Summer Book Binge

If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.

Seamus Heaney

Summer can be a time to let yourself become absorbed in the deep and wonderful world of words while living outside of some of the usual time constraints of work and school schedules. Vacations can allow time to follow threads of interest through ideas and books that connect under the canopy of a theme that perhaps has been tickling your interest.

For me this can happen by either following one author, or by delighting in the hopscotch discovery of picking up on recommendations or mentions from one book to another.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Stephen King

Diana Abu-Jaber’s novels Crescent and Arabian Jazz led me to her funny and touching memoirs The Language of Baklava and Life Without a Recipe. With her Palestinian father and Irish/German mother she explores the food, culture, and deep emotional connection to family and place.

Abu-Jaber’s rich heritage was a bridge to Naomi Shihab Nye’s very readable, often humorous and comforting poetry.

“Possibly I began writing as a refuge from our insulting first grade text book. Come, Jane, come. Look, Dick, look. Were there ever duller people in the world? You had to tell them to look at things? Why weren’t they looking to begin with?”

-Naomi Shihab Nye, Please Describe How You Became A Writer

Sometimes it’s more of a straight line. When finishing a particularly fine book we just can’t help but want more from that writer, so it’s time to author-binge. While you may not love every subsequent book as much as the first, it still rounds out your sense of the author’s work, their tell-tale literary characteristics and their insights that bring a sense of fulfillment and completion to your reading.

In that spirit, as we enter the summer months, here are a few suggested jumping off points for your consideration. These are either the first books I read of these authors or ones I loved most that sent me reading further:

Mohsin Hamid
Moth Smoke | The Reluctant Fundamentalist | Exit West

Kate Atkinson
Behind the Scenes at the Museum | Case Histories | Life After Life

Richard Powers
Galatea 2.2 | Gain | The Time of Our Singing

Paul Auster
The Book of Illusions | Moon Palace | 4 3 2 1

Chris Bohjalian
Trans-Sister Radio | The Buffalo Soldier | The Sandcastle Girls

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and I was suddenly at peace. I knew who I was and what I was doing there, and I had all day to find what I was looking for.”

-Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy

Lost In Reading: Novel Sequences/Series

Kids have a great affinity for book series that they can read and collect. There are so many options available, even for the “reluctant reader,” which to me is just a child who hasn’t yet fallen in love with a character or a story. Check out our kid’s lists for some great starting points.

“As she read, at peace with the world and happy as only a little girl could be with a fine book and a little bowl of candy, and all alone in the house, the leaf shadows shifted and the afternoon passed.”

-Betty Smith, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Whatever your reading pleasure, summer, with its longer hours of light and fewer constraints, can be a time to let our reading and imaginations open endlessly, like the horizon across the lake or the summer night sky.

Happy Reading!