Reader’s Diary: What I didn’t read this summer

IMG_0071When I was ten, eleven, twelve I’d give myself summer reading projects. There was, for instance, a summer of reading adventure novels: Nordhoff and Hall’s Bounty Trilogy, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Scarlet Pimpernel. I had no idea that these were not “girl” books; to me they seemed romantic, and far, far removed from Tenafly, New Jersey. More than enough to ask from any book.

I begin every adult summer hopefully, optimistically, with plans to read dozens of books—because, like so many of us, somewhere in my head I retain the childhood notion that summers are long, even endless. They go on for dozens and dozens of weeks! Freedom! Time! Leisure! Cool, quiet corners and shady, leafy hideaways…

This, as we know, is a complete fantasy. Summers are short, maximum three months, if you count June (and I do). They are barely a dozen weeks long. They offer no more freedom than any other season (less, if your kids are home for the summer), there are the usual twenty-four hours per day, and leisure is more of a concept than a reality. As for quiet corners and leafy hideaways, I live in Manhattan where there is no quiet and very few hideaways that aren’t hotel bars.

Nonetheless, each year I begin my summer reading program with misplaced enthusiasm, and this year I believe I’ve achieved a lifetime record in unfinished books.

  • Robert Oppenheimer: a life inside the center; Ray Monk
  • The Interestings; Meg Wollitzer
  • The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories
  • Union Street; Pat Barker
  • The Stranger’s Child; Alan Hollinghurst
  • Unorthodox: the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots; Deborah Feldman
  • My Father and Myself; J.R Ackerley
  • The Headmaster’s Wife; Thomas Christopher Greene
  • Savage Beauty: the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay; Nancy Milford
  • A Tidewater Morning: three tales from youth; William Styron
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out; Amy Bloom
  • During the Reign of the Queen of Persia; Joan Chase
  • Dream Date: stories; Jean McGarry
  • My Age of Anxiety: fear, hope, dread, and the search for peace of mind; Scott Stossel
  • Best American Short Stories 
  • Burn Lake; Carrie Fountain
  • The Lost Art of Dress: the women who once made America stylish; Linda Przybyszewski
  • Thunderstruck & Other Stories; Elizabeth McCracken
  • Showing the Flag; Jane Gardam
  • The Friendly Persuasion; Jessamyn West
  • The World of Suzie Wong; Richard Mason
  • Bad Blood: a memoir; Lorna Sage

On the other hand, I did finish with pleasure the following:

  • Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It; Maile Meloy
  • Liars and Saints; Maile Meloy
  • Regeneration; Pat Barker
  • Trailerpark; Russell Banks
  • Come to Me: stories; Amy Bloom

Time to think about what books I won’t be finishing in the fall. Suggestions welcome.


FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC

Book Hampton, East Hampton, NY

Murder by the Book, Houston, TX


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