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The summer reading list — with a twist

The summer months seem to be an open invitation for everyone who’s ever stuck their nose in a book to offer their summer reading recommendations, lists that are often peppered with questionable choices and sometimes out-and-out trash. Their rationale is, “Hey, it’s summer! Wheeee!”

The Guardian links to a funny Observer story with its own take on the summer reading list; it leads off with, “‘Whatever I feel like I wanna read. Gosh.’ So might Napoleon Dynamite, current hero of slacker teenagers and hipsters worldwide, respond to the question: ‘What are you going to read on holiday?'”

After all, writer Alex Clark says, summertime offers “an opportunity to extend reading time beyond that snatched half-hour on the train or the slack-jawed period before lights out” and avoid the curse of re-reading the same pages over and over and over. But what to choose? “Should you seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in something out of your normal range? Should you satisfy the modern tourist’s conscience by informing yourself about the place you’re visiting? Should you work on those areas of your intellect that lie fallow during the rest of the year — renew your acquaintance with contemporary poetry, for example, or bone up on the development of porcelain in the Tang dynasty?” he asks.

Pish-posh to that, says he. Clark advises that, “as in the selection of holiday destination, a touch of ambition pays dividends.” He says that you should bring as many books as possible on vacation and not feel bad about not finishing a dud, and that you should “take a punt on a book whose subject matter doesn’t immediately grab you, whose author is unknown to you, whose cover looks ill-designed and irritating. Next year, it’ll probably be the one you’re pressing into others’ hands with evangelical zeal.” He also recommends taking a copy of your favourite book along for the ride as a fallback, which has the added bonus of those enthralling key scenes, “which you can re-enact to keep yourself company if strained silence descends.”

The story ends with a sizeable list of picks from British authors, writers, and booksellers, but we figure that Clark’s advice should have you well on your merry summer-reading way.

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