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Vail Valley: Summer reading for grownups

Besse Lynch
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado –For kids, the school year seems like it will never end. The last few weeks of May drag on as the sunny, care-free days of June appear like a hazy mirage on the horizon. Just as the last papers have been turned in, the final exams completed, and lockers cleaned out comes the ominous release of the summer required-reading list.

The Bookworm has been inundated with teacher’s reading lists for the fall’s incoming classes, and it has us pondering the real meaning of summer reading. While gardens grow and barbecues beckon, adult bibliophiles in the Vail Valley are using the long warm days to learn something new through the pages of a good book.

“Summer reading to me is either that old assigned list of classics, or now as an adult, an opportunity to read a little longer due to the extra daylight,” said local librarian Amy Gornikiewicz. “I remember a few of those required summer reading books…. ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ and ‘Death Be Not Proud’ were some that I actually fell in love with.”



“I can’t recall ever having been assigned summer reading” said Anuschka Bales, lead bookseller at The Bookworm. “My summer reading usually consists of books that make me think about how I live my life and what sort of person I am. Last summer I read ‘Far North’ by Marcel Theroux, a post-apocalyptic novel that takes place in Siberia, not exactly a care-free beach read. It was the perfect summer reading experience, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

This kind of reflection and contemplation might be exactly what teachers have in mind when they assign a book for summer reading. Year after year The Bookworm sees some of the same books on local summer reading lists. These days, books like “The Things They Carried,” “The Book Thief,” and “The Alchemist” seem to always make the cut. These are books that resonate with the general public, and have the potential to become more than just assigned reading.



“If I were a teacher, I wouldn’t assign summer reading other than to ask my students to just read and reflect,” said Nicole Magistro, co-owner of The Bookworm. “Summer means spending time immersed in a book, reading at a three-hour stretch without interruption. For me, that probably comes from my school days. Back then, summer reading meant getting to read what I chose, rather than what my teachers assigned.”

Edwards resident Dr. Howard Rothenberg has different take summer reading.

“I am retired so I don’t usually differentiate between seasons when it comes to reading, but I do have a tendency to read more fiction in the summer. Either way, good writing is very important, it has to be interesting, with lasting value.”



Just like in the movie industry, the book publishing world saves some of its biggest blockbusters for a summer release. This year is no different. “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” the final installment in Stieg Larsson’s famed series hit stateside just a few weeks ago. Stephenie Meyer’s novella “The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner,” an adjunct to the Twilight series, is being hailed as a must-read before the big movie release. But, in talking to local readers it seems it might just be the lesser-known authors and lingering classics that top Vail Valley summer reading lists.

Michelle Marx, adult services librarian for the Eagle Valley Library District, has books like “Work Song” by Ivan Doig, “Rebecca” by Daphne DuMaurier, and “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins at the top of her list.

“I don’t necessarily save books to read in the summer,” Marx said. “I just enjoy reading outside on my porch with a glass of white wine instead of inside with a cup of tea.”

“At the top of my list are ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin, another post-apocalyptic brain teaser, and ‘Mr. Peanut’ by Adam Ross, a first time novelist,” Bales said. “I also plan on re-reading ‘The Forged Coupon,’ a short story by Leo Tolstoy. I was reminded of it after I read and loved ‘The Line’ by Olga Grushin. Both stories are a testament to the grace of those who are able to receive evil and repay it with kindness.”

As the owner of a bookstore, Magistro is always reading a few months ahead, trying to stay on top of all of the new releases. Most of the books she is reading this summer won’t be released for few months.

“On my list is ‘Father of the Rain’ by Lily King and ‘Great House’ by Nicole Krauss, a new novel from one of my favorite authors. And, I just finished ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’ by Aimee Bender, which I loved.”

“Await Your Reply” by Dan Chaon, “Stone’s Fall” by Iain Pears and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot are just a few of the many books Rothenberg plans to read this summer.

“Right now I am reading too many books. I’m like a kid in a candy store,” he said.

The days of summer are long, which leaves plenty of time to bask in the sunshine with a good book. Though people have different tastes when it comes to what they like to read, the impetus for cracking the cover remains the same as when we were conquering those required reading lists as kids.

“I don’t like not knowing things,” Rothenberg said. “That’s what really drives me in my reading, the chance to continue learning.”

Besse Lynch works at The Bookworm of Edwards. What’s on your summer reading list? E-mail High Life Editor Caramie Schnell at cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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