The summer solstice, which for those of us in Pittsburgh occurs tomorrow morning at 6:51 a.m., is the official kickoff of my favorite season. I love just about everything summer related. It can never be too hot or steamy for my tastes — maybe because I was born under the Chinese Zodiac sign of the snake – once the temperatures climb above 70 degrees, I immediately crawl out from under the dark and cold of winter and spring, and head out to bask upon my summer rock — preferably with a good book.
For me, summer means fresh fruit, popsicles, sunshine, an explosion of vegetables in the garden, trips to a local watering hole (pool or pond or Great Lake), but mostly the leisure to read in a lounge chair in the sun of the backyard or the shade of the front porch. Summer reading has always been a big part of my life, ever since I was a young girl participating in the various summer reading programs at the (now closed) Caledonia branch of the East Cleveland Public Library. I would race to the new book display every time I visited that library, grabbing hungrily at as many of the fresh titles I could carry and hurrying to the circulation desk with cardboard library card in hand. I can still sense the cool and quiet of that library on a summer day, and I can even still smell those books that I used to bring home. Nancy Drew, Henry Huggins, The Great Brain, Betsy, Tacy & Tib, Harriet the Spy, and Lois Lenski’s cast of characters — all became my new found friends during those lazy days of my childhood summers.
From those early days of beloved chapter books, to the later years in which I had summer reading lists to attack for high school and college, to having my own children participate in our suburban Pittsburgh summer reading programs — libraries and summers have always gone hand in hand for me, just like kick-the-can and ice-cream trucks.
In the world of books and reading, summertime also means that there’s no end to the “summer reading guides” on just about every website, in every magazine, newspaper and blog post — those lists that suggest “good beach reads” or your favorite author’s summer vacation reading choices. Thus, I feel it my duty as a librarian and bibliophile that I add to those lists, because as is the mantra in our house, you can never have, nor read, too many books! So I thought I’d share with you the “Maria J.’s Family” summer reading list. You might see some old favorites or discover new loves from this list. It’s not meant to be exceptional in any way — it’s just what’s happening in our household this summer, reading-wise. So, get out to your favorite neighborhood library, grab a few titles and pull up your favorite rock or lounge chair to enjoy your summer reads!
W.J. – age 13 — Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C. Murder’s, and Murder on the Orient Express; Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker.
A.J. — age 17 — Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring; Laura Hillebrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption; Robert Dallek’s Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy Whitehouse.
Mr. J. — Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; Page duBois’ A Million and One Gods: the Persistence of Polytheism; Christopher Moore’s Coyote Blue ; Roger Housden’s Ten Poems to Change Your Life.
Maria J. — Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England; Dan Barber’s The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food; Jane Goodall’s Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants.
– Maria J.