I haven’t participated in a library summer reading program — or any reading program/challenge for that matter — for as long as I can remember.
(I do remember doing one of those Pizza Hut reading programs of the 1990s. I received a free personal pizza for my troubles.)
But this summer, I signed up for our local library’s summer reading challenge.
I originally hesitated because the nature of a reading challenge requires you to log the time that you read. I didn’t want to take the fun out of reading by doing that. But my avid reader husband had already been participating in the program and was really enjoying it, and encouraged me to give it a go.
It’s only halfway through July. There’s still a good amount of summer left. Here’s why you should sign up for a summer reading program this year!
- You’ll be encouraged to read more. I’ve actually been reading more since I started the challenge. There’s no minimum to the time you read at one sitting, but why read and log 15 minutes of reading time when you can do so for 20 minutes? Or 30 minutes, for that matter?
- There are some sweet prizes. Our library’s program offers incentives for reading, such as being entered into a grand prize drawing if you log ever so many minutes of reading. I hit my individual goal, and received a tiny grow-your-own marigolds from seeds kit. (Full disclosure: I later forgot to water the seedlings, so they died. Just keepin’ it real over here.)
- It makes you sound intellectual. “How’s your summer been?” “Oh, I’ve been reading a whole lot more, thanks to my library’s summer reading program. Would you like another scone?”
- I’ve been inclined to read a wider variety of books at the same time. (By the way, reading multiple books over the same course of time especially helps when one of the books is a tough one to get through.)
- The weather outside is humid and mosquito-ridden. Play it safe, stay indoors and curl up with a book in the safety of your home.
In case you are curious about what I’ve been reading this summer, here’s my current reading stack!
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Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France, by Peter Mayle
I’ve never been big on travel writing. So I think it’s funny that I’m so devoted to Peter Mayle’s series about being a transplant in Provence, France.
I first encountered Mayle’s original book A Year in Provence in a Half-Price Books. The title seemed intriguing; the cover, amusing. A skim of the back cover, and it being a pretty cheap paperback copy, convinced me to buy it. (You can read my mini-review of it in this older post.)
The second book, Toujours Provence, was also just as good.
I’d looked for the third installment for some time, and I’m glad I finally found it. It’s about Mayle’s return to Provence after being away for some time, and it’s just as delightful and wholesome as the first two books.
(Sad sidenote: When I writing this post, a quick Google search revealed that Mayle had died back in 2018. It’s sad that he’s no longer with us, but it’s also sad for me personally because it continues the trend that my favorite authors are usually dead — and to think that I’d first encountered his books when he was still alive! RIP.)
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The Last Gentleman, by Walker Percy
There’s just something special about that category of southern Catholic writers, (including Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy), who wrestle with both their Southernness and their relationship to Faith.
I read The Moviegoer a few years ago and loved it, and later read the extraordinary Love in the Ruins.
The Last Gentleman has definitely taken me the longest to read, compared to Moviegoer and Love. I can’t say I’m even reading it on a regular basis; I think I started it during Lent.
But it’s been a nice, classically Walker-esque journey. I’ve passed the halfway point and I still couldn’t tell you exactly what’s going on, besides the protagonist being an identity-crisis Southerner juggling his affiliation with an upper class “old” Southern family and a messy series of encounters, musings, and conversations.
The best part about reading this book is that I can go on for days or even weeks without reading it, and when I pick it up I still recall the exact context of where I left off. There’s so much malaise going on and the characters are already so lost in their own heads, that the reader doesn’t need much more to go on than that.
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Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
This one happened because we were getting ready for a road trip and I downloaded a bunch of podcasts to keep us entertained in the car. I ended up downloading the full audiobook version of Wuthering Heights in case we needed it.
We actually listened to Stuff You Should Know for the entire trip, and didn’t even start Wuthering Heights. But, because I’d taken the time to download the whole thing, I’ve started listening to it at the gym.
The woman reading the audiobook is British and does a good job of differentiating the characters via creative accents. At times it’s been hard to understand some of her characters, especially when you have a particularly thick accent going on, and you’re trying to decipher the dialogue through the background sounds of the gym. But I’ve been able to get the gist of the story, even amid some dramatic character monologues.
First impressions and all that, I can’t say I like any of the characters, including the kind of snobbish (in my opinion) narrator. But I want to find out what happens so I’m still plugging away.
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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
It’s ironic that I’ve been struggling with some writer’s block while working on this post, and Bird by Bird is one of the books I’m currently reading.
Maybe this will come as blasphemy to my writing colleagues, but until I was at a conference last summer in Wisconsin, I’d never even heard of Anne Lamott. A presenter spoke highly of Lamott, however, and recommended her book Bird by Bird. I jotted down the title and promptly forgot about it and her.
But earlier this year we visited an independent bookstore in St. Louis and I saw Bird by Bird on display. That brushed some dust off my memory and I picked up the book. The opening passage was hysterical and I decided to buy it.
(An indication that I’d made the right choice was later on in the introduction. Lamott included an anecdote about a home video of her adorable first-grade peers at a birthday party, and the scene suddenly being interrupted by awkward little Lamott who “scuttled across the screen like Prufrock’s crab.” I lost it at this point and laughed out loud.)
I’m now about halfway through and it’s been going pretty well. Sometimes her wisdom on writing makes me want to drop the book and start writing something, anything, at that moment… and other times she annoys me by reminding me of myself on a bad day of writing (see: grumpy/unproductive/angst-filled).
But I can’t deny that she’s good at what she does, especially if she can evoke these itchy, curmudgeonly, and yet very encouraging feelings solely through her written words.