I never got the full appeal or impact of summer reading because I read throughout the year. I don't really make it point to just find specific books to read over the summer. To be honest, I have such big reading lists, all I have to do is reach for the next item on one of the lists. And then, there are other sources where I get reading ideas. In addition, summer has become in recent years just an excuse for schools that were too lazy (or too fixated on testing) to actually cover the readings (and material. My daughter has a pretty hefty math summer assignment plus a reading list) during the school year to dump reading requirements on the students. Sorry, but I come from the old school that says summer is for having fun, not doing homework. That whole idea that "the kids will forget everything" over the summer is hogwash. Besides, we all know the first two weeks or so of school are review anyhow. So, let the kids have some fun, and let them read what they actually want to read.
Anyhow, I wanted to do a couple of things here. First, I wanted to share this post from the Home School Dad where he gives some advice about setting up your summer reading. Dave, the blogger, gives some advice on how to set up your summer reading plan. It's worth a look. Second, there are some suggestions on Dave's list that I could relate to, so I wanted to briefly write about that, if for no other reason than to reflect a bit on my reading habits. That is something I try to do once in a while in the hope, infinitesimal as it may be, that I can chart my reading patterns over time. Just a way to learn a bit more about myself, if my reading tastes have changed, so on.
So, here goes. I am going to highlight some of Dave's suggestions, and then add my reflections and remarks:
Dave writes: "Read a book that you already own but have not yet read."
- Even though I believe in borrowing as much as possible, I still buy a significant amount of books. This is usually because I tend to buy stuff that I want to keep and reread (or think I may want to reread at the time). I also buy books that are rare, and this means stuff I know I would not be able to get in any library in Tyler, TX (including mine). The result is that I have a good number of books waiting to be read. I do try to get through them, but then, since I am also borrowing, often via Interlibrary Loan (thank you ILL Librarian), this is what happens. I start on one book or two that I own. The ILL's arrive, and in spite of my attempts to space out the requests, sometimes they arrive at the same time. Since ILL's do have to be returned, and often they cannot be renewed, I have to start reading them when they arrive. This means that any book of mine I was reading goes into the waiting list so to speak until I am done with what I borrowed and need to return. I then go back to my book or books that I was reading. It also reflects why, if you look at my GoodReads page, there are times I list 5 or 6 books as current reads. I usually read three as a general rule at a time (a fiction, a nonfiction, and a graphic novel or manga). Anything more than that means ILL had a delivery. This pattern is pretty common for me.
- This is something I want to do more. Very often I read something really cool, often nonfiction, and I want to learn more. For example, I recently finished the book Liquid Jade, which is a history of tea. By the way, if you like microhistories, this is a pretty neat book to read. In the book, it talks about Zheng He, the Chinese eunuch admiral and the time when China did rule the seas. This sounded like an interesting topic to me, so I added When China Ruled the Seas to my reading list. Books like that are things I find by serendipity, which sometimes is the coolest way to find something to read. By the way, speaking of eunuchs and similar, I have had Moreschi: The Last Castrato on my reading list for a while as well. I don't think there is a pattern there in those reading choices, but these are interesting things. Moreschi was the last of the castrati, children who were castrated before they reached puberty in order to keep their singing voices. Moreschi was the only one of his tradition to be recorded. No, Moreschi was not mentioned in Liquid Jade. I am recalling it now since I was mentioning Zheng He. Sometimes my reader's mind works that way; I find connections or lines that go in what may seem like wild tangents.
I don't agree much with the suggestion of choosing a book you should (or ought to) read. Dave argues that you should challenge yourself as a reader, so he picks something he should have read in high school. I pretty much got done with compulsory reading when I left graduate school. I still have an idea of things I should read, usually related to my work as a librarian or because I want to learn more about a topic. Overall though, I don't care for the notion that I should read X or Y just because some stuffy list or professor says so. Besides, I am fairly well read already, so I can leave the "books you should read" to those who actually need to be reading them desperately.
Dave writes: "Read the book if you have seen the movie."
- I say to this absolutely yes. The movie will never be as good as the book no matter how hard they try. More often than not, movie makers butcher a book. Even the Lord of the Rings films, which are excellent and capture the film's feel and ambiance fairly well, cannot substitute for the books. I went ahead and reread the trilogy before the films came out. I had not read them since I was a teen, so this was an interesting experience going back and seeing if I would enjoy them as much now as I did then. I liked them a bit better as a teen, but they are still good. I will add that if you watch a movie based on a comic book or graphic novel, you have to read the original work. You practically owe it to yourself. While the film for Watchmen catches the graphic novel pretty closely, if you have not read the book, you will not know about the different ending, or even about the comic inside the comic. On the other hand, the film for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is nothing like the book, other than catching a bit of the steampunk. Don't get me wrong: I find the movie very entertaining, but if you think LoXG is just the film with Sean Connery, you are missing a lot. So yes, read the book if there is a film for it.
- I will say that for me it depends on who is doing the recommendation. Since I already have many ideas of what I want to read, I usually take recommendations from sources I trust. For example, if Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, interviewed and author, and it sounds interesting, odds are good I will try to pick up his or her book at some point, even if it is not on a topic I am usually interested. Why? Because I know Stewart and his gang are thoughtful in their selections, they are smart in interviewing the authors, and they make pretty good book talkers to be honest. I read Paulo Coehlo because my mother suggested it. I get suggestions from others from all over, but I trust a few. Having said that, I am fairly open to new books, and if someone suggests something, within reason, I will at least look at it; it's no guarantee I will go on to read it, but I will look it over. I do try to keep the options open since part of my work after all involves recommending books to read to other people.
At times, I think that I reflect on my reading habits, and I know there is at least one librarian out there who may read this and cringe. "You mean you don't read classics" or "you don't read (insert whatever may be considered proper, correct, etc. here)." Those librarians don't worry me much. I am more worried about the librarians who actually admit, some with a degree of pride, that they do not read at all. Yes, I have met those creatures who use the excuse of being around books all day to not read at all. They mean they do not read for recreation or outside the narrow materials they may read related to their work. In my book, a good librarian should be an avid reader, and he or she should read as broadly as possible. Reading widely should be part of the job and trade for us. In the end, I will agree with Dave when he says that you should make your summer reading list as unique as you are. You should make your reading lists as unique as you are. Make them as eclectic or as specific as you wish, and in the end, read. Read because you want to learn new things. Read because you want to escape. Whatever your reason, just read.