They are everywhere: the CBC Books 2015 summer reading list, GoodReads’ Popular Summer Book Shelf… There even seems to be some special categories like “beach reads”! But what are summer reads? What makes a book a good fit for holidays? Do “summer reads” even exist?
The 90’s or the art of packing books
When I was a teenager, there were no eReaders, no tablets, no smartphones, no WiFi all over the place, and no, I’m no dinosaur: it was the 90’s. At the time, in my case, summer holidays meant a one month stay in a small sea-side town in Normandy near my grand-parents’. There were great seafood, horses and cows, hiking trails, all kinds of things, but no public library and no decent book store.
As a result, I was planning my summer book list as carefully as a rocket launch to the Moon. For the sake of easy transportation, it had to be as light as possible but still be able to hold for a month. Yep, pretty much an unsolvable equation.
So back then, “summer reads” mostly meant “thick mass paperbacks”, whatever the content: this is when I read 1000+ page-long Gone With The Wind for instance.
School years summer syndrome: read *useful*
At school, I was strongly encouraged to read classics, and especially books that would give me an edge in my academic studies. Stephen King didn’t really match the French curriculum: 19th-20th century French authors were more like it. So I read plenty of books by Honoré de Balzac, Émile Zola, Maupassant, Prosper Mérimée, Théophile Gaultier and so on.
The urge to “read useful” was strong. I remember being once stuck with no book (oOoh the pain!), so when we went to the supermarket, I checked their small bookshelf. I picked L’Araigne by Henri Troyat, for the unique reason that the book got the prestigious French Goncourt award in 1938. This is how I discovered my favourite author ever: by choosing a “quotable” book. I know. Lame.
Nowadays, summer is business reading as usual
But now? Well, I don’t need to pack for one full month holidays anymore (I wish…). Anyway, with an eReader and even the worst Internet connection, I can get something to read from anywhere at any time. I also don’t read books in the hope of showing off in my essays at school (never quite paid off, anyway). So… what?
Summer isn’t a special reading season anymore. I just keep reading what I enjoy the rest of the year. I don’t feel the urge to read anything different, or lighter, or more serious, just because I could read and get sunburnt at the same time (which I don’t). “Summer reads” doesn’t mean much to me.
What about you? Do you have special summer reading list?