Often I’m asked questions for book recommendations. While I used to dole out whatever was the latest book that had my fancy, I’ve curbed that tendency lately. Recommendations should be personal—and the best ones (ones that result in a new favorite or a perspective-changing book) always are. While to one person I recommended Leaving the Atocha Station, to the other it would be Telex from Cuba. (Or, to my wife, Ethan Canin’s For Kings and Planets.) An arbitrary book recommendation—without any knowledge of the person you are recommending it to—isn’t worth much.
So that’s why I’m not posting a bunch of random recommendations on the Internet, to people I don’t know.
Despite being tempted.
There’s been more than a few “summer reading” lists out on the Interwebs, and sometimes they can be worthwhile. Most times they aren’t. Stick instead with one of the days the Biblioracle—who recommends books based on the last five you read—is on the job. (He recommended the excellent Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee to me, and I was not disappointed. Given what I said above, my mention of how great Disgrace was is not apophasis.)
Ideally, one is reading throughout the year. If there was any time that was least appropriate to reading, in fact, it would probably be the summer—at least for those of us who live in horridly cold continental areas and who struggle through much of autumn because of ragweed. But, likely because school is generally out, we are stuck with the holdover adolescent notion of “summer reading.” (I suppose one should be happy with any season of reading.)
So, if it’s by the pool or by the beach or in your own backyard garden, you could almost always do worse than reading a good book. But if you’re going to find a “good book,” stay clear of general summer reading lists.