Now that I’m retired, the concept of summer vacation seems passé. There is no school or work routine looming at its end. Yet I find myself happily planning for vacation reading in the spirit of long lazy days by the beach.
But rather than heading for the ocean, our summer spot is my family’s cottage in upstate New York, set on a small spring-fed lake in the rural countryside. Three weeks to swim, kayak, take long walks, and read. It’s heaven.
What books to take along?
For early morning coffee on the lakeside deck, I have China in Ten Words (Anchor Books, 2012) by Yu Hua. The author chooses ten symbols, such as People, Leader, Grassroots, and then tells of his own life and China’s history. I started reading the chapter called Reading. Yu Hua was in elementary school during the Cultural Revolution. Books were burned, and the local library had few tracts—he read everything there, and hunted in friends’ houses for anything to read. By high school he was reading “poisonous weeds,” foreign books smuggled from person to person. These “headless and tailless books,” read by thousands of people, would appear missing the front and back pages so that the boy never knew who wrote the books or how they ended. This will be a book to focus on chapter by chapter.
For rainy days on the porch I have Khaled Hosseini’s new book And the Mountains Echoed (Riverhead Books, 2013), a multi-generational novel that begins in an Afghan village. Friends who have read it say it surpasses The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
I’m bringing Anna Keesey’s debut novel Little Century (Picador, 2013). I was influenced by the fact that it is a pick of the Parnassus Books book group. The story, featuring orphan Esther Chambers, has been described as “a top-notch novel of Western Americana.” This sounds perfect for reading late at night while ensconced in bed listening to sounds from the lake below.
For walks, I’ve loaded two classics on my MP3 player from the library’s free download service: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. Listening to Austen’s words aloud is pure pleasure, and Jeeves will have me laughing outright as I trek around the lake.
Covering all bases, I have loaded Gail Godwin’s new book Flora (Bloomsbury, 2013) on my iPad. The book’s narrator is ten-year-old Helen whose feisty demeanor reminds me of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Also, I just heard about an historical mystery series set in ancient Rome. I loaded the first title The Silver Pigs: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2000) by Lindsey Davis. I’ll let you know if it’s fun to read.
Surely that will cover my reading needs while away. But happily, in the nearby small college town there is a well-stocked bookstore!
These books are available at your local public library and at Parnassus Books, Nashville.
Summer at the Lake