, is a painful exercise of trial and error.
Your book guru may not be who you assume it will be. I have taken recommendations from those closest to me and been shocked to find out how different our taste in literature is. I started to read a book recommended by a close friend only to find I wanted to beat myself about the head with the hardcover novel after the first 50 pages describing every detail of the landscape, architecture and historical significance of the ancient Irish village where the story took place.
I learned at this point that life is too short and I do not always have to finish what I start.But when someone consistently suggests books I like, I hound them for everything else that they have enjoyed. And I keep a list in my phone so I am never at a loss in a bookstore when I’m searching for something new to read.
I have also accepted that although Oprah got the country reading again with her book club, we do not have the same taste in books. Good God, woman! Must we read another volume about a messed-up person falling into the lowest of lows before picking themselves up, going to a computer and writing about it? Ugh.
I know the boys may not love every tome they are assigned to read, but they might be surprised every now and then and actually get in to one of them. Such was the case last summer when The Teenager and I read “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho. We both found it much more engaging than we thought we would. “The Screwtape Letters,” by C.S. Lewis, was a whole other story, however.
After jumping into what the boys were reading, I decided I wanted to read more of what I had missed in the realm of the modern classics. In the past year, I have read “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, which I can’t believe I never read before.
I also reread “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And I tried to read “Fahrenheit 451,” by Ray Bradbury — “tried” being the operative word in that sentence. It wasn’t assigned to me, so I didn’t have to finish it. Reference realization noted earlier in this piece.
So this summer, in addition to “our” assigned reading, I am planning to read “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger. And as The Teenager dives into “Ethan Frome,” by Edith Wharton, and Small Boyne takes on “To Kill A Mockingbird” upon my recommendation, I will set them up for designated reading time on the shaded deck, in the lounge chairs, with bottomless lemonades and try to make it as pleasant and painless as possible.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.