Best Summer Reads

SummerReadingEvery summer kids and adults retreat to backyards, city parks, beaches, and lake-side cabins to get away from the daily grind of school, work, and responsibilities. For many of us, any summer retreat includes reading books—preferably more than one. I asked my colleagues to share their best summer reading memories and no surprise, they had plenty. Do you have one to share? Post it in the comments. We’d love to read it! I hope their recollections inspire you to seek out memorable reads this summer.

Joseph C, President
Summer of ’72. Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. The book had only been around for two or three years, so when I found it in riot-torn Detroit it seemed incredibly fresh–new and surreal. Someone back there said that reading the book was like watching an acid trip unfold. Maybe so. We kept staring at the night sky hoping to see a Tralfamadorian.

Peter W, CFO
Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. The illustrations helped: I remember Moomintroll and Snufkin walking on giant stilts that cast long shadows on a dried riverbed. Also, the leitmotif (I must say, I didn’t know that word at the time) of the comet shape appearing in unusual places (I think some pumpkin seeds made the pattern) was nicely ominous. The allegory of war escaped me. It was just a great fantasy adventure with strange animals. Who can’t love names like Hattifatteners and the Hemulen? I have a copy of the book now and look forward to reading it to my son Elliot.

Dan L, Marketing Coordinator
What comes to mind immediately is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It centers on Edgar, a mute teenager who grows up in a small north-central Wisconsin town. His family raises incredibly smart dogs, and he becomes especially fond of one of them. Family circumstances (the return of an Uncle that Edgar really despises) causes the teen to light out on his own with the dog through the woods of Wisconsin in the summer time. With my own history of vacationing in the North Woods, I could picture every step vividly. It’s a really exciting and gut-wrenching tale.

Josh S, Multimedia Content Developer
I remember reading through What Dreams May Come in a day or two. I think I was so drawn to it because of Matheson’s claim that he built his vivid version of the afterlife from a mix of multiple different religious texts and belief systems.

Mike E, Director of Digital Media
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I spent my first summer there reading Ask the Dust by John Fante. It is part of his Bandini Quartet about life in Los Angeles. In the book, Arturo Bandini is a struggling writer living in a residential hotel in Bunker Hill, a rundown section of downtown L.A. during the depression. I read the book because one of my favorite screenwriters, Robert Towne of Chinatown fame said it was a must. I had a lot in common with the character–a struggling writer, Catholic. It was a summer where I spent my evenings writing a lot, working late into the night, feeling like the writing was clicking. It was a good summer.

Charlie, Sales Representative
As I recall, my oldest sister, back from her first year of college, had secreted into our home the Summer of ’42  by Herman Raucher. I had to sneak it out of her room, read a few pages, and then return it without detection so that no one discovered that a 13-year-old was eagerly devouring such a ‘racy’ novel.

Sharon C, Communications Coordinator
Stephen King’s anthology Night Shift, a book that led to sleeping with a light on for many nights even though I was 15. I was new to horror stories and I liked how easily King made the mundane creepy. But the book stuck with me primarily because of the story “Strawberry Spring” where the narrator realizes he’s Springheel Jack, a serial killer who murders females students at New Sharon Teacher’s College during dense spring fog that occurs every 8 to 10 years. I had always been suspicious of fog and it was often foggy in coastal Netherlands where I lived and Springheel Jack terrorized a place that had my name in it and did those coincidences mean something about the Dutch fog that got creepier every minute after reading the story? Enjoying the scare of  “Strawberry Spring” led me to discover even better writers of creepy stories—Bradbury, Le Guin, Shirley Jackson, Gaimon, etc.

Rachel C, Editorial Director of K12 Programs
One summer about fifteen years ago I finally got around to reading Wuthering Heights. I distinctly remember feeling like it was the 19th-century version of a “beach read.”

Bill S, Senior Producer for New Media
Ward Number Six, by David Lebedoff.  It’s traces how Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey, both Minnesotans, ended up being the two main Democratic candidates for President in 1968 (after RFK was killed).  It was over my head, I was really young when I read it. But it was important to try, because their respective candidacies tore my family apart, creating forever family lore involving my Dad’s twin brother and my aunt storming out of our northwoods cabin in mid-argument with my folks and driving to Chicago where my aunt was a McCarthy delegate.  In recalling the book, I wanted to make sure I had the author’s name right and lo and behold, Lebedoff has just published his first novel!  It’s about terrorist fueled mosquitos in the northwoods and may be my read for this summer!

Fred H, Professional Learning Consultant
Peter Benchley grabbed me and never let go with Jaws.  Talk about fueling a young man’s imagination.  Hell, I wouldn’t even go into Lake Michigan for the next three summers.

Tom K, Sales Representative
Every summer I read something by Twain. It makes me feel like a kid again. Floating down the river, enjoying an adventure with a friend, and I love his humor. I first returned to reading him during the summer by accident.  I was stuck on a vacation at the end of college, couldn’t get home when I should, and found comfort in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  After that, I allowed myself to explore The Art of Lying, Tom Sawyer, and always return to Huck Finn in the  summer. The book really connected when I started floating fishing with friends in my mid-twenties. That was nearly 20 years ago and while I don’t read it entirely every year, I  I’m not saying I go back and read it all/every summer, but there are usually at least a few chapters I return to. Its one of the books kept permanently in the RV and it has been loaned to many fellow travelers over the years.

Samantha S, Editorial Services
The Harry Potter books. My mom was a stage actress, so she would sit on the couch and read it to my sister and I when we were pretty young. She would use different voices for all of the characters. During the summer, we would go through the books faster because we had more time to read. Sometimes we would even read a chapter during the safety breaks at the pool.

Nancy C, K12 Editor
Heidi. I read it the summer after I finished second grade. It so powerfully evoked a totally different landscape and lifestyle than what I was experiencing in suburban Dallas, Texas that I experienced it as pretty hallucinogenic.

Mary W, Copyeditor
On a family road trip years ago, we listened to Charlotte’s Web on cassette (yes, it was that long ago), read by E. B. White himself. I can still hear his gentle and loving narration. Luckily my husband was driving during the last parts, because I wouldn’t have been able to see the road through my tears.

Ellen Y, Director of IT
I remember reading aloud the first book of the Harry Potter’s series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, to my children over summer break years ago. My children were a bit too young to read it on their own so we read it together over the entire summer. I enjoyed the book through my children’s eyes, by getting on the Hogwart’s Express with them at Platform 9 3/4 and discovering the world of wizards and Muggles at Hogart’s School. After book one, they read the subsequent books in the series on their own, preordering them and then devouring them nonstop until the last page, leaving me to have to read them on my own, which took half the fun out of it.

Chris S, Director of Marketing & Research
I spent every summer at my grandparents’ house on a lake in New Jersey. One cold and rainy summer day when I couldn’t go swimming, I discovered a copy of Marjorie Morningstar in the bookcase and started reading it. That’s when I learned how wonderful it is to get caught up in the world and characters created by an author’s imagination. I’ve been reading and losing myself in those worlds ever since.

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