Summertime in America. It’s a different kind of season. Kids are out of school. Parents are taking vacation days. The weather is warm, the beaches are full, and even the most business-minded among us loosen the collar just a bit.

Summer has a slower pace, and that slower pace makes it the ideal time to catch up on your book reading. I suggest that you give some thought to which pages you plan to flip through in the coming months.

Planning your summer booklist might seem to rob these golden days of their spontaneity. However, we make travel plans in order to have a successful vacation. In the same way, let’s make booklists in order to have a successful reading holiday. Here are my suggestions for a fun-filled summer of bookishness.

1. Read some fiction.  Some of you are saying, “Duh, that’s what summers are for.” But some of you need to be given permission to read some fiction. You feel that you ought to plug away at the biographies and the histories and the political tomes. Lighten up and read something about humanity’s possibilities rather than its actualities.

2. Read a how-to book.  Those of you who read nothing but fiction need to branch out too, and summer is a great time for the how-to book. I’m not a big a fan of this genre, but I try to read at least one a year. Last year, I revisited Stephen Covey’s  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People . This summer I’m reading Verlyn Klinkenborg’s  Several Short Sentences about Writing . Find a book that will inspire or teach you.

3. Read something old.  Get caught up on all those books that you wish you had read back in college. Read some of your old favorites again. I used last summer to atone for my sin of never having read Trollope.

4. Read an “it” book.  Read something currently on the bestseller list. Summer is the best time to shove your entire stack of reading aside and indulge in what everyone else is reading. Jump on a bandwagon and pull some friends along with you. It’s fun to be “current” at least once a year.

5. Have a theme.  Summer demands a theme. Plus themes make life more fun. Organize your reading around a central idea, and let the books speak to you and to each other. Some of the most fun I’ve had with themes occurred when I let the outside world penetrate my reading life. Many years ago I read Alex Garland’s  The Beach , saw the film adaptation, and visited the Thai beach where the movie was filmed all within the space of a couple of months. Last year, I was watching BBC’s  Sherlock , so I read most of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work. From there I jumped to P. G. Wodehouse’s Psmith books. Wodehouse actually coined the phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” in  Psmith Journalist . I bet you didn’t know that.

So have fun with your reading this summer, but read with purpose.

[Cross-posted at Reflection and Choice ]

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