Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Elusive Summer Read

Around many parts, June 21st marks the first day of summer. It also marks the day when your brain gets notice that its no longer welcome in the movie theatre. Not only do people not seem to care that the best these films can hope for at the Oscars are special effects nods, if ticket sales are indication it's what people actually want (or are told to want, but that's irrelevant).

So, I've accepted this and last night I joined the masses and indulged in the eye candy that was the Transformers. This is not a review, but I hope it suffices to say, it's exactly what you'd expect.

I haven't, however, accepted that my summer book choices should be any different than for other seasons. Yet, it seems that many people have. I've heard so many people talk about books that are good for the summer or are pleasant beach reads. I'm not being judgemental about fluffier, good-for-entertainment-only books. Sometimes our brains just need a break. But why in the summer? Is it residual from our school days? Has our time in the education system conditioned our minds to shut down in July and August? Or, does the humidity affect our thinking? I'm not sure. I understand that the amount of reading might decrease as people want to pursue more outdoor activities like gardening, riding the roller coasters, and windsurfing, but when they're ready to read, why pick up a book they wouldn't even consider in December? Do people just use it as an chance to read something they'd normally be made to feel ashamed of by their literati friends? I'm not sure.

What I do know is this: The seasons dictate the type of tires on my car, the layers of clothing that I wear, and even my movie choices. I'm not prepared to let it influence the books I read. If I want to read Hofstadter's Eternal Braid in August, I'll do so. And I just might save the Stephen King book for January.


Rob Hardy said...

I don't have a category of "summer reading" in my life, but I do have "sick-bed reading." I usually end up reading thrillers when I'm sick in bed. I would never have read "The DaVinci Code" if it weren't for a bad case of the flu. I think thrillers actually have some sort of antiseptic effect. I still have fond memories of the bad winter cold, followed by sinusitis, that introduced me to Caleb Carr's "The Alienist."

marydell said...

I'm also not one to choose specific books for summer even though I have noticed that the humidity makes my brain soggy. However, I do tend to read more this time of year because of long hours out on the patio and less interesting fare on television.

John Mutford said...

Rob: I haven't read The Alienist but if it gave you fond memories of sinusitis, I'm guessing it can't be all that bad.
I think sickness would be the perfect time for a lighter read.

Marydell: Your reason for reading more in the summer makes a lot of sense. I can only stand small doses of reruns and (ahem) talent shows, too. I've never lived in an area with much humidity, so I've never understood the soggy brain syndrome that people talk about- wouldn't that suggest that people are less productive or intelligent the closer they live to the equator where it is always humid?

Dale said...

I don't match my reads with the weather and am always happy when my brain says 'hey moron, put away the iPod once in a while and read'. I've been on this jag for a while.

marydell said...

People who live in places where it's humid all of the time are probably used to it. Where I live, it's humid in summer and dry in winter. When the climate changes, it takes a little while to adjust.

Coincidentally, I'm having a hard time adjusting to today because it should be sunny and 80F. Instead, it's rainy and mid-60. Good book weather, tho.

Kelly said...

I heard transformers sucked pretty bad. I haven't seen it yet and don't know that I will. I am looking forward to seeing the Simpson's movie and the Borne Ultimatum!

John Mutford said...

Dale: Is listening to the iPod while you read an option?

Marydell: The adjustment factor is a good theory but again though, all those people who live in places that adopt the "If you don't like the weather, just wait 10 minutes" adage might object to that.

MyUtopia: Regarding the Transformers movie, let me just say, if you want to be disappointed you won't be disappointed.

Chris said...

I read "War & Peace" last year as my summer read! I like big fat books for summer. I'm reading "The Mists of Avalon" right now- that's a fat one.

And if you go to the beach, you want something easy to carry and soemthing you don't mind getting sand in.

Actually, I'm behind on reading. The weather has been nice and I'm taking advantage of every minute of it.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I don't change my reading choices for the season either.

I do read more in the summer, however. I spend most of my evenings outside and sometimes it's too hot to have a laptop sitting on you.

Dewey said...

Yeah, I don't read any certain sort of book in certain seasons, either. But like Rob, I tend to read lighter fare when I'm sick, and like Marydell, I read way more in the summer. I don't work in June and July, so there you go, more time for reading. In fact, when I go back to work in early August, I'm wondering how I'll even read enough to justify keeping a books blog! But I hope for the best.

Carrie K said...

I don't read a different genre of books in the summer than I do at any other time of the year either. In fact, until I started all the reading challenges on the 'net in the last couple of years, I've always just read whatever I felt like reading at the time. It's pretty eclectric.

I actually WANT to see The Transformers, I just.....want to watch it on TV. Movie theaters are too cold/noisy/uncomfortable/bad snacks......oh, I am getting so old.

John Mutford said...

Chris: I doubt War and Peace will top anyone's "Summer Read" list, but why not? As I've been saying, the summer's as good a time as any.

Barbara: I wonder how many other people agree that they read more in the summer? Maybe I missed the mark when I assumed people read less.

Dewey: I hope you don't abandon the blog! I love yours. Besides, that's what late nights and coffee is all about.

Carrie: I was into the Transformers in the 80s, so I wanted to see it too. In a way, it was a great homage to the decade. I knew there'd be lots of special effects though, and that's why it had to be a theatre experience. Plus, I'm all over the hot dogs and the popcorn with butter-flavoured something.

Dale said...

Too distracting for me John, I can have music on in the background but right in my ears would find me struggling to concentrate on one or the other.

Anonymous said...

While I'll often refer to something as "beach reading" or "airplane reading" as a way of saying that it's something to read when you want to relax or fill the time, the seasons don't actually dictate what I read. It's mostly just a figure of speech to me at this point.

Renay said...

Ah, summer reading! This is actually a fascinating subject to me and I know the answer for myself since I've just left school.

During my degree program the school months had me reading and analyzing so many books. One year I had 16 books, which was crazy; all classics, nothing before 1900 for fiction, it was a nightmare for my poor, overworked brain. That didn't even count all the secondary sources I had to pick up for my history minor. So when the holidays rolled around, I automatically shot toward easy, "beach" reads.

Nothing says relaxation to me like a nice, brainless Nora Roberts novel, where the most analyzing I have to do is figuring out what the disagreement is going to be before the happily-ever-after. I do believe it's totally possible to do this with other novels, though! I mean, someone's idea of a nice novel to relax with could be the novels I had to study to death, in fact!

For me, it really is about taking a break from finding symbolism in every single chapter, and the more fluffy the read is, the less likely it would be to happen. :D

BookGal said...

Since my life (being a teacher) totally changes in the summer, I do have a summer reading list. It is usually books I haven't had time for or easier reads for the beach.

valentina said...

I would agree with you as a general rule, I don't choose books depending on the season. But on the location yes. So, summer reading should be called beach reading or garden reading. Somehow, the heat and the sunshine can be distracting and won't help you concentrate on the harder,more complex reading. So I would leave, say, War and Peace home. and take something "easier". Of course the criteria can change depending on the person. If you've read War and Peace 3 times and it's your favourite book, than it could be your beach reading.