I love summer. The world feels different during July and August. Softer. Kinder. Laziness rules the day. With no homework hanging over us, we can watch hours of TV every night (right now we’re all about the BBC series Sherlock) and dinner can just be plates of fruits and vegetables and cheeses and bread and it all tastes good.
I think I threw the ball for the dog for a total of about three hours yesterday. Every time he brought me the ball, I thought, “Why NOT?” It was beautiful out. That’s another thing–in LA, July and August are lovely, rarely too hot, mostly just hot enough.
And summer’s about reading. It always has been. I think I’ve mentioned this before so forgive me if I’m being repetitive but when I was a kid, we’d go to a house on a lake in New Hampshire every summer, all summer long, and we didn’t have a TV there and don’t ask whether we brought our laptops because LAPTOPS DIDN’T EXIST BACK THEN. When we weren’t outside wandering down along the edge of the lack, scraping our knees and ankles on the rocks down there or swimming out to the floating dock where we could lie in the sun and get beautifully brown and pre-cancerous, we were reading.
Once a week we went to the local library–which was and remains a terrific one–and loaded up on books. Huge stacks, one for each of us. I had my library card as soon as I could write my own name. I remember making the transition, early in my teens, from the kids’ books to the adult books, tiptoeing across the hallway from one room to the other, then slipping silently along the seemingly endless aisles of bookshelves, hoping that no one would send me away. No one ever did and I discovered numerous new authors I loved, with names ranging from Aiken to Zola.
But the library wasn’t the only source for books. We also had one built-in bookcase at that house, which my parents must have filled during the sixties and early seventies with books that I assume they themselves had read while on vacation (or maybe guests had left–we had a lot of weekend guests at that house). Those books were always there–most of them are still there–and so I read and reread some of them year after year after year.
I’ve frequently complained about my lack of memory and I truly forget almost everything–people’s names, appointments, whether I’ve bought something already or not, and so on–but I can remember those books so vividly. Maybe it’s because I was young then or maybe because I read them summer after summer and so they pounded themselves into my brain. Here’s some of my favorites: the very much of-its-time Coffee, Tea, or Me?–the sexy adventures of a couple of stewardesses (NOT flight attendants); The October Country–short stories by Ray Bradbury; all of the (real) Ian Fleming James Bond books (how I loved those–still do); a biography of Helen Keller; and Anyone Got a Match? by Max Shulman (whose son, in a strange coincidence, later became my kids’ pediatrician).
Could any collection of books be more eclectic than these? I didn’t read these particular books because they were assigned, or because I wanted to impress anyone with what I was reading, or because they were on the bestseller list, or because my friends were reading them. Definitely not because my friends were reading them.
I read them because they were there. And that, to me, is the essence of summer vacation reading. You put your hand down, you pick up a book, you read it. If you don’t like it, you toss it aside and pick up another. And you rediscover the joy of curling up for hours with nothing but the written word to keep you company–and maybe a few fresh cherries to pop in your mouth and suck on until you just can’t resist biting into the firm sweet flesh.