This week in our Summer Reading Series we hear from our summer intern Catherine on her method for picking beach reading material.
Some of my earliest memories of summer reading include going to the library to pick out books for my family’s annual beach trip. Every year, a week before the trip, my mom would take me to Braswell Memorial Library and we would spend a few hours sorting through the shelves. I had a particular method that I found successful; unfortunately it was not very time-efficient. Since I was always told to never judge a book by its cover, I decided it was best to judge one by its spine. I scrutinized title, font, coloring, and any other designs. I would scan a bookshelf and pick out two or three interesting spines and continue the process throughout several sections of the library. I took pride and pleasure in picking out my summer reads.
While my method overlooked many fantastic books, I can count on one hand the number of times I ended up with a dud. I was so eager to dive into my temporary stash that I would begin reading as soon as we left the library. This resulted in my mom taking away all but one book before the trip in fear I would be left bookless during a five-hour car ride. I’m not sure who this benefited more. We continued this tradition for years. I found so much pleasure in the success of my “spine method” and hand-picking books to feed my curiosity and imagination. Of course, as we grow older we start to doubt ourselves. Later I began consulting “book lists” instead of trusting my own judgment. For a period of time summer reading became more of a challenge than a vacation.
After starting college I realized I hadn’t read as many of the “classics” and I felt bookshelves away from my classmates’ ability to connect various works of literature. I turned summer reading into a methodical list instead of continuing to rely on my “spine method”. I consulted countless “Top Tens” and took summer reading from being purely delightful to being a tedious task. I realized I had a problem when I had to put down Gravity’s Rainbow for the fourth time. My mom asked why I kept tackling it when I could never read past eighty pages. Although it resides on the top of someone’s list as the book with the best opening line, it rests on the bottom of my bookshelf in hopes of one day being completed.
Since then, I have tried combining my two methods. I still consult websites proclaiming a list of books as must-reads or greatest of all time, but now I reincorporate my own judgment of what makes a good book. I have loved exploring classic “Brit lit” but also learning more about my own North Carolina roots. This summer, I am fortunate enough to read several Blair titles while simultaneously reading a few from some designated list. I’m currently digging into Met Her on the Mountain and chopping away at Vanity Fair. Although both are quite different, they each create a completely foreign world for a quick summer escape.
Stay tuned for more from Blair staffers about their summer reading!