Sensational summer reading
Remember the heady anticipation of a fresh summer reading list landing on your school desk? The crisp photocopy filled with titles yet to be discovered, new lands to explore and authors with unique, authentic voices just waiting to be — . . . No? Anyone? Bueller? Even as an adult, the idea of starting a personal reading project fills me with geeky glee. I was most definitely the kid who had completed her assignments within weeks of the final bus leaving the school parking lot — someone who looked askance at classmates binging on CliffsNotes before a back-toclass quiz.
Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” is, of course, a classic — and one of my more memorable summer reads. But Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club” sticks out, too, as does “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe.
Reading has never been a task, a burden or a chore. To me, reading is solace and relaxation — a happy place, and a constant. I can tell you what I was reading at many major points in my life: like when I was waiting to meet my future husband at a cafe (“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett), and the last book I finished before my son was born (“The Precious One” by Marisa de los Santos).
I don’t get to enjoy hunkering down with a book as often as I used to, certainly, but I still try to make time — even just a few minutes — to read at night. Long before I became a writer, wife and mother, I was a reader. Women’s fiction was always my flavor of choice, but lately I’ve been reaching for memoirs and inspirational reads — especially parenting self-help — to give me a little extra encouragement to get through the late-night exhaustion.
When I’m too tired to read, I listen. Audiobooks remind me of sitting criss-cross-applesauce in Mrs. Brown’s second grade classroom, listening as she enthusiastically read a story aloud in a corner at Arthur Middleton Elementary. Audiobooks are engaging, entertaining — allaround awesome. Great ones like “Sisterland” by Curtis Sittenfeld, my current read, make running errands and schlepping up and back from daycare a pleasure.
I didn’t consider this “actual reading” in my early audio days, but I’ve completely swung around to the read-aloud way of life. Once I realized how clearly I could recall the characters, plot and dialogue, I knew I’d paid as much attention — if not more — to the story than if I’d been holding a physical book. So it totally counts. And that’s a good thing, too, because for the first time in adulthood, I’ve joined several summer reading challenges. The good folks at our local libraries are hosting events open to kids and adults of all ages — with prizes to boot.
If you’re anything like me, you should probably be drinking more water, swapping quinoa for french fries . . . and breaking up (a little) with your smartphone. Knowing how important it is for me to have that time to unwind, I’m prioritizing reading this summer and challenging myself to read four books before Aug. 26 — the end date for library programs. If I can spend an hour or more mindlessly scrolling through Facebook after Oliver and Hadley fall asleep, I can get through a few chapters of a book.
Before kids, exhaustion and my limited attention span, I read for hours nightly. Stacks of paperbacks came home with me — all purchased by making good use of my employee discount at Borders in Waldorf. I worked there during my senior year of college and into my first years at the Maryland Independent.
My library card had expired years ago, and I used my 15-minute breaks at the store to shop. I could have put my hard-earned $8 an hour toward something substantial, but instead I essentially worked for free.
No matter. I’ve found the library now. And once you’re hooked, there’s no going back.
Want to get in on the action? In Calvert County, the young and young at heart are challenging themselves with #calvertreads — a program encouraging participants to make a reading pledge and log their progress online (calvertlibrary. beanstack.org/reader365). Organizers are challenging participants to read 30,000 books this summer. Register yourself, your family or a group to be entered into a grand prize drawing at summer’s end.
A similar project is happening in Charles County: the “Build a Better World” ultimate summer reading challenge invites participants to track their reading online (ccpl.beanstack.org/ summer_reading) for a chance to earn badges and vouchers from local businesses, happening now through Aug. 26.
In St. Mary’s, “Build a Better World” has challenges for kids, teens and adults. For grownups, writing reviews and tracking your reading makes you eligible to play Bingo for a chance to win prizes through Aug. 26. Go to www.stmalib.org/kids/ kids-program/summer-reading.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland is in on the fun, too, with a library summer reading program happening through Aug. 18. Open to all members of the St. Mary’s College community as well as residents of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties, the competition challenges readers to share reviews on its blog (smcmlibrary. wordpress.com) with rewards along the way.
Whether you’re in it for the swag or simply want a way to hold yourself accountable for your reading goals, these programs have definitely inspired me to make more time for the little things that make me happy.
And to borrow audiobooks from the library two or three at a time.
That goal won’t reach itself.