Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Art of Summer Reading



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Did you have a summer reading contest when you were in grade school? We sure did, and competitive me (surprise!) went nuts over it. I was so enthusiastic. To get rewarded for reading? What a great idea. (I would have read anyway.)

But I remember—seriously, I was ten—being outraged that they wouldn’t count those little blue biographies (Dorothea Dix, Girl of the Tenements. Or something like that. Booker T. Washington, Boy Genius) OR the Nancy Drews in the count of how many books each of us had read.

(UN-FAIR, I whined to my mom. She was not sympathetic.)

Steam is still coming out of my ears, remembering that. I have some of those now, and hey. They should have counted. But that’s when I read Black Beauty, so, okay. All good.

Today the amazing Sarah Stewart Taylor has a different—and better—kind of summer reading memory.


Summer Reading Magic


By Sarah Stewart Taylor



It’s that time of year when the brains and hearts of bookish people everywhere turn to summer reading. Summer Reading. Just the words bring to mind (my mind anyway) lazy days of flipping pages in the hammock or sitting by a lake with nowhere to go and nothing to do but lose myself in the fictional world of the novel in my lap. Never mind that I rarely find as much downtime as I’d like in the summer months or that the moment I settle down with a book in the hammock always seems to be the moment that one of my kids needs to be driven somewhere or when I notice that the vegetable garden is overrun with weeds.



But I do have a few perfect, golden memories that will always be connected to the literature I read and loved when, for a moment, everything was working — the book, the weather, the comfort of my chosen spot, and the quiet — and I experienced the sublime perfection of ideal summer reading.



One of my earliest summer reading memories is of participating in the summer reading program at my local library. I can still smell and feel the stiff paper of the cards where we recorded all the books we’d read in the past week, the bright colors of the stickers and the satisfaction of filling up the rows of boxes where you put one of the little decals when you’d finished another book. A voracious reader, I quickly filled up the boxes and always felt like I was getting away with something when I got the prizes they gave out. I have a very specific memory of being about ten and lying on a blanket in the backyard, reading Judy Blume novels, listening to the birds and the breeze, and drinking lemonade. Ahhh. Pure bliss.



My love of mystery novels started in the summer. The year I was thirteen, my family took a trip to England, Scotland, and Wales, driving all over the island and staying in bed and breakfasts. At a farm in the Cotswolds, I took Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide off the shelf in our room and started reading. I was hooked. When we checked out the next day, my mom told me I could ask the owner of the B & B if I could finish the book and mail it back to her. She said I was welcome to keep it and I finished it in the back of the rental car, driving along the winding back roads of Gloucestershire. When I got home, I made my way through all of the Agatha Christies my town’s public library had in its collection.



During my high school and college years, summer reading had to vie with the demands of summer jobs and, eventually, a social life, and I don’t have a lot of memories of relaxing in the hammock with a good book, though I do remember discovering P.D. James on the bookshelf of a friend’s lake house and mainlining Adam Dalgiesh and Cordelia Gray the rest of that summer.



When my husband and I went to Venice and Croatia on our honeymoon, someone mentioned that I should read Donna Leon’s Venice-set mysteries. I will always remember reading the first few Guido Brunetti books while looking at the canals and palazzos that inspired them and drinking espresso and wine at cafés while we celebrated the new era of our lives we were about to begin.


Some of my favorite books are inextricably linked in my mind with the places where I read them: A.S. Byatt’s Possession will always bring up Monhegan Island, Maine, where I took myself on a solo four-day trip when I landed my first serious journalism job. I discovered Robert Harris’s gripping speculative detective novel Fatherland while staying on an island in a Maine lake. I wasn’t much good for swimming or participating in any other activities until I finished it.



I fell in love with Chimamanda Ngozi Aditchie’s novel Americanah while visiting a friend in San Francisco in the summer. I lost myself in Attica Locke’s wonderful Bluebird, Bluebird while in the Adirondacks a few years ago, feeling the humidity of East Texas instead of the crisp mountain air of upstate New York.



During the summer of 2020, when my family couldn’t go anywhere because of the pandemic, I actually found that I spent more time reading in our hammock at home than I had in years; I think a silver lining of the otherwise awful past year is that I didn’t wait for vacation to go into summer reading mode. On the one trip we did take — a few days on a lake within our own state — I fell in love with Elly Griffiths and read through her Ruth Galloway mysteries, as well as The Postscript Murders, which captivated me as the loons called out on the water.



By now, I think I’ve perfected the art of creating a summer reading stack. I like a combination of non-fiction, lighter and heavier novels, a classic or two I’ve been meaning to read or re-read, and of course a lot of good crime fiction.




As a writer whose books come out in June, I hope that readers will consider my own mysteries for summer reading. As I write them, I try to think about all the elements that summer readers are looking for: Complex characters with whom you’re happy to spend a few days. Atmospheric, interesting settings and some local history so you feel like you’ve traveled. A suspenseful plot that keeps your attention, even when the water is warm and the sun is hot.



What about you? What are your favorite summer reading memories and the books that go with them? And where is your favorite place to lounge with a great story?



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, what a great question! (And ed. note: I adored Sarah’s A DISTANT GRAVE—do not miss it! And it’s perfect for your summer list.) Last summer is when I fall in love with Elly Griffiths, too. (Can you believe it was LAST SUMMER? How different our lives were?)



So, Reds and readers…any summer books linked with summertime adventures?






Sarah Stewart Taylor is the author of the Maggie D’arcy novels, about an American homicide detective in Ireland, and the Sweeney St. George novels, about an art historian who specializes in funerary art. The first Maggie D’arcy mystery, The Mountains Wild, was on numerous best of 2020 lists and was called “perfect summer reading” by BookPage. It’s out now in paperback. The second Maggie D’arcy novel, A Distant Grave, will be out June 22. Library Journal calls it “as intricately plotted at The Mountains Wild . . . a tense thriller” and Kirkus says that, “Taylor pulls out all the stops―subplots, threats, red herrings, warning bells―to keep the pot boiling till the end." You can find her on the web at
www.SarahStewartTaylor.com.




90 comments:

  1. Ah, summer reading . . . not really much different from reading in any other season [because I am always reading a book], but I have fond memories of the children collecting piles of books for the summer reading program at the library.
    I don’t think I have a favorite lounging place for reading . . . the sofa is a good spot, but then so is the sunroom . . . .

    Sarah, I’m looking forward to reading “A Distant Grave” . . . .

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  2. Sarah, I know one book I will be reading this summer, and that's The Mountains Wild. You are an author I have been trying to get to, and I already have The Mountains Wild waiting for me in my short-listed TBR pile. Of course, I'll be getting A Distant Grave, too. And, I am thrilled that you (and Hank) discovered Elly Griffiths last summer. The Ruth series is so dear to my heart, and I love all of her writing. Dom/aka Elly is a dear friend, and those who know me best in the reading world know that I am quite a book pusher when it comes to her books.

    All I can really remember about growing up and summer reading is that I did read and went to the library regularly. Now I especially delight in the memories of my children being in the summer reading programs at our local library. These days, it's my eleven-year-old granddaughter who is doing the library programs and who, at the end of fifth grade this year, was only the third person in her school to have earned 1,000 reading points in the AR reading program since started some years back at the school.

    I need to find a new spot for reading. I haven't had that one special place for a while, and it bugs me. I do read in bed every night, and it seems I do more reading there than any other place, but I no longer have a special reading chair. I need to work on that. Of course, the dream is to have a reading nook where I can hide away.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy. Congrats to your granddaughter. That's amazing. And yes, I share your search for the perfect spot. I do have a great reading chair in my office, but I often have piled so many books and papers on it that I can't get into it. I am going to try to rectify that this summer.

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    2. Oh, so cute! Is she happy with her reading points?

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  3. Summer is a cozy time of the year for me. One reason? More time for reading? Even now that school is long behind me, I read more in the summer because TV is in reruns. I've been known to go to a pool in my complex, read for a while, jump in for a few minutes, then go back to reading.

    One summer, I discovered Mrs. Pollifax. I read the first five of those books in that summer before going back to school in the fall for my senior year of college. Yes, I did read a few other books, but I was at my local library getting the next Mrs. Pollifax pretty quickly. Those first five are still some of my favorites in the series.

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    1. I got distracted, but I meant to mention - be sure you get Sarah's new book. It's absolutely wonderful!!!!!

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    2. Thank you, Mark! I discovered Mrs. Pollifax in the summer too. You've made me want to go back and re-read them!

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    3. Mrs. Pollifax! I remember her, too -- she was one of the first mystery series I discovered and devoured. I must go back and re-discover her.

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    4. The Mrs. Pollifax books were my summer reading one year, too! Maybe canny librarians set them out on display every June?

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    5. SO agree! And oh, okay. Confession. I have never read Mrs. Pollifax. ::hiding::

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    6. Hank, hiding behind you: I couldn’t get through the first chapter of Mrs. Pollifax. So long ago I don’t remember why.

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  4. Ah, summer reading as a child - also in the back yard, but maybe with a homemade milkshake in my hand or a ripe peach from the tree. I was competitive about those stickers, too! Now I read on my deck when I'm outdoors and on the couch indoors.

    Sarah, I must find your books - not sure how I have missed you so far!

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    1. The peach! With dripping juice. Or a box of blueberries . . . Thank you, Edith! We have a treehouse in our yard and my favorite thing is to look out the window and see one of my kids reading up in the treehouse.

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    2. I read indoors now, too, with the a/c. It's hard to remember the time when one went outdoors to cool off.

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  5. I did not grow up with summer reading contests, but I certainly remember walking to our local library in Montreal for books. Always books in our house.

    My favourite summer reading spot is in the lakeside gazebo at our cottage. The view is wonderful over Lake Winnipeg, so that and a good book and maybe a cup of tea -- now, that is summer bliss for me.

    I have A Distant Grave on order from my current local library and I am so looking forward to reading this next story about Maggie, Sarah, as I just loved the first one!

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  6. Sarah, welcome back and congrats on the new book--can't wait to read it! Your post is perfect too--I read all the time as a kid, so it's hard for me to separate out summer from other seasons. My sister and I would come home from school, make a snack, and go upstairs to our room to read. Nothing has changed except who I share my room with LOL!

    Do you think that first trip with your family inspired these new books?

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    1. LOL! I think that first trip definitely sparked a love of travel and a desire to live abroad. We didn't visit Ireland on that trip (I actually didn't visit Ireland for the first time until I was in college) but we stayed with some very close family friends in North Wales who are exclusively Welsh-speaking at home and in daily life. I loved hearing it spoken and it got me interested in how Welsh and Scots Gaelic speakers are treated in the UK, and then, later, when I lived in Ireland, it made me want to learn Irish.

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  7. Congratulations on your latest release! I look forward to reading it. Donna Leon before a trip to Venice, Martin Walker before a trip to the Dordogne, Tana French before a trip to Ireland, Amelia Peabody and Fowles's Daniel Martin before a trip to Egypt, Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road before a trip to London, Cara Black before a trip to Paris...

    Summer reading! Only library books counted and the library didn't stock Nancy Drew and her sleuthing cohort. I was more liberal with my kids: magazines, newspapers, reading to their younger sister, stacks of paperbacks. And Harry Potter, the series that got kids reading.

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    1. Thank you, Margaret. Definitely Cara Black! I need to read Martin Walker. I've also heard ownderful things about Ilaria Tuti's mysteries, set in northern Italy. . . Going to try those!

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  8. I remember those summer contests! We had to decide what books we wanted to read and the school ordered them from Scholastic Book Services. We wrote a brief book report on each to submit to our new teacher when school resumed. One book I remember was titled Take Me To My Friend. It was a combination coming of age/thriller. I loved it. I read it on our family's road trip to Florida.

    Lately my only reliable reading place is my Kindle in bed. Seeing the stack of "real" books has inspired me to make a list. My favorite reading place is in the woods on our property. There is a granite rise with lovely natural shelves that provide plenty of seating space and a great view of the meadow and the wildlife.

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  9. Hank, the same thing happened to me during school summer months. All the books I've read didn't count but you are right, I did discover new book/authors to read. I lived in the city, so sometimes I read on the fire escape or on the stoop, or in the corner of the PAL room. Yes, I was that book nerd.

    I read all year round, so I don't have "summer" readings/books. Just books in my queue.

    Congratulations on your book release.

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    1. Thanks, Dru! Also, Hank, I am outraged on your behalf that they didn't count the Nancy Drews! Parents and teachers can do a lot of damage separating out worthy and not-worthy books. When I was writing kids' books, parents would always ask me how to make passionate readers out of their kids and my number one piece of advice was to honor all reading and never disparage the books they like to read. (My other was to leave interesting books lying around the house where they have to walk so they will trip over them and try them out!)

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    2. That is great advice, Sarah. We never criticized the kids' reading choices.

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    3. My older son was such an advanced reader that books for his age level were way too easy, so he was devouring Tom Clancy in eighth grade. I had to screen the books. There's one where women's breasts are cut off. I told him he had to wait until he was eighteen to read that one, but I think that's the only one I had to censor. Not sure he ever got back to it (he's 35 now...).

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    4. I can't conceive of why Nancy Drew would be disallowed. I do recall my niece wanting to read very short books and being told they had to be "at age level" to count. Now they've changed the standard from # of books to time spent reading, eliminating that issue.
      I was allowed to read whatever I chose, though I'm sure the librarians curated to some degree. I remember a talk from Mom about not sharing some of the contents with the younger kids.

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    5. I never disparaged my kids' choices. I did, however, consider "age appropriateness." For example, when my 13-year-old said she wanted to read LOLITA because she'd heard it was "intriguing," I suggested leaving that one for a couple years down the road.

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    6. Yes, it's baffling. MAybe they somehow thought the Nancy Drews weren't real books. SO hilarious, now, look where so many of us are because of her.

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  10. Sarah, welcome to JRW and congratulations on your new release. I read The Mountains Wild last month and totally loved it. (JRW Bloggers, you will never guess the end!) I have a copy of your book reserved at the library, but they will probably both end up in residence on my Kindle so I can read them again when book #3 (yes, right?) comes out next year.

    Childhood summer reading, I am sorry to say that I have no specific memory of any book associated with my summers. I am sure I read over the summer but don't remember reading contests either. My son was a voracious reader and reads much faster than I do. He always had a remarkable list to turn in. I recall proudly that his 7th grade English teacher told him that before he recommended a book to the class, he always asked Jonathan about it first.

    I have one funny memory of reading a book in a particular place. I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on an airplane heading across the Atlantic. I put the book on the floor for a few minutes while rearranging my space. When I went to pick it up, the airpane had climbed and I had to go back through the cabin asking people to look for my silly book. I should have known better.

    I love reading on my screen porch or on the patio depending on the weather and time of day. My yard is one of dozens all touching one another, making a very green space. Lots of wildlife wanders through and the birds are constant. We bought new porch furniture last summer (our pandemic buy) and it is super comfortable. I'll stay out there after supper until it is almost dark and now we are talking about getting a reading lamp for me. On Monday afternoon, a doe scampered into the yard, came up to the patio, then continued on her way through. It is a lovely place to read. In the winter, our living room is very bright and overlooks our yard. It is also a favorite place to read.

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    1. Thanks, Judy! Glad you found your book. My daughter once left a book in a hotel room and she still talks about how she never found out what happened. (I have told her she could get it form the library and read the ending . . .)

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  11. Flying through quickly before heading into a Zoom meeting for work. (Yes, still Zoom. Sigh.) But I couldn't pass the opportunity to say how much I loved The Mountains Wild! I'm thrilled to hear a follow up is coming soon. Thank you so much for that.

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  12. Summer was the time I could escape.

    Half a block away, along the railroad tracks and along a back path to the supermarket plaza, was an overgrowth of trees, including one particularly good one for climbing. It had a natural "seat," some forked branches that were perfect for perching in and reading the afternoon away. Bliss.

    Nowadays, I like sitting in my sun room or on my front porch, beverage nearby, book in hand.

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  13. Sarah, waiting to get my hands on A Distant Grave, having already consumed The Mountains Wild. I love your covers!

    Not a child, but the summer I turned in the first draft of my dissertation, some friends and I headed cross-country. I wasn't required to help with driving, so I spent the hours sprawled across the bench seat in the back, devouring Barbara Hambly's The Time of the Dark series. Currently, best summer reading space is the swing/daybed among a mass of blooming flowers which change as the season progresses.

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    1. This brings back such memories Flora ! I read in the backseat of the car so much that my mother finally said: you need to look out the window! You’re missing the world!

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    2. I get really carsick if I read in a car now. Otherwise I'd be like that too!

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    3. I've never been able to read in the car. Even maps are a challenge. All those books I could have read, otherwise!

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    4. Can’t read in any sort of moving vehicle…car, bus, airplane, train. Like Deborah: all those books I could have read.

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  14. Lovely reading memories from everyone. I've really enjoyed reading your post, Sarah, and all the comments, too.

    Summer wasn't as much of a reading time for me as the school year because, with no car, it was harder to get books from the library. It was across the street from my first elementary school. At the end of third grade, though, we moved even further from the library, but the Bookmobile stopped on our street once a week all summer. Heaven!

    My own kids were like Hank with the summer reading contests, and they were not shy about pestering me or their dad to take them to the library as often as they needed new books.

    In high school we lived across the street from the main cemetery which had a beautiful and peaceful parklike area with a pond, weeping willows, and a perfect hidden place where I could read or dream without anyone knowing I was there.

    These days I have a spot in the living room, or on the back porch when it's nice out.

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    1. I love the idea of reading in a cemetery!

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    2. That proves what good parents you were! Your kids pestering you to take them to the library? So great!

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  15. I am also a graduate of the summer reading program at my local Carnegie Library. The smell of dusty books has always been the scent of adventure. I adore Donna Leon, and think her latest, Transient Desires is one of her best. I remember feeling like I'd won a prize if I could identify a really good series that would last the summer. One summer it was the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey and Mathurin series. Does that count as mysteries? To me the mystery was the enduring friendship of those two very different men. One recent summer I got most of the way through James Sallis. Not all of them were series books, but loved them all, especially Willnot.

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    1. Transient Desires is on my summer reading list.

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    2. My husband loves the Patrick O’Brien books more than anything — are they mysteries, kind of, I suppose… Maybe… Adventures? Perfect summer reading!

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  16. I don't really differentiate summer reading from any other kind of reading but maybe I'm just contrary enough that I don't read Christmas themed books at Christmas time. That's when I am more apt to go for a sun and surf book! All good reads are good reads whenever!

    As a kid we didn't have special summer reading enticements like you folks have described, not that I would have needed any. What I do remember and loving was getting the summer Weekly Reader! It came in the mail! One of my truly fondest memories!

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    1. Judi, I like the idea of winter books in summer too . . . Although I read Ann Cleeves's The Darkest Evening this past winter, right around Dec. 21st and it was kind of perfect.

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    2. I so agree! I don’t often do seasonal books… Isn’t that funny?

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    3. I love reading Lucy/Roberta's Key West food critic mysteries in the winter more than any other time of year. Perhaps it's because I know it would be simple to just go there from here. LOL

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  17. Ah, summer reading. I can still feel what it was like to climb the low branches of our old wisteria tree, up to the one that perfectly cradled my 12-year-old frame. The books I read then are a blur now, but the visceral memory is still crystal clear and remains a happy place to go when I need a mental break.

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    1. I love this. And wisteria is so lovely . . . the smell, the blossoms . . .

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  18. Sarah, welcome to Jungle Reds!

    Though I do not recall a summer reading contest or program at my library as a child, I remember the summer my grandfather died, I found the Nancy Drew mystery novels that he had given me several years before. I spent the entire summer reading through all of the Nancy Drew novels. I remember going to the library during the summer.

    That's wonderful about you discovering Agatha Christie novels while touring England with your parents as a child.

    When I visited Venice, I did not know about the Donna Leon novels though I remember there were other novels set in Venice.

    Diana

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  19. Fond memories of reading under the locust trees in our backyard, or sometimes IN the tree by my bedroom window, and walking or riding my bike to the library for more books. Remembering that helped me with the adjustment to retirement; it's like endless summer reading time. I don't remember incentives for reading, perhaps they were busy enough with eager readers, but I helped nieces complete them, and now our wonderful library has prizes for adults also. I'm seriously considering doing the paperwork for a "super reader" sign for my yard. I've requested this book, only 4th in line. ;-)

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  20. I remember reading my first Agatha Christie while sunbathing (ACK... we used to do that) in my backyard. And reading Günter Grass's THE TIN DRUM on my first trip to Europe - I picked it because it's SO long so I'd only have to carry one book with me. This summer I'm trying to whittle away at my pile of unread books so I'm reading whatever's on top.

    Sarah, I love your books! I'll be sure to read A DISTANT GRAVE.

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    1. I remember the backyard sunbathing and reading. I even remember using -- ack! -- baby oil! Thanks, Hallie!

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  21. I don't remember any major book discovery during a summer trip and we didn't have reading contest where I live. When I was in high school, we move to a house that three trees group together, in the corner of the front yard. I sat there to read and get away from my siblings. Reading, these days, is done in my squishy, overstuffed chair, under the ceiling fan.

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  22. Welcome to Jungle Red, Sarah. I actually have "The Mountains Wild" in my summer reading stack.

    Like you, I was a voracious reader as a kid, and have many snapshot memories of myself stretched out on various chaises and curled up in armchairs reading Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes in the summer heat. We didn't have a branch library in my little town, but one year I kept my own reading list that hit 50 books--most of them full-length adult novels.

    My favorite summer reading escape came when I was in college. I was working at a summer theatre that demanded 12-hour days and lots of drama from my introverted self. Not much time for pleasure reading, but somehow I decided to tackle "Shogun." I spent all summer reading a page or two at a time whenever I got a moment. Medieval Japan was a long, long way from anything associated with the constant whirl of summer theatre in Missouri, and I loved every minute of it.

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  23. During the Harry Potter craze, I reread all the previous books before the new one came out and I associate that with summer reading. Also, I typically reread the entire Billy Boyle WWII Mysteries series before Jim's new book came out every September. This year, I'll only go back 3 or 4 books, because JRW has introduced me to so many great authors. My TBR pile tippith over. Oh, Edith, just finished Book 1 of your Country Store...I intend to read straight through that this summer. What a great cast of characters! Reading heaven!

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  24. Sarah, this is a GREAT topic for discussion! I have so many wonderful summer reading memories (including winning the library's summer reading contest EVERY YEAR not that I want to brag) but the one that always comes first to mind was one summer when I was a teen.

    My sister and brother were away for two weeks, so I got to be the only crew when Mom and Dad took their annual sailing vacation up the NYS canal system, across Lake Ontario, and through the St. Lawrence Seaway. I read DUNE, in a battered 1960s paperback, while stretched out on the foredeck as we slowly sailed past the Thousand Islands. The heat, and the water, and the incredible world-building of Frank Herbert combined to make a magic moment. I've reread the novel several times since then, and I always love it, in part because it always takes me back to that place and time.

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    1. Oooh, that sounds heavenly, Julia (aka Summer Reading Contest QUEEN!) I have a similar memory of a summer I read The Once and Future King. I remember exactly where I was for many parts for many parts of the book . . .

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    2. Sarah, The Once and Future King is one of my favorite books ever, but I don't remember where I read it first!

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    3. One of my very favorite books, too...but I think I read that in my college dorm room. ANd come to think of it, that's where I rwad Dune, too!

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  25. As the child of a librarian and a former librarian, including an eight year stint as a children's librarian, this is a subject close to my heart. The weekly visit to the library, the stack of books we carried home every week, sitting under the dogwood tree in our yard while getting lost in the pages as a pirate on the high seas, and then as an adult being on the other side of the desk, awarding stamps and prizes to kids who were giddy about reading. Bliss!

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    1. Yes! Summer reading programs at the library are responsible for many a dedicated adult reader. Thanks for being part of that, Jenn!

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    2. So, Jenn, did YOU count Nancy Drew? :-)

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  26. Hi Sarah! So happy to see you here, and I've had A Distant Grave pre-ordered, so will be happily checking my mail next Tuesday!

    I remember summer reading programs--my grandmother would take me to the library every week. I would love now to have a couple of weeks in the summer with nothing to do but read, but we never seem to take real vacations. Many of the reading memories that have stuck with me are from trips to the UK, where I am usually on my own and can book binge all I want. Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is forever associated with the Fulham flat where I stayed during 9/11. Possession with the ten hour flight from London to Dallas. The first two Rivers of London books with the flat in Floral Street in Covent Garden--such fun because I was right in the middle of the setting of the books!

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    1. Isn't that the best, when you can match up book setting and actual setting? I read Joe Joyce's Dublin-set WWII mysteries while on a trip to Dublin and that was really fun. Thank you so much, Debs!

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  27. I was a year round bookworm growing up, so no particular summer memories. I don't remember our library system having reading contests either. My best friend in elementary school and I always borrowed each other's latest Nancy Drew books. It was great knowing we could keep up since we each had birthdays and allowance money to spend. Somewhere in junior high I started reading the Horatio Hornblower books. Pure magic. I was probably inspired by seeing Gregory Peck playing him in the movies. And today I am always thrilled to find a series by an author new to me that I adore. I'm not happy until I've read all the available books.

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  28. Loved the Mountains Wild. Looking forward to the 22nd. The summer between 5th and 6th grade our upstairs neighbor gave me the original Nancy Drew books. I was in heaven. It was the summer of Nancy Drew, Maine, and the Beatles. I was reading Angel and Demons as our tour bus arrived in Rome.

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  29. Loved the Mountains Wild. Looking forward to the 22nd. The summer between 5th and 6th grade our upstairs neighbor gave me the original Nancy Drew books. I was in heaven. It was the summer of Nancy Drew, Maine, and the Beatles. I was reading Angel and Demons as our tour bus arrived in Rome.

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    1. Oh, SO fun! Angels and Demons in Rome--my husband and I created an A and D tour! It was so much fun.

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  30. Shalom Reds and friends,
    I think it was the summer of 1958, because I remember the adults talking about the artificial satellites of the USSR and America. As a family, we were vacationing at a house up the Hudson River, near Poughkeepsie, NY. It was a B&B before there were such things. It had once been a medium-sized working farm. Now the owners who lived there, made a living by selling a few cartons of eggs, some fresh milk, some corn I think and postage stamps. Mr. Rice was a philatelist. I didn’t really understand what that was yet. They also rented rooms in the summer to families mostly from New York City. There was another house on the property that they rented out to painters’ families.
    If my arithmetic is right, I would have been 4-1/2. Somewhere in the big house, I found 2 paperback books full of Peanuts comic strips. At home, the only daily paper that we had was the New York Times. So, this was my introduction to the “funnies”. I remember, reading and giggling, no end. As I grew older, if I found something that made me giggle, I would rush to share it with others. But at 4-1/2, I was content to turn the pages, and keep these books all to myself, at least until dinnertime.
    I read year round with no real paying attention to the season. But that summer that I found Peanuts, I became an independent reader of very grown-up literature

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    1. And they are very thought-provoking too!

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    2. This is great, David! I taught fiction writing at a cartoon college for a few years (The library is the Charles Schulz library!) I've heard from so many people that comics were their gateway drug!

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  31. Sarah, you are amazing! Thank you for a wonderful day...we LOVE having you at Jungle Red! xxx

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    1. Thank YOU, Hank and Reds! I had so much fun chatting with this lovely crowd of readers!

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  32. I agree that those books should have been counted in the reading contest. For Pete's sake, they're books and deserve to be valued just as much as any other book. I have fond memories of reading Nancy Drew in the summer. My mom would take me to the library on rainy SWFlorida afternoons, and I would sit on the floor trying to decide which Nancy Drews I'd read next. (Even better, the library was walking distance from the our house.)

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