Summer Reading: A Report from the Trenches
Round these parts, we talk a lot about summer reading -- what makes a book a good "beach read," whether summer is the time to tackle a classic or the perfect time for guiltier fare. Most blogs and book review sections (and at the LA Times, the two are getting harder and harder to tell apart) offer summer reading lists, which are often nothing more than lists of what books are being published this summer. Well I thought I'd do something different. This past week, I took it upon myself to travel to Kauai, the Garden Isle of Hawaii, to see what people were reading in the airports and airplanes, at the beaches and by the pools this summer in America's 50th state.
The results, to the say the least, were intriguing. There were lots of thrillers and mysteries out there on the sandy shores. Lots of Clive Cussler and Brad Meltzer, but always in paperback. The author whose books I saw most frequently was without a doubt Jodi Picoult. I spotted one young lady reading Emily Giffin's Love the One You're With while another sunbather had a closed copy of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones resting beside her. I spotted copies of Loving Frank, Netherland, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Autobiography of Malcom X, Water for Elephants, The Princes of Ireland, Eat Pray Love, The Mystery Guest, The Story of a Marriage, and even Pete Sampras' autobiography. I saw kids reading Marley & Me and grown men reading Harry Potter. And near the end of the trip, I saw a couple sitting poolside with matching Kindles.
On Saturday, I started seeing Breaking Dawn appearing at the pool. I saw three copies of it, all told, and a couple of Twilight as well. So what did I learn on my journey? If you're near water, you're not likely to read terribly ambitious literature (although you might be), but you are likely to be reading. Nobody was trucking Gravity's Rainbow down to the pool every morning, but just about everybody was reading something.
Including me. I managed to get about 2/3 of the way through Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, an iconic summer read if ever there was one. I returned home tired, sore, and not nearly tan enough for a person who spent six days reading by a pool in the tropical sun. I learned a lot about myself (I have trouble reading around lots of people in bathing suits), a little about others (dangly belly button piercings are still de rigeur in some parts of the US), and a little about what people like to read (books, mainly paperback). All in all, it was a good trip. Next year, Fiji (I'm working my way across the Pacific).