Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Reading List


Summertime is reading time. I inherited it from my mother.

Back in the nineteen-seventies, when I was a child, my mother liked to sunbathe and read paperback novels while my younger siblings and I splashed about in a kiddie pool in the backyard.

Mother was a compulsive reader. And every time she finished a book, she would proudly proclaim, "That was the best book I have ever read!" Until she finished another book, then that would become the best book she had ever read.

And of all the books Mother ever read, the one that sticks out most in my memory, was Herman Wouk's The Winds of War. One just can't forget a book as big as that, with its read letters and dark clouds of smoke, lying about for weeks on end. Mother did seem to enjoy it.

One tranquil summer afternoon, sprinklers swishing and lawnmowers humming in the distance, mother put her swimsuit on, spread a blanket onto the grass, and set down to sunbathe and finish The Winds of War.

Hours passed as mother read obsessively and my brother and sister and I frolicked about. Until, finally, down to the very last page, mother got up for just a moment (as many avid readers do, in order to give reverence and pause before finishing a good book) and when she returned, iced tea in hand, she found our beagle, Deacon, slobbering all over her tattered paperback novel and the very last page was missing.

This was bad, I remember thinking to myself. Up until that point in time "Old Yeller" had been the longest book I had ever read and it seemed like a tome. I couldn't imagine what it must have felt like to read something so long as this and not be able to finish the very last page. For the first time in my life, I felt sorry for my mother. "Whatever will you do?" I remember asking. We had no money to buy a new book. And the library was closed. And lord knew no one else in our nonliterary circle of friends had this atrociously long novel lying about.

But mother was a sly one...

Swiftly she threw on a blouse, some flip flops, and scurried me, my brother and sister into the car, and nary a word, drove like a mad woman down to the local drugstore, where she strutted in, sunburned, bare legged and resolute, three soggy kids in tow, straight toward a spinning rack of books, picked up The Winds Of War, read the very last page, then gently placed it back upon the rack and turned and strutted out the door again.

Three elderly townsmen stared, jaws agape, at this spectacle they had just witnessed.

And moments later, as the wheels of our Ford LTD station wagon rolled away, Mother proudly proclaimed, "That was the best book I have ever read."

I was impressed with my mother that day and never forgot The Winds of War.

And years later, during a late night game of Trivial Pursuit, before my husband's drunken college buddy could slur the words out of his mouth, I knew the answer to, "Who wrote The Winds of War?"

It is rare moments like these when I cherish my kooky, crafty mother the most. She didn't give me much, but she instilled in me a love for reading and books. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.


So what's on your summer reading list?

Nothing so long as The Winds Of War, I hope.

I am needing some ideas.

These are the books I have read so far.

Anyone have any other suggestions?




3 comments:

Linda said...

This is great! :)

Sadly, I have no summer reading list this year or last. I used to read much more and always have good intentions, but our time is filled with family, work, being outside and writing. So... no summer reads. I never sit still for very long and can't read outside as the sun bothers my eyes. I have a whole shelf of books I've received in the last year, and maybe someday I'll get around to them. At least, you've inspired me to do so. :)

Michelle said...

Linda -
It seems like it gets harder and harder for me to carve out time to read, as well. I can read virtually anywhere, as long as it's quiet. And right now, I am living in a small, noisy house, so it's a real challange. Hopefully we can both find a place and some time to read this summer.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I read mostly cookbooks from cover to cover, currently I'm reading, Recipes from an Italian Summer, published by Phaidon, but I'm dying to read Medium Raw, by Bourdain! Oh and I just want to say what a talented and handsome son you have, what an awsome venue for him to play at. You should put his music on youtube so we can hear it. How's your novel going, I would read that!