Your Summer Reading Guide
It’s in the nick of time for me
Bay Weekly’s Summer Reading Guide appears not coincidentally just as I’m looking for a good book to reduce the amount of newsprint I consume.
Last summer I read baseball.
In Ireland this spring, I read Maeve Binchey and a couple of very odd but charming things — The Irish RM and a volume of comic writer Spike Milligan’s World War II memoir, Adolph Hitler: My Part in His Downfall — recommended by Irish-traveling friend Barclay Walsh.
Binchey, who died last year, was a surprise and a good companion. Chancing on her, I downloaded on my Kindle a couple of her stories of women who manage — or don’t. Then I came on a heavy signed hardback in a country house where we stayed. Reading it through County Cork was worth six-plus Euros postage to send it back to its home shelf.
I’ve been out of a good book ever since, but not for lack of trying. In the last two months, I’ve rejected a dozen or more. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls — by a woman who lives in my hometown of St. Louis and teaches creative writing at Washington University — had me for a couple of hundred pages. But now that the dark secret is out, I may be done.
Even the talking books I devour from four or five county libraries are not quite hitting the spot since I finished Dennis Lehane’s long 2012 Live by Night. Good, better than The Given Day of the same series, but not so good as Mystic River. I read all three by talking book.
Now I’m depending on the writers who’ve contributed their own reading and tracked down other readers, too, to put me into the trance I long for, with a book rich in plot, suspense, deep characters and masterful language.
Maybe you know the one for me?
Many a one from past years lives on in memory on shelves too heavy laden. They are the sheep redeemed when moves and space reconfiguration sent many a goat looking for a new home.
I kept my full set of Neville Shute, purchased via Bay Weekly classifieds a decade or so ago when I was rereading my favorite author. The aging hardbacks are too brittle to read. So the set is extended by now very soft paperbacks, and a few worn hardbacks discovered in old bookstores and yard sales. Shute, who wrote in the first half of the 20th century, was beloved by more readers than me for his engaging, self-effacing style. He has given me so many an hour of pleasure that I can’t throw away a book by him. Open one and read a sentence, and I’m hooked again.
I’ve kept samples of most of the mystery and suspense writers I’ve loved over the years: Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Eric Ambler, Geoffrey Household. Those collections are thin; I read most of them back in Springfield, Illinois, where the public library kept its collections deep and you could wander through history, as I did all the way back to Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1860). Hammett, as a Maryland-rooted writer, stands on my shelves at Bay Weekly.
Still claiming home shelf space are authors like John le Carre who’ve become so self-imitative that I can no longer read them. Graham Greene is another of those. So too is Alan Furst, who I met through Dennis Doyle’s recommendation in an earlier Reading Guide. And Charles McCarry, who I stumbled on through Furst. Impatient, I bought eight or a dozen of each of theirs.
Art books, poetry and American literature back to New England’s Puritans are still with me. Many of those books go back to college; they earn their space because of the magic loosed when I first read their pages. Twentieth-century women’s history, too, which I keep thinking I’ll read even if it isn’t plot-driven.
Plus a small shelf of last summer’s baseball books.
Will I ever touch any of those books again?
I doubt it. What are they now but insulation? When I was young, I thought of books as wealth; now I think of them as baggage.
Husband Bill and I have not evolved in pace. His books spring out of his shelves to commingle with mine. Political science, political biographies, campaign histories, books about Native American and Arabic culture, books about food and GMOs. Plus, of course, all the books written by friends and colleagues. And all the books he’s written.
My friends and colleagues, too. How could I not? And if they’re Marylanders, they’re likely to find review space in Bay Weekly.
If you love books, how do you get rid of them?
Many have gone to Parole Rotary’s BIG Book Depot. Nowadays, if I love a book, I try to pass it on to a friend I hope will love it, too. Clever friends with time on their hands sell their old books on eBay. Despite Kindle and our good Anne Arundel and Calvert libraries, big old obsolete paper books keep demanding I order new bookshelves built to hold them.
What do you say? Have you given up buying paper books? What do you do with books that have outlived their usefulness? Most of all, what should I read next?
Advise me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; email@example.com