You expect something different from your summer reading than you do from the books you read during the rest of the year. Whether you’re a student trying to decompress over summer vacation, or just want a lighter book to go with the brighter weather, you usually want a more relaxing book to enjoy once it gets sunny outside. How, then, do you pick the perfect summer read? As far as I can tell, “easy” or “light” summer reading is a relative term. I, for example, enjoy many books during the summer that other people might cow away from because its been featured in too many college or high school English class curriculms.
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a fun romp of a book in the summer, just look at my many sci-fi and steam-punk books I’ve gushed over. Not all of my summer reads are cerebral, scholarly explorations of man and machine’s relations. Sometimes they’re just about robots chasing people and blowing stuff up, and I enjoy that. Still, though, I’ve spent many summers intrigued by classic books and writers you wouldn’t associate with paperback beach reads, like my “Mopey Women of American Poetry” Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath craze last summer. (Don’t worry. I’m fine.) My mission, then, is not to point out popular summer reads, but help you find what good, comfortable summer reading is for you with these starting steps.
1. Look at your to-read pile.
Yes, I’ve mentioned before that summer is a great time to catch up on your reading, but be careful about which books you pick. I, for example, am much more likely to start in on the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, than I am to start in on English major must-reads like Infinite Jest and Gravity’s Rainbow. Chances are you already have the perfect summer reading book waiting on your to-read shelf, but make sure it’s the type of book that’ll make you smile eagerly. No, it doesn’t have to be a laugh riot, but it should be something you’ve been waiting to enjoy. For me, that might be another one of the many Discworld book’s I’ve got piled on my shelf. For my dad, it’s a lengthy series about WWII. It takes all types, you see.
2. Look at the style.
Sampling a book before you read it is just good sense. Sampling for an easy-breezy summer read, though, means looking at a book with slightly different expectations than normal. For the best sort of summer reading, the type that’ll restore your tired grey matter, look for books with language and style that you can easily, even quickly, read through. I didn’t just get into Plath and Dickinson because I wanted to be a moody teenager all fixated on the inevitability of death and all that. I read those poets because their style feels especially beautiful and rhythmic to me. A good poetic meter always pulls me through a book. That’s why I pick up the level of poetry I read during the summer. A decent poem pulls you through itself quite easily and lends itself to thorough, quiet contemplation on a beach somewhere. That’s a personal preference of mine, of course, but even if poetry isn’t your bag and you won’t be making it to any beaches this summer, make sure your summer reading list is full of books that hook you with their language and pull you speeding through an elegant ocean of style and voice.
3. Look at your interests.
What’s summer for if not exploring new interests, new ideas? I, like many other students, am now able read about topics new or exciting to me without filling out an independent study form. This summer, so far, is looking to be a summer of historical fiction for me, a genre I haven’t really read and enjoyed since childhood. My sister’s current obsession with tigers means she’ll by anything with the animal’s face on it, and that includes books. My dad, in a crazy turn of events, has veered away from in depth realistic books about World War Two Battles and is shaking it up with some books that take a realistic, in depth look at Medieval Age battles. My mother, the librarian, is a slave to whatever must-reads are coming out so she can discuss and recommend them to her patrons, but still, everyone likes to try something refreshing and exciting in the summer.
There you have it, your first steps to building a summer reading list you actually want to read. More than anything, I feel summer is a time to explore what you want to read for yourself. That could full well mean grabbing a book from your local library or bookstore’s top summer read shelf, but I also want people to remember that reading what you find the most lighthearted and enjoyable can mean going off the beaten “summer reading” path. I’ve ventured into territories seldom seen outside a high school or college required reading list, and came out pretty happy, because of my own personal tastes. Just remember, finding your own perfect summer read is all about following your bliss, wherever it takes you.