I inherited it from my mother.
As a child, growing up in a small town in the nineteen-seventies, Mother liked to sunbathe and read paperback novels while my younger siblings and I splashed about in a kiddie pool in the backyard.
Mother read compulsively. And every time she finished a book she would proudly proclaim, "That was the best book I have ever read." Until she read another book, then that would become the best book she had ever read.
Of all the books mother ever read, the one that sticks out most in my memory was Herman Wouk's The Winds of War. You just don't forget a book as big as that, lying about for weeks on end, and 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 compulsively 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 and the very last page 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 a blouse on, some flip flops, and scurried me and my brother and sister into the car. And nary a word, drove like a mad woman to the drugstore downtown, where she strutted in, sunburned, bare legged and resolute, three soggy kids in tow, straight toward a spinning rack of books. There she picked up The Winds Of War, read the very last page and gently placed it back upon the rack, then turned and strutted back out the door again.
Three elderly townsmen stared, jaws agape, at the spectacle they had just witnessed.
And moments later, as mother drove away, she 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 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 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?