Sunday, July 7, 2013

Who needs a summer reading list?

When I see a list of books suggested for summer reading, I'm glad I’m able to delve into books of my choosing year-round. To me “summer reading” is an anticipated pastime for students released from mandatory book reports and for those who relish a vacation away from the office. 

Because a classroom and a five-day work week are part of my past, I feel lucky that I may browse through a library, roam the aisles of a book store or select a book from the pile waiting for me on my bedside table.  My question is always “what’s next?”  After I’ve turned the final page on a book, I usually look for a different type of experience.  I just finished “The Woman Upstairs,” a psychological novel by Claire Messud in which an angry and disillusioned woman is betrayed by a friend and I was looking for something in a different vein.

A recent interview of the British author John le Carre, master of spy thrillers, steered me to “Our Kind of Traitor,” published in 2010.  After this book, I’ll look for something lighter.  Perhaps I’ll find something as delightful as “An Uncommon Reader,” a novella by Alan Bennett which tells the story of a bookmobile stationed outside Buckingham Palace.

Like some of my friends, I keep an annual list of the books I read. Every year I try to include at least two or three classics.  In the past couple of years I’ve enjoyed Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast,” John O’Hara’s “Appointment in Samarra,” and Willa Cather’s wonderful novels of American pioneers.
“So many books, so little time” is an apt expression.  It’s easy to find books that please. For me, life is too short to waste time on books that aren’t satisfying in some way, whether it’s the good writing, great depictions of characters, an interesting plot or a book that teaches me something about the world. 
And genre isn’t that important as I discovered a few years when I was part of the craze that enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s trilogy that began with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  Soon I found other Scandinavian writers including Per Petterson who writes wonderful novels. But my newest fascination is the Norwegian mystery writer Jo Nesbo and his series about Harry Hole, a detective on the Oslo police force.
What’s on your reading list? How do you decide what book to read next?  Do you listen to word-of-mouth recommendations from friends?  Do you consult the best seller lists? Or do you return to your favorite genre or a particular author?
Whether you’re off to the beach, the backyard or a living room chair, the best companion is a book that keeps you interested and entertained.