Summer Reading: Under a Tree With a Book

Summer has come with hot, steamy breath in Washington this year—already days nearing 100°. Even with the sudden flash of thunderstorms, the air clears only to steam up again. So much for my assurance to a newcomer that summer wasn’t so bad here, though maybe we will pay our dues in June and be rewarded with the summer breezes and cool evenings in July. August, we know, will be hot.

In the dog days it is a time to be indoors, or at least in the shade—biking along the Potomac or sculling on the river only early in the morning or as the sun is setting. Indoors or under the shade of a tree, it is a time to read.

Summer reading—the term brings back delicious childhood memories even of hot Texas summers where I would find a patch of shade in the back yard and lose myself in a book, or bike to a nearby pool and sit reading between laps, or curl up in a chair under the fan on the screened porch. I can still smell the mowed grass and the sweet fragrance of white gardenias on the bushes just outside.

As a departure for this blog, I thought I’d share my summer reading list and ask to know what you’re reading. I usually read before and after work, mainly on the back porch in the evening where it is light till nine and beyond. I know the sun is setting not only from the fading pink sky through the flowering apple trees but also from the bugle playing somewhere in the distance….perhaps at the Naval Observatory. I don’t know who faithfully heralds this rising and setting of the sun each day, but in the early morning if I’m in my rocker on the back porch, I can also hear a distant bugle welcoming the day.

My list this summer are books by friends and acquaintances—a list mostly of contemporary American women writers. In listing these, I am leaving out so many other strong voices of American women novelists, but these particular books have been stacked for a while on a shelf overflowing with books I’ve bought and wanted to read, many recently published, a few I’ve started, but reading was interrupted by other assignments. Even as I write these names, I’m thinking of the other friends and writers I’d like to list whose books I’ve read and whose next books I look forward to reading. But that is for another blog post. In the hope of finishing those I’ve started and starting and finishing the rest, and enjoying all, here is my summer list:

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna
Claire Messud’s Emperor’s Children
Roxana Robinson’s Cost
Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come
Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress
C. M.  Mayo’s The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Katharine Davis’ East Hope
Sarah Pekkanen’s The Opposite of Me

(The last five are recent books by Washington area novelists, a vibrant group of women.)

I would love to hear what you’re reading and recommending and to hear comments on any of these titles you’ve already read.

Finally I’d like to share a gift subscription to Poets and Writers Magazine if you are not already a subscriber. If you don’t know the publication, it is the magazine for poets, fiction writers and creative nonfiction writers, relied on by most writers I know as a valuable information source for the business of being a writer as well as for substantive articles on literature. The first 20 people who respond will get a free introductory subscription. Just click below with your comments and with a Yes to PW.

Happy summer reading!