#What did you read last summer?

There are so many nice books in the world – and never enough time to read them all. But even if you have decided for one, there’s never the right time to enjoy it. To finish it. The summer holiday is usually the time of year when it should be actually possible to pencil in some reading time and hopes are high to finish the book(s) you started a while ago. Risk is high to forget the plot, or whoiswho because you are always busy. Because you couldn’t find a time-slot to read further.

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Summer is again the time to choose the literary pearls that deserve our full attention. But how to find the books to make it to our shortlist? Should it be something intellectually challenging? Yes. But maybe not too much. Only to the extent you can keep up with the content while relaxing by the pool-side, or keeping an eye at the kids. Such literature is also useful as reference over coffee with the colleagues after summer – you didn’t only get a sun-tan, you also managed to broaden your mind. Gave it some serious exercise, unlike work..

We are two different types of bookworms. One of us is into crime novels and sagas, the other into tragicomedies, non-fiction and books about ‘psychotic’ families. One of us chooses books based on genre, the other based on their title. If the title or the plot don’t click the book is discarded.

Crime novels usually entertain and keep you motivated to keep on reading. The down-side is that if you are interrupted by your kids asking you to play cards, take you and the inflatable crocodile for a swim or something else ‘very important’ – you are at risk of impolitely declining. Mostly to the kids. Because you need to find out if the detective guy (the slightly alcoholic one) survives the sticky situation he got himself involved in. Highly recommended books of this sort are the Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbø – plowing through the two latest one by the pool and beach last year in Crete was highly entertaining and nail biting – but maybe not so family-friendly.

Another genre worth exploring are the more epic and really thick books that brings you into family sagas – going into depth of the faith of many characters with intertwined lives, who are falling in love, being victims of catastrophes and generally living lives. A first experience with such a book was The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. Most of us have seen the tv-mini-series based upon the book. The book was available at the tobacco shop around the corner. The lady behind the counter was a bit sceptical and expressing some reluctance to sell this book to a 10 year old (young) customer. However the customer was sure and couldn’t wait to start reading. Retrospectively it must be admitted that some parts of this book are not necessarily appropriate for young readers in their tweens (wild boars, forest fires and not to mention the sex-scenes).

Another one of this type of rich drama-books is The Winds of War & War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk – also subject to a mini-series back in the 80s. A more recent and contemporary thick one is The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Perfect for sweaty days on the beach.

A good idea could be to enter into the universe of fantasy – be it Harry P. His Dark Materials or the world of Hobbits. If you spend some time away from your kid during the holiday “parallel-reading” provides a way to do something together while being apart. Did this once when we couldn’t manage to finish the book we were reading together aloud before the 8 year old was off to the grand-parents. Managed to dig up an extra copy of the book, enabling both of us to read at same time – and both mother and son agreed daily to extend “the reading quota” to get deeper into the plot.

We all tumble and stumble into our preferred book genres and authors based on our first experiences of books and based on who had an influence on us. Siblings tend to have a totally different taste even though they were being read the same books by their parents. Some of us stumbled over Stephen King when we were young and into science fiction. Some of us wanted the special edition of Tolstoy’s War and peace for Christmas and got into Thomas Pynchon by reading the feuilleton supplement of a leftist German newspaper. Now that is an author whose books are not recommended to read on the side during holidays. They need our full attention and also an accompanying notebook to write down everything about each character.

Last summer Middlesex was left in Greece. Unfinished. This summer it is being picked up and should be read until the end. Hopefully the kids will be able to entertain themselves and won’t need too many parental interventions. Wishful thinking, we know..

If at the end of summer we won’t manage to read what we had planned for, we will make sure that this summer’s memories make another interesting and worth remembering chapter of our life. After all, we will never be able to read all the books in the world. But we are perfectly able to cherish what we have.

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