Here we are: August, already. Languid days of summer – the final month before school starts, and fall creeps in. Days are hot, and our garage is scattered with the toys, both kids’ and adults’, from our summer adventures. Tents and sleeping bags are strewn about, coolers stacked at the ready, and our bikes are lined up for the daily ride around the neighborhood. Half-used bottles of sunscreen hide in every backpack and clutter the kitchen counter, which is also piled with fresh vegetables from our weekly CSA from our local farm, Raven Ridge.
Added to the items of summer fun in the sun and on the water are the piles of books I’ve devoured this season. For the past two years I was in graduate school for English literature and took summer classes that came with a demanding list. This wasn’t a problem as my love for books drives my life. But this summer I was not beholden to reading lists, classes, note taking, paper writing. At the start of this summer I was giddy: I can read whatever I want!
So I have, and with pleasure. I scanned through various summer reading lists published by notable newspapers and my favorite book website, Modern Mrs. Darcy. My stack of books was procured from best-seller lists, titles obtained from the library, and recommended novels from friends. I didn’t have a specific topic in mind, just whatever sparked interest, be it a review in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal or an attractive book cover calling to me from the fiction stacks at ImagineIF Library.
I adored Ruth Riechl’s new memoir, Save Me the Plums, about her years as the editor-in-chief at Gourmet, which made be both ravenous (delicious food) and envious (NYC magazine career). It took me one day to read her delightful book. Another book that I couldn’t put down was Joe Wilkins’ novel Fall Back Down When I Die, which takes place in eastern Montana. It’s devastating, timely, and the prose so striking that I found myself holding my breath. Earlier in the summer at a literature conference in Ontario I met the Irish novelist Paul McGrath and was introduced to her work, including her first novel Generation. It was another book that I relished. I’m still making my way through the classic Middlemarch by George Eliot, which is so funny but a big read. It will likely take me well into fall to complete.
I happened upon Lili Wright’s Dancing with the Tiger. She was my creative writing professor at DePauw University and, although her novel debuted three years ago, I hadn’t thought about it until I saw it at the library. Her first book was a travel memoir and was published during my senior year of college. I loved being reacquainted with her writing style, and happy that she wrote such a thrilling novel.
It’s not as if my constant reading will change after August, but there is just something so delightful about summer reading. Perhaps it’s because I’m reading outside, sprawled in a lounge chair or with my morning coffee at a campground. Or maybe there’s just something special about summer itself that adds a magical tinge to everything we do. Or perhaps it’s the places we go with our books, like to the moon with local author Jonathan Vetter-Form’s Moonbound, which my whole family adores. We’re all captivated by Apollo 11 and the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing.
Captivated: that best describes my summer reading and my summer itself. I hope yours is too.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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