My Favorite Summer Read-Ever

Newsweek, August 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

My Favorite Summer Read-Ever


Not your typical beach reads: from Kathryn Stockett to Junot Diaz, writers pick the book that made their season.

For most of us, "summer reading" is a casual shorthand for light fare, pure entertainment, even frivolity. It could be translated to mean "books that don't make you think," or "books that are just for fun." Of course, there are those for whom summer is a time--an endless, dreamy time with one sunny day stretching into the next with no clear division--when you finally get through that impossibly long novel, Proust or Thackeray, say, that you've been meaning to get to for years. Or that you've been trying to get through for years. Surely the funniest line on the subject comes in Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus, when the narrator identifies his aunt Doris to a third party by explaining that she is the one by the pool reading Tolstoy. "That's how I know it's the summer, when Doris is reading War and Peace." Which raises the question: so what do authors read in the summer? We decided to ask a few. Here's what they said:

Geoff Dyer | 'THE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORN'

I have such pleasant memories of being in Paris one blazing summer in the 1990s, chuckling away like mad as I read E. M. Cioran's The Trouble With Being Born. He was still alive back then, and it felt immensely reassuring to know that not far away, in the same city, he was probably penning some more of these hilariously gloomy aphorisms.

Alexander McCall Smith | 'COLLECTED POEMS'

I first dipped into Auden's Collected Poems one summer when I was living in Ireland. I was won over for life. What a humane voice Auden is; what wisdom he shows; what a fine sense he has of the possibilities of the English language. Poetry, like fresh white wine, is ideal for sampling in the summer; read outdoors, under a tree, with a wide sky above. Decades later, I still turn to Auden as an antidote to the pressures of life, as a consolation. In particular, I relish his poem about sitting out on the lawn on a balmy evening, with the stars above him and friends at his side--a vision of the contentment that summer brings.

Elizabeth Kostova | 'TREASURE ISLAND'

I spent most of my childhood summers reading up in trees, which always involved finding the broadest branch possible and then trying to focus on the page without rolling off into space. Treasure Island, in a hardback copy that was easy to balance, was one of my favorite arboreal reads. …

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