In winter, I try to be disciplined and force myself only to read books that I should be reading--novels that are somehow related to work and biographies of people I really should know more about.
Or at least that is what I tell myself, as I put aside a treatise on peace in the Middle East for a fat life of Mordecai Richler or a new novel by Julian Barnes.
In summer quite the other way, I indulge myself with the comfort of old favourites, the dazzle of new books that have been waiting patiently on my bedside table and dip into the police procedurals and Scandinavian crime fiction that I have tucked away in the cold, austere working months.
Others might swim across the lake, or play endless rounds of golf, or compete in tennis matches as the sun beats down. My idea of bliss is to sit in a Muskoka chair under the shade of an umbrella with a drink to hand and systematically shift my reading material from the unread pile on my right to a tattered stack of consumed books on my left by summer’s end.
What are your summer reading habits? Instead of discussing a particular title, we’re devoting this meeting of the online book club to a conversation about reading at the cottage, the park, or public transit on the commute to and from work.
Tell us what you are reading this summer and why. I’ll post a different discussion question every day for the next week. We’ll print the best answers in the summer reading issue of Books on June 9.
Let me start by telling you what I’m planning to read this summer. You can ask me how I’ve made out as the days grow shorter in September.
Old Favourite. I’m going to re-read Ian McEwan’s Atonement. He has a new novel, Sweet Tooth, coming out in late August, so I will get myself in the mood by rereading one of his most acclaimed and beloved novels. The story of a young girl driven by remorse for the way her lies and meddling have distorted the happiness of others, was shortlisted for the Booker and made into a film starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy.
Reading it again will pit my memory of the book against the scrutiny of a second reading. Does the book stand up more than a decade after it was published? Did the film adaptation work? How much of McEwan's own family history went into the scenes at Dunkirk and in London during the Blitz? These are some of the questions I will be asking myself as I turn the pages.
Second Chance. I’ve read lots of Salman Rushdie over the years and interviewed him at least once, but I confess I have never read Midnight’s Children, the 1981 Booker winning novel that made his name as an international literary force. A post-modern classic about India's Independence from Britain and subsequent partition, the novel combines history, allegory and memorable characters. I have been meaning to read it for years, and this summer, spurred on by the release of Deepa Mehta's film scheduled for late October, I’m going to do it.
Catching up. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel slid by me, even though it won the Man Booker Prize in 2009. I’m not going to let that happen with Mantel’s sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, which has just been published. Both are about Thomas Cromwell, a distant antecedent of Oliver Cromwell, a key adviser to Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII and the man who knew where all the bodies came to be buried in that bloody and tumultuous era--until he met his own violent end, of course. I may read the books in the reverse order, which is unorthodox but fun.
Of course summer is not all about reading the great and the worthy. Decadence, frivolity and escapism are essential ingredients of any summer reading list. I’ll leave my guilty pleasures for later in the week. Meanwhile let’s hear what you are planning to read and why. Remember, the online book club never sleeps.
You can check in any time, anywhere and post your thoughts, your questions and your reactions.
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