What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

Actor, screenwriter and now author Simon Pegg signs copies of his autobiography Nerd Do Well in Los Angeles last week.

Ah, summertime! The lake and the weeds and the barbeque and the basement clear-out beckon, but so does the comfort of your porch and the prospect of slipping into worlds undiscovered with a skilled author as your guide.

Several years ago, I was able to spend six weeks telecommuting from my summer place in New Hampshire and set a reading challenge of getting through John Updike’s Rabbit series. At the beginning, this seemed eminently possible, Rabbit, Run running to just over 200 pages with three books to follow. As I progressed, each book appeared to double the length of its predecessor, though, goodness knows, the writing and storytelling were never dull.

I was within reach of my goal with a few days to spare when I discovered that there was another chapter in Harry Angstrom’s saga, a 2001 novella called Rabbit Remembered, focusing on Harry’s family. This generated mild panic – after all, this was a self-imposed deadline and no one would know if I made up the fifth installment once I returned to Los Angeles – but the novella, part of a short story collection, was slim enough to manage in time to achieve my goal, and I’ve been enjoying summer reading marathons since.

In some future year, maybe I’ll tackle the Harry Potter series or the late plays of Shakespeare. This summer, it’s going to be a varied bag…

What I’m Reading on My Summer Vacation

From her startlingly original first book, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, to her short stories and series of Jackson Brodie detective novels, Kate Atkinson never disappoints, so her latest Brodie escapade, Started Early, Took My Dog, is going to generate hours of enjoyment on my porch…David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is my doorstopper selection (let’s face it, it’s either this or one of the Russians, but after barely making it through “The Last Station,” I’m not quite ready for that commitment)…The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens is a book that, as Lionel frequently notes on “As Time Goes By,” I always think I’ve read, but haven’t; there was a Saturday morning TV show in the ‘60s with the same title, featuring then-ubiquitous child star Pamela Ferdin, and that, I think, has confused the issue for me, though as I recall the plot of the TV series was nothing like that of the book; all of which makes this selection long overdue…Every now and then I like to sample something in the zeitgeist (like the Christmas vacation I spent speed-reading The DaVinci Code), and this summer that book probably will be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, if its young fans have left me a copy at my local library…The witty and massively talented Simon Pegg (Shaun of “Shaun of the Dead”) has penned a memoir, Nerd Do Well, which I picked up during his recent signing in L.A. and have already begun perusing (pictures, at least)…

What I’m Re-reading this Summer

If you fall in love with great writing as often as I do, then you’re probably also an avid re-reader…

The porch where I'll be doing my summer reading.

This summer, I want to revisit Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and will try to get in Heller’s Closing Time, which is a 1994 sequel that it tickled me no end to discover – ever since a high school English teacher insisted that the last line of Catch-22 (“Yossarian jumped,” as near as I can recall) meant that Yossarian was dead and not, for crying out loud, a thrilling act that our hero had earned, signifying both his defiance and unrestrainable spirit. I cannot begin to describe how much I hated that interpretation, which, though she was entitled to her opinion, I knew in my book-loving heart had to be wrong, so I’m delighted to have the chance to catch up with Yossarian and his cronies in their later years…for some reason my copy of Not the End of the World (also by Kate Atkinson) lives at my N.H. house, and I’ve been dying to re-read it for a long time, so this goes on the list…for decades Story of My Life by Jay McInerney has been my go-to brain candy when insomnia hit and I wanted something light to read, but as the whole John Edwards saga grows ever sadder, I don’t think I can bring myself to enjoy this anymore…so, in the wee small hours of the night, it’ll probably be the surefire entertainments of Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding or Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley.

How about your summer reading list? What classic have you been putting off? Which piece of brain candy will you enjoy? What new hardcover spine are you dying to crack?

Today is technically the first day of summer, so it’s time to find a cozy chair and get started.

Ready? Jump!