Less than two weeks ago, on June 21, the day when the sun tracks the farthest north in the northern hemisphere and gives us our longest day of the year, the summer solstice ushered in the summer season.
Last Saturday on the NPR program, “Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me!” the panelists discussed in their usual comedic fashion an article in The Washington Post criticizing that very season in spite of the fact that in general people all over the world look forward to its coming. The panelists were not in agreement with the article's author, but I have to admit that I am.
Among the seasons summer is my least favorite, redeemed mainly by the availability of our wonderful southern Indiana tomatoes. My coping mechanisms tend to involve air conditioning and books.
The term “summer reading” has a generally different connotation from the way I use it here because it is usually applied to students who receive summer reading lists from their teachers in the hope the students won't lose ground in their reading skills between the end of school in May and the start of the new term in August.
My own summer reading is most often not that different from my reading in other seasons, but it can be a little lighter and somewhat resemble the more familiar term, “beach reads.”
This year my summer seems to include mostly the re-reading of books I've read in the not-too-distant past. This situation has been mainly due to book club and library program requirements. The first book that I've read again so far is Maeve Binchy's “Circle of Friends,” my favorite novel by one of my favorite authors. In this story, Binchy explores the nature of friendship as two girls in a small Irish village become friends at the age of 10, then grow to young womanhood and take up university studies in Dublin. The acquaintances they encounter and the relationships they form offer such strong insights into the main characters that the reader feels that he/she actually knows the individuals the author has created. Because of its popularity, a movie starring Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell was made of the novel.
The second book on my re-reading list is the utterly delightful “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Set in London and the Channel island of Guernsey immediately after World War II, the narrative flashes back to life on Guernsey under the occupying Germans. The narrative is skillfully set forth in a series of letters between a young writer, her publisher, her best friend, a suitor, and most importantly, the Guernsey Islanders. Although one may be forgiven for considering the work a romance, it is actually much more, being especially a study of character and (again) an inquiry into the nature of friendship, in this case also involving the question of who is an actual enemy. This novel can hardly be recommended enough.
The next summer reading that I undertake will be a biography of Queen Elizabeth I, that towering figure of English history who never fails to fascinate. There are several works to choose from, including David Starkey's “Elizabeth: the Struggle for the Throne,” and many aspects of her life and her relationships to discuss. I look forward to re-reading something about her or perhaps I will actually find a new work on the Tudor queen.
All of the above-mentioned works, including the DVD of “Circle of Friends,” are available at the Knox County Public Library. Happy summer reading!