Monday, June 7, 2010

Seasonal Reading List

By Steve Weddle

OK. Have you gotten your summer reading list together? Oh, for joy. Books to cram into totes and suitcases and head for the beach or the lake house. How delightful.

Smells like a crock of crap to me. And I'm from the country, so I know what a crock of crap smells like.

As a faithful consumer, I'm supposed to pick up my "Summer Reading" special in my local paper or magazine. Or listen to a list on the radio. Then run down to the discount superstore, pick up 128 oz jug of cheese doodles and a couple of "30% OFF LIST" books and read some light thrillers about some dude tracking down dirty nukes and spilling his seed. Edge-of-your-lawn chair stuff. Read a few pages, then get up to the check the ribs on the grill, then a few more pages. Then pick it up tomorrow while the kids are covering themselves in suntan lotion. Then watch the sun go down and pick up another one the next day about a too-smart woman who comes to a small town and uncovers a dirty little secret -- and a little something about herself, too. Light reading. The inconsequential stuff. Book 18 in a series of books when you can't remember what happened in 7, 9, or 15. Or the one that is basically just some notes for someone to use in making the TV movie next year.

While some of these summer reading lists might accidentally have on them a book that I want to read, most of them strike me as a cataloging of the disposable.

In the winter, I'm supposed to read bigger books. I think this comes from the days when paper was cheaper than coal and folks bought a bunch of books by this dude called Marcel Proust. Read a little, burn the rest. Or maybe read non-fiction in the winter. A nice popular nonfiction book, one about the history of cumin and how the story of the world can be told through that spice. (I think it's a spice. They mentioned it in that TV show with Helen Hunt and that guy who used to be really funny.)

But big, long, brain-taxing books in the winter. And quick but thick page-turners in the summer. Why is that? Why is it that our reading habits are dictated by the seaons? Am I not supposed to read anything in the autumn? Catch up on the free stuff over at Gutenberg?

If summer is the time we're supposed to head outdoors and enjoy our vacation with our family, why am I supposed to read books that are "unputdownable"?

Why do we buy certain books in certain seasons? Will they spoil like fruit? Like a crock of crap?

Do you read different types of books in the summer? The winter?


Gerald So said...

I've been known to read so-called "popcorn thrillers" in the summer. I think reading seasons exist for the same reasons movie seasons do. Summer is a time when many people go on vacation, and it's natural they wouldn't want to read what they read the rest of the year.

None of this means you have to read certain types of books at certain times of the year. I haven't made a summer reading list in a long time. I read what I want to, when I feel like reading it.

Jay Stringer said...

I don't really think these lists are for us.

I don't mean this in as snobby a way as it sounds, but the lists are for people who don't read much. It's a chance to bring in new readers, grab people with the idea if fun simple reads while they have some time off work. Once you have the new readers, you can then start to convince them to read the rest of the year, when they have work and family and TV and film and stuff do do.

I don't really think this is the way to do it -just give the right person the right book and let the book do the work. But marketing people don't like to take those risks.