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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Summer reading

“Just as there are songs that forever remind you of a certain summer in your life, there are books that claim a particular summer: the summer when everyone read "The Mists of Avalon"; the Harry Potter summers; the summer you tackled Dickens.”

Or so writes author Alice Hoffman on the op-ed pages of today’s New York Times. My summers were spent devouring books, sometimes series, sometimes a mishmosh of stuff. Today, I spend summer reading lighter fare and save more challenging works for winter.

When I was 9, it was the summer of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had the entire set of “Little House” books and though they were paperback, I had a nifty cardboard case for storing them on my bookshelf.

Once, when my family was camping, I nearly risked life and limb to safe my precious book. We were out on a family hike and I was (of course) carrying my book with me. As we negotiated a somewhat treacherous part of the path along Cowan Lake in southwestern Ohio, I dropped my beloved book facedown into the lake.

Panicked and near tears, I stepped out on a limb precariously hanging over the shore to fetch my book. “Wendy!” my mom screamed, not realizing I was after my book.

Another summer, though I can’t recall if it was before or after that, I read the “Anne of Avonlea” series. Even as a child I can always remember wanting to know more about the characters than some authors gave. So I invented many of the missing details myself.

Girls of a certain age will probably remember their summer of the disturbing V.C. Andrews series (“Flowers in the Attic, etc.). If my mom had any notion of what those were about she never would have allowed my sister and I to read them.

But the one I remember as “the one perched between childhood and adolescence; the dividing line between then and now,” was the summer I read Judy Blume’s “Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret?”

My mom remembers me lying on top of our picnic table on the patio reading nonstop, ALL day.

Oh jeez, how could I forget the Nancy Drew series! My all-time favorite was “The Spider Sapphire Mystery.” But “The Hidden Staircase” was a close second. The young sleuth was in Kenya and I remember fantasizing about going to Kenya. I pored through my dad’s old National Geographics to find stories and photos of Kenya.

This summer I’ve read an eclectic selection of books: “The Mermaid Chair” and “The Kite Runner,” “The Moviegoer” and “The Fourth Hand.” I’m in the midst of reading “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series loaned to me by my pal, Lisa Best. My niece, Mary, was telling me she loved the books. She’s 12 going on 13 and I’m sure this summer will be her summer of the Traveling Pants books.

I’ll probably finish the second book before we leave for vacation, which means I’ll be bringing with me the following:

• “Hudson River Bracketed” by Edith Wharton (I can’t believe there’s one I’ve not yet read.)
• “The Heart of the Matter” by Graham Greene
• “The DaVinci Code” by Dan Brown (What the hell, everyone else has read it. I suppose I might as well.)

What I won’t have with me are any of the review books that seem to be blurring together these days.

Happy reading!

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