Who Says Bleak House Isn't A Beach Book? (What's On Your Summer Reading List?)

I've been reading a lot of my friends' books lately, and it's been a delight. I finally read Orphan Train. (Thank you Christina Baker Kline, for writing something so beautiful--not to mention that the phenomenal success of that book could not have happened to a better person.) I just finished reading my friend Gretchen Rubin's excellent new book Better Than Before, though that was a word doc because it doesn't come out until 2015. I also devoured Julia Fierro's Cutting Teeth--but while that book takes place at a beach house on the last weekend of the summer, I read it in February. So what did I decide to pick up when the weather got warm, flip flops became a viable shoe option again, and the summer reading lists hit the stands?

Bleak House.

You heard me. Does anything say "beach book" like Bleak House to you?

The quintessential summer read, of course, is supposed to be light, or a page-turner, at least--as Janet Maslin put it in her summer reading column this year, "we have entered the fun season with the sandy nickname, the one known for books impossible to put down." I've gone in for this trend at times--I read The DaVinci Code on a beach, and can't quite imagine having read it anywhere else. I also, however, read Proust's In Search of Lost Time over three consecutive summers, starting each of the three volumes of the Scott Moncrieff translation whenever the summer arrived, and refraining from embarking upon the next volume until it was warm again, which allowed me to take some much-needed breaks in-between. Proust is probably not most people's idea of a summer read. Or is it? What is a summer read? And can there be such a thing for someone who reads year round? 

Summer, of course, is when school is out, and even those of us for whom school is a distant memory can recall the freedom of summer reading, which was when you read what YOU wanted to read, and you read purely for fun. That, I think is the best spirit in which to take the only reading "season" I know of, and Bleak House is what suits my fancy right now. What about you? What is a "summer read" to you? Do you have a summer reading list? If you do, please tell me what's on it! I may finish with Dickens by August...if I can manage to carry it back and forth from the beach.

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Comment by Kamy Wicoff on July 8, 2014 at 7:20am

These are so great, thanks everyone! I love the idea of "at sea" books and also love A Gift From the Sea. I hadn't thought about that book for awhile and it's always worth a re-read. Also my son is a huge Ursula LeGuin fan and got me reading the Earthsea series, though I haven't read all the books yet. May need to add that after Bleak House, which, btw, is blowing my mind with how incredibly incredibly good it is.

Comment by Karen Szklany Gault on July 5, 2014 at 6:39pm

Oh, and I forgot, I have been meaning to read Sue Monk Kidd's "The Mermaid's Chair." Read "The Secret Life of Bees" a number of years ago and loved it.

Comment by Karen Szklany Gault on July 5, 2014 at 6:37pm

Reading books set at sea is usually the genre I reach for most, whether it's Jack London's "Sea Wolf" or Melville's "Moby Dick." So far, I have read a book of a fellow NWU author named Janet Spurr, titled "Beach Chair Diaries" while my daughter enjoyed her swim lesson and some play time in the sand with some classmates.  That was a fun read. I also love fantasy. I have read books by Paolo Coelho, such as "The Alchemist" on the beach. But I think will try to finish reading "Moby Dick" this summer. ~:0)

Comment by Mardith Louisell on July 4, 2014 at 2:33pm

Listening to Dickens on audiobooks is really a treat, as are any of Henry James or E. Wharton or G. Eliot. Don't know how well they suit the beach, though, but since we have lying at the  beach where I live in San Francisco, there is no difference between summer and non-summer reading lists.

Comment by Nina Gaby on July 4, 2014 at 6:27am

One theme, driven by the return of Orange is the New Black, is the memoir "In the Sanctuary of Outcasts" by Neil White. While being prison-y, it also serves my other summer commitment, which is to read books by people I have met, since I hope they return the favor when my She Writes Press book comes out in March. The next two, Jessica Handler's "Braving the Fire. Writing Through Grief" is a book I use working with the corrections population at the facility where I am employed, and I know Jessica from a workshop AND she is contributing to my book- and Barbara Hurd's collection of essays, "Walking the Wrack Line." I am taking a workshop with her in August and met her quite by chance the other night. The only prison connection is that she was a teacher in a program where a friend of mine who had been in prison did her MFA. All that meaningful multi-tasking aside- I also will drag the Adirondack chair down to the lake's edge and dive right into whatever Anne River Siddons has concocted for this summer. 

Comment by Meg E Dobson on July 3, 2014 at 8:30pm
Dang phone. . .Ordering of Love
Comment by Meg E Dobson on July 3, 2014 at 8:30pm
Love Wrinkle in Time. I keep her collection of poems called Ordering of Live on.my nightstand.

"Hold me against the dark: I am afraid.
Circle me with your arms. I am made
So tiny and my atoms so unstable
That at any moment I may explode...."
Comment by Pamela Olson on July 3, 2014 at 7:22pm

I'm reading  Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell as I tackle my first novel (which I'm halfway done with, woohoo!). Really enjoying it, great stuff. Also, for pleasure, re-reading the Wrinkle in Time books by Madeleine L'Engle. They stand the test of time surprisingly well! Next up: House of Stone by Anthony Shadid (since part of my novel takes place in Lebanon).

My first book, Fast Times in Palestine, was chosen as a recommended summer travel memoir by Peter Greenberg last year, if you like a bit of romance and adventure thrown in with life-changing experiences with politics and violence.

Comment by Loraine Despres on July 3, 2014 at 7:00pm

My first novel THE SCANDALOUS SUMMER OF SISSY LEBLANC was promoted as a summer read, because it's fast and funny, and takes you back to a time in the South when women, white and black, were dismissed as not really important. And a girl had to do what a girl had to do to find happiness. But this summer I've just finished rereading "Maps for Lost Lovers" by Nadeem Askam. I read it once for a book club, powering through all the flowery prose, but I couldn't get the characters out of my mind. So I reread it, slowly, delighting in his images, he grew up in Pakistan reading Urdu poetry. Now that I've finished I feel a friend is missing from my life, so I just down-loaded his latest book, "The Blind Man's Garden." Happy summer reading, y'all. 

Comment by Meg E Dobson on July 3, 2014 at 6:27pm
This is on my list. It sounds awesome. Here's my friend's rec. You'll be sold too.http://mobile.dudamobile.com/site/jennsbookshelves?url=http%3A%2F%2....


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