Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Reading List

"Summertime is reading time."
That's what mother used to say.

She used to lie in the sun 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 proudly proclaimed "That was the best book I have ever read." Until she finished another book then that became the best book she had ever read. So the cycle continued, each day, for an entire summer: reading, sunbathing, splashing, sunburns, and paperback novels flapping in the wind.

Of all the books mother ever read, the one that sticks out most in my memory is Herman Wouk's The Winds of War. You just can't forget a novel as big as that lying around for weeks on end. And mother seemed to enjoy it.

One tranquil summer afternoon, sprinklers swishing and lawnmowers humming in the distance, mother put her swimsuit on and went outside to sunbathe and finish The Winds of War.

Hours passed while my younger siblings 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, gnawing and slobbering all over The Winds of War and the very last page was missing. 

This was tragic, 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 have read something so long as this and not be able to finish the very last page. "Whatever will you do?" I remember asking my mother. 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. She paused for a moment, then swiftly threw on a blouse and some flip flops and asserted us to "Get in 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, turned and strutted back out the door again.

Three elderly townsmen stared, jaws agape, at this spectacle they had just witnessed. And as our station wagon eased from the curb, mother quietly proclaimed, "Now 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 question 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 of 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 thus far and am happy to report that I recommend all three.

If you haven't read "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," then you are in for a treat.

"The Optimist's Daughter" is a classic that does not disappoint.

And "My Cousin Rachel" was worth the dark circles and brain fog after staying up all night to read.

Anymore suggestions?


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!