Summer No Time for Light Reading "Fun' Fare Doesn't Appeal to Everyone

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Summertime and the reading is easy.

That's the popular notion, anyway, that in summer, readers switch from heavy duty and literary fare to light books. Whodunits. Happily-ever-after love stories. Celebrity bios.

But the summertime switch just ain't necessarily so.

Preston Haskell, founder and chief executive officer of the construction firm, The Haskell Co. -- and a major collector of expressionist art -- reads about art and architecture year-round.

"My summer reading is a continuation of my year-round patterns," Haskell said. "I read non-fiction. History, art, architecture, politics and current affairs -- no Grisham, no Danielle Steel."

Danielle Steel, in fact, has a brand-new book out and it's already on the best-seller list. It's Granny Dan, about a granny, an old Russian woman, who, in youth, was the toast of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the darling of the czar. John Grisham's The Testament has been a best-seller for six months.

Neither tempts Haskell.

He is just finishing The Art of Leadership, a book that profiles 30 corporations that have assembled major art collections, how they did it and why.

Sheriff Nat Glover doesn't read summer whodunits, either.

He's reading Developing the Leaders Around You by John C. Maxwell, a California clergyman who is the author of many books about developing human potential.

On the other hand, Bill Leyden, who teaches literature at Jacksonville University and who is a book reviewer, thinks the seasonal switch in reading fare is respectable and desirable, keeps us in touch with the seasons as surely as seed time and harvest.

He has just read River of Darkness by Rennie Airth.

"A good thriller," he said. "A bit predictable, but most thrillers tend to be. A good summer read."

So, why should a summer read be in a class by itself?

He considered, came up with a parallel: "I guess for the same reason we don't drink too much Scotch, and we don't drink too much heavy beer in summer. We switch to gin and lager. Maybe summer reading is our version of living closer to nature."

Evelyn Nehl thinks the notion of summer reading is an echo of childhood when school was out, life was carefree.

She is reading Gail Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden this summer, a story set in the late '30s in China and Japan.

"She's not a great writer, but this is a fascinating story about the culture and the way the people thought and what was going on."

Nehl just finished Daphne du Maurier: A Daughter's Memoir, by Flavia Leng.

"I bought it for a friend, but I had to read it first."

And now she's loaned it to another friend, so Daphne may be downright dog-eared by the time it's handed over to the person for whom it was originally intended.

Stuart Evans, head of Jacksonville's Cultural Council, has a stack of books she hopes to read this summer.

"Bella Tuscany -- I loved Under the Tuscan Sun. Tom Wolfe's new book, which I haven't read yet -- A Man in Full. I've heard a lot of good things about Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation. And I want to read Bob Woodward's new book, Shadow," she said. …