It is such a lovely summer here in Pennsylvania. Jelly Bean and I are enjoying some long, lovely summer days. Her favorite way to spend the day is lolling in the grass, playing in the lawn sprinklers. When evening comes, the fireflies mesmerize her. Because of her chronic medical condition, we dedicate a lot of our playtime to these pursuits as well as lounging in the shade and reading. There is nothing like relaxing in the garden with Jelly Bean and a good book. My summer reading list is quite interesting, perhaps even eclectic, and a bit surprising.
It is surprising because my list includes some fascinating criticism and theory material, unexpected reading choices, and some wonderful literature. You must be raising your eyebrows at a summer reading recommendation that includes criticism and theory, but English Studies is interdisciplinary and these texts are page-turners, as they say. I think you will enjoy ‘A Companion to The Literature and Culture of the American South’ as much as I do, along with ‘A Companion to Romance From Classical to Contemporary‘, both published by Blackwell Publishing. I used them both last year and loved them so much they are now on my library shelf. I saved them for leisure reading this summer.
My criticism and theory binge has a bit to do with literature on my summer reading list. Fascination with the Romance genre is a legacy of my degree study. My definition of literature has always been generously broad because there is so much to consider where language, culture, reading and writing are concerned. Even so, contemporary romance is often difficult for me to read. The size of the genre’s reading audience commands respect, and there is a significant body of criticism on contemporary romance texts that is very revealing about romance readers, authors, and current events. One author I am studying this summer has written over 200 novels and every one of them has been a New York Times best seller. Focusing on the level of language in her books shows an interesting mix of high and low, mundane and literary. For the first time I can embrace ‘beach read,’ with my interest engaged on several levels. I was surprised to find that the Romance writers’ professional association provides scholarships for doctorate level study of the genre. If you browse romance titles and one strikes your fancy, read it proudly. Considering the prevalence of titles, Romance might have the most significant effect on readers and society of any popular literature. I am reading titles from Malory to Nora Roberts this summer, and being thoroughly entertained.
Beside that surprising side trip into contemporary Romance, I am also having a bit of a Southern American Literature binge. Tennessee Williams is a favorite of mine. His essays are as riveting as his plays. Summer evenings in the hammock with Jelly Bean and Tennessee Williams Complete Works are delightful. Another southern favorite of mine this summer is George Washington Cable. ‘The Grandissimes’ is a fine novel set in Creole country, and his short stories are master works. Moving north of the Mason-Dixon Line, Henry James’ ‘What Maise Knew’ and James Fennimore Cooper’s ‘The Spy’ are other marvelous summer reads.
My reading is a bit promiscuous this summer, if not ‘Austentatious.’ After picking up ‘Lady Susan’ I could not help myself but read ‘Sandition’ and ‘The Watsons too.’ Pride and Prejudice is next. I could happily re-read all of Austen’s work this summer and think I just might! However, my stack also includes ‘The Enchantress of Florence,’ ‘Love in the Time of Cholera,’ and ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’
One interesting effect of studying for this degree is developing a voracious reading habit. I simply cannot stop reading! Reading multiple texts at one time is also habit forming and incredibly enjoyable. Jelly Bean and I reach for a pillow and a stack of books at every opportunity. What are you reading this summer?
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.