Five Books That Have Summer Written All Over Them
Summer is actually my least favorite season (at least it has become so ever since I crossed that border from childhood), but here it is, back again, always sooner than I'm ready for it. Yes, it's a hot time, summer in the city, so my thoughts naturally turn to hot tomes. Maybe I should cool down with books like Edna Ferber's old classic The Ice Palace (ice-cold Alaska before statehood), or Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (my temperature goes down just thinking about the Everest disaster; I remember wanting to put gloves on when I read it), or Orhan Pamuk's Snow (a chilling study of a desolate Turkish town and its politics). Instead, in the summertime, I like to turn to those books that have summer written all over them -- not just in their titles. Here are some that have helped me get through the season.
1. Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury.
A great way to start the summer, because it's the most quintessentially summer book I know. For 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding in the summer of 1928 in Green Town, Ill. (for which you can substitute Anytown, USA, or at least you could some decades ago when I first read this classic), it's a magical season. To borrow Douglas's own labels, his summer is full of "Rites and Ceremonies" and "Discoveries and Revelations" and includes the luxuries of wild strawberries, front-porch swings, early evening games of kick-the-can and Mason jars of fireflies. Reading this book will slow you down. Bradbury chronicles a whole season of "June dawns, July noons, August evenings."
2. Summer, by Edith Wharton.
Among the lesser known of Wharton's books, but one Joseph Conrad called his favorite, Summer tells of a summer in the life of Charity Royall, set in a "sunburnt village." This is a deceptively simple story that raises complex questions and deals with complicated emotions -- the effects of pride, the implications of sexuality, the results of circumscribed possibilities, the power of traditions and the limits of responsibilities. A lot for one season.
3. The Greengage Summer, by Rumer Godden.
A dream-like story of the five thoroughly English, middle-class Grey children (ages ranging roughly from 7 to 16), whose mother decides to teach them unselfishness by taking them to visit World War I battlefields in France. Mother, however, falls ill, is hospitalized, and the children are left alone to deal with the foreign French and, at times, the even more foreign adults. Like the slow, hot summer, the book heats up, with the children observing and being influenced by the less-inhibited French. For the Greys, the greengage summer is a time to simultaneously take pleasure in and feel the pain of maturing -- physically and emotionally.
4. The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn, and The Summer Game, by Roger Angell (and you could throw in David Halberstam's Summer of '49).
My father was Commissioner of Baseball in my hometown, and he taught me to love the game (as well as teaching me how to throw, catch and keep score), so I have always loved baseball books. Angell's is a collection of his writings on baseball from the New Yorker in the 1960s; Kahn's is narrower, dealing with the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s. Halberstam focused especially on Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, at a time when baseball was truly the dominant sport in America. Going to a baseball game, preferably with my glove in my backpack and a scorecard for following the finer points, is always one of the highlights of my summers.
5. "Once More to the Lake," an essay by E.B. White.
Although this doesn't qualify as a book, I include it here in the hope that reading it might lead you to Essays of E.B. White (published in 1977), where it was reprinted after first appearing in 1941 in Harper's magazine. You can't go wrong with White. Everything he wrote speaks volumes, but here, in this depiction of one summer when White took his son to a lake where his own family had gone in his childhood years from 1904 on, is the essence of one man's memories of summer long gone: "Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fade proof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture with the sweet fern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end."
What books say summer for you?
-- Ev Small
By Christian Pelusi |
June 12, 2008; 10:20 AM ET
Previous: What You See Is What You Get: Judging Five Books by Their Cover | Next: Five Literary Fiascos by Great American Writers
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Lindemann | June 12, 2008 10:53 AM
Posted by: C | June 13, 2008 11:57 AM
Posted by: Judy Merrill Larsen | June 13, 2008 10:04 PM
Posted by: Sappho | June 15, 2008 5:07 PM
Posted by: jean | June 15, 2008 7:00 PM
Posted by: Brian | June 16, 2008 9:35 AM
Posted by: JohnJ | June 16, 2008 10:16 AM
Posted by: SML | June 17, 2008 7:56 AM
Posted by: KLeewrite | June 17, 2008 10:44 AM
Posted by: jessica | June 27, 2008 12:56 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.