Archives for category: Summer Books

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The PARADE Magazine that accompanied today’s Los Angeles Times featured an interview that Ken Tucker conducted with Stephen King on the subject of books and reading. The interview includes a little bit of everything — King’s summer reading list, favorite books, reading experiences with his now-grown children (as kids, he had them  read books into a tape recorder — and paid them $10 per cassette — so he could listen to the books while driving or walking), and his belief that “if you can read in the 21st century, you own the world…because you learn to write from reading.”

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In the article, King also takes time to promote his latest book — JOYLAND, which has been described as a PG-13 mystery novel — set for a June 4, 2013 release. Here’s the book description from Amazon.comSet in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

King is holding off releasing JOYLAND as an e-book because he loved paperbacks as a kid and “folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.” His move should also help drive readers to traditional bookstores to pick up a copy. But for online book buyers, you can find the 288-page novel for just $7.77 at Amazon.com.

Photo: Stephen King, as featured in PARADE magazine.

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I just finished rereading The Great Gatsby (read it free here) and decided that all the novels I dive into until September will be revisits to favorite books. Next on the list: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (originally published in 1961).

I picked this novel because it seemed a logical sequel to Gatsby — a sort of “What would have happened if Gatsby had married Daisy?”

This will be my third reading of Revolutionary Road — a novel I consider a prose miracle. And  I’m in good company.

The Great Gatsby of my time…One of the best books by a member of my generation.” Kurt Vonnegut

“Here is more than fine writing; here is what added to fine writing makes a book come immediately, intensely, and brilliantly alive. If more is needed to make a masterpiece in modern American fiction, I am sure I don’t know what it is.” Tennessee Williams

If you want to read along with me, you can find Revolutionary Road here. (Yes, this is the book the Leonardo Di Caprio/Kate Winslet movie was based on — but, as usual, the book is better than the screen version.)

(Silver Birch Photo: Window of dry cleaners, Harlem Avenue, Chicago)

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Ray Bradbury‘s masterpiece Dandelion Wine takes place in the summer of 1928 in the fictional Green Town, Illinois (based on his hometown, Waukegan, Illinois, on the shore of Lake Michigan, about 40 miles north of Chicago).

While Bradbury departed this earth during the transit of Venus on June 5, 2012, he will live forever in his beautiful, brilliant, mind-bending work.

There is always a sad ache to summer — a feeling that everything will end, and you want to postpone the inevitable. No one expressed this better than Bradbury.

Let’s revel, bask, soak, and splash in the opening paragraph of Dandelion Wine:

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living; this was the first morning of summer.

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There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. (from Chapter III, The Great Gatsby)

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Gatsby’s love Daisy Buchanan looks forward to June 21, 1922 with these words:  

“In two weeks it’ll be the longest day in the year. Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.”

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To me, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the quintessential summer book. It chronicles the hot months of 1922, when the Great War was over and the Great Depression was yet to come. The 1920s were a blissful time when possibilities seemed limitless — and everyone seemed to be having fun (despite, or perhaps because of, Prohibition). These were the years when the cocktail was borne (to make the booze go farther), when women bobbed their hair and danced with abandon. It was The Jazz Age, as Fitzgerald called it — a name that stuck.

Every time I pick up The Great Gatsby — and I’ve read the book perhaps a dozen times — I am drawn in and enraptured by the book’s poetry and romance. To quote the song Kiplinger plays: In the morning, In the evening, ain’t we got fun. Yes, Gatsby is great fun — even with its sad ending. The story seems fresh and real, even though it took place 90 years ago.

I believe, though, that required high school reading of Gatsby is ill advised. Teens are too young to appreciate the longing and loss portrayed in the book — which is much better read after you’ve suffered some major hard knocks out in the big, bad world.

We all have a Gatsby in us — a hopeless romantic, an impossible dreamer who tries to hang onto the inner spark that makes life worth living. So pour yourself a lemonade (or something stronger), plop yourself in a lawn chaise, and dive into the greatest novel of all time. Happy Summer!