24 May 2017
Summer Reading: Reviving a Tradition
I am a voracious reader. I read every night before I go to sleep, first my Bible, then whatever book I'm devouring. For a long time, I had an annual tradition: at the beginning of every summer, I placed an order with Dover Publications. I read year round, but for some reason, that box of books that arrived in time for summer was special. In recent years, I've let my tradition lapse, but this year I decided to revive it. My box of books arrived last week. I now have a little basket of new books right beside my bed, ready and waiting for summer reading. I suppose it's possible that at some point in the future, I'll get something like a Kindle, but honestly? I can't see myself doing it. I love books, not just reading. I loved seeing my box of books on the doorstep. I loved finding a basket for them, so they could neatly wait for me. I love looking at that basket, and wondering if there's a treasure in there that I'll read over and over. I love my bookshelf, books arranged by color and ranging from Viking history to archaeology to vintage cookery to mysteries.
I must admit that I'm a bit of an odd duck when it comes to reading. I don't read modern fiction. I prefer my books to be older than I am (I'm 45), and the older the better. This is why Dover is my favorite place to shop (also, very good prices). I've also recently discovered a book warehouse in our area that stocks new editions of old books, including a lot of Golden Age mysteries, for $4-5 each. In my summer basket, the most recent book was first published in 1962, the oldest in 1778, with most of the rest falling between the early 1800's and the 1940's. Delicious. The usage of the language is almost as much of a pleasure as the stories themselves. And there's a marked absence of the coarseness that characterizes much modern fiction.
Here are a few favorites from summer book boxes of years past (all from Dover). This 1917 cookbook/novel is absolutely charming. I confess I have a weakness for vintage cookbooks, and I've been known to read them like novels, but this one actually has a story woven into it--or should I say, there are recipes woven into a tale about a new bride's first year of marriage. It's a fascinating time capsule.
The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896): set in Maine; a bit melancholy, but so beautifully written and engaging that I forgave it for making me cry (only book that's ever made me cry).
Cranford (1851): adorable, funny, charming, poignant.
Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922, and this is his 1923 account of his discovery. Absolutely fascinating. Reminds me I need to read this again. I think I'll pop it into the summer book basket.
I'm a history nerd, so I love old travel journals. This one, published in 1785, is like being transported back to the 1770's and traveling with Johnson and Boswell. And of course, there's Johnson's writing.
If you've never treated yourself to a little stack of new books, give it a go. It's like sending your mind on summer vacation, and who couldn't use that?