Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer reading

the Virgin in the Garden
It's June, my favorite month of my favorite season. It's warm (ok, hot), but the weather's not as stifling as it will get in July and August. The week-long spring rains are over, and now the weeks of sun are punctuated by thunderstorms. The days stretch out long, and it feels like there's more time to get things accomplished -- and still have time to sit on the porch in the evening and chill.

Summer is a time most readers like to kick off their mental shoes and relax with easy, fun, uplifting books. Usually, I feel the same way, but since I spent this winter wallowing in junk reading, I'm still in the mood for more substantial fare.

Tomorrow is the kickoff for our big summer reading program at the library where I work, and I've been thinking a lot about reading and my habits. I like to have 2 or 3 books going at a time, plus at least one audiobook (sometimes two), but I don't always finish all of them. It's so bad that I have a special stack of books I consider my languishing pile -- books I drifted away from months and even years ago, and still plan to pick up one day and finish, but I'm constantly distracted by the shiny new books that cross my desk every day. One of the occupational hazards of being a librarian is there are always way more books I want to read, and less and less time in which to read them. My summer reading goal this year is to get through 3 or 4 of the books in my languishing pile, and to read a few other books I've been planning to pick up for years but haven't gotten around to.

One of my habits is to have one book I read at breakfast and dinner, if I'm dining solo, and to have another book I pack along to work to read during my lunch hour. I either take one of these with me to bed, or I have a third book I reserve for bedtime reading. I also always have a book languishing on my nightstand just in case, and a book on my iPhone for long lines at the post office. I also have an audiobook on my iPhone for driving, and a separate audiobook on a little flash mp3 player for listening to while running. I just finished listening to The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (it's fantastic -- don't let the classic moniker scare you away from this vivid, spare novel about love and respect and British colonial China and cholera), so I picked up a fascinating book about the 1854 London cholera epidemic and the two men who determined the disease was waterborne and made great strides in epidemiology as a followup. The Ghost Map by Stephen Johnson does not work as a breakfast or lunch book -- I tried, and every time I thought I was safe, he'd mention some disgusting cholera symptom, or start describing the progression towards death -- so I had to quarantine it to bedtime reading. I also have A.S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden going, and I'm between audiobooks right now, having finally finished Jerome K. Jerome's hilarious Three Men in a Boat and Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was so good I had to find excuses to listen to it.

The Byatt novel is one of my summer reading goal books. How do you approach summer reading? Do you have any goals, or plans? How do you decide what to read next?

In other news, I'm almost finished with the trousers -- just need hems and buttons. They're slow going because I'm too tired to handle more than a few steps a day, plus getting them to fit exactly right is harder than I thought it would be. Who knew?

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