A week ago I was at a nearby antique store. It’s a pretty cool place, located inside a monstrous old factory. The rows of antiques flow from massive room to massive room, the walls dematerializing from sheetrock to exposed brick as the spaces become less “done” and truer to their history. The aisles loop around, taking shoppers back from the final, huge warehouse space and back into human-scaled territory. I followed the u-turn of rows–like a rainbow slumped on its side–to a veritable pot of gold. Around the corner I found waiting for me a used book section consisting with numbers of science fiction and fantasy rivaling that of any new book store. And these weren’t just some grandad’s old, beat-up collection of seventies serial sci-fi (although that category was represented), there were tons of modern authors like Gaiman, Williams, Salvatore, Hamilton, Harris and Reynolds. Every category from steampunk to high fantasy had a representative in attendance. I ended up grabbing an armful of two-dollar bargains, seizing the opportunity to both expand my bookshelves and explore some new-to-me urban fantasy. I also picked up a Philip K. Dick complete collection (I’ve been dying to read the real Minority Report), and a handful of random, easy-on-the-brain fantasy titles, including a new Redwall book from Brian Jacques (I have a thing for mice and squirrels with swords).
In all, the selection I chose was fluffier than the usual–nice, short, fun books. And that made me start thinking about the term “Summer Reading” and why we feel compelled to lighten our mental load during the hot months. Does it have something to do with our old schooltime habits? Tossing our proverbial pencils in the air as the last bell rings and turning to more leisurely pursuits? Or is it embedded in our need to shed the heavy weight of winter? As our parkas, boots and sweaters are peeled off, as our diets become leafier and infused with flavors of citrus, do we continue to jettison of all things bulky and cumbersome? As soon as March has a firm hold on us, the tables at the bookstores entitled “Beach Reads” come creeping into the center aisles. I don’t go anywhere near the beach during the summer (despite the fact I live a mere twenty minutes away–it has something to do with heat, sharks and sand sticking to my sunscreen like Shake-n-Bake), but I nevertheless gravitate towards this pile of printed matter like a bird towards the equator. I like to think it’s my inner Peter Pan calling the shots, the little girl who used to sit on the lush grass and read under the shade of a giant tulip poplar insisting I take some time to run through the sprinkler just for the heck of it. It’s hard to deny her that urge; the pure, uncomplicated enjoyment of the shade, a nice swing, and a good book is hard to match.
Summer inspires much in all of us: a compulsion to try our hands at gardening, a yearning to put match to charcoal–and if you’re from the Eastern Shore a desire to sit at a table covered in newspaper and pound the shit out of crabs while eating corn and guzzling beer. But, most of all, I think summer reminds us to find the fun in life, if only one chapter at a time.