The Books Of Summer

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 11 2012 @ 2:26pm


by Matthew Sitman

It's been the summer of 50 Shades of Grey, but Amanda Katz shows that many have resisted the trend with their beach reading:

There's the guy in a straw hat standing waist-deep in a crowded pool in Palm Springs, reading a book about string theory. There's the woman in the lounge chair, engrossed in William Styron's memoir of depression, Darkness Visible. There's the guy on the beach absorbed in JavaScript: The Good Parts. (That's a friend of mine; he claims that if you hold the cover just right, all anyone can see is "The Good Parts," which sort of disguises it as a beach book. Sure, dude, whatever you say.) And there's my brother, who once spent a pleasant seaside week reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

What these atypical summer reads say about us:

[T]hese less obviously summery books show just how individual our reading pleasures are. The best-seller list is where we meet, around the books that almost everyone likes; at the margins, we disperse toward our own idiosyncratic interests and tastes. Thus, when asked to recommend summer reading for a general audience recently, I didn't quite have the nerve to suggest Geoff Dyer's weird, funny Zona, a book that marshals a shot-by-shot recounting of a Tarkovsky film into a succinct meditation on criticism and existence. Only an alien, or a film professor, would consider it a Hot Summer Read. Nevertheless, it's one of the books I most enjoyed in recent months, and some people — not all — would find it an excellent vacation companion.

If you are looking for vexing, non-trendy vacation reading, see Emily Wilkinson and Garth Hallberg's list of the top ten most difficult books at Publisher's Weekly.

(Image by MATCHBOOK via Mashable)