summer reading

ImageI have been reading a lot of posts lately about summer’s end. It doesn’t feel much like summer is ending here, and in truth the heat will not abate until late September, but we may have rain before then, which will mark a great shift.
Summer here is hot and bone dry, and all thoughts are of water — water for the plants, water for the chickens, water for the cat and the dog and water for us. When water falls from the sky again, we let these thoughts go, slowly at first and then abandon them for other concerns. Rain boots will be dusted off, the earth will beckon us to dig again, and we will marvel at how the rain waters everything at the same moment. What a generous gift.

We are still a ways off from that day, though, and its unforgettable smell of the parched earth drinking at last. Until then, we are keeping everyone watered and endeavoring to keep the boys entertained. Baki, newly back from what seems to have been a hectic and wildly enjoyable month away, is bursting with energy that needs to be burned off. Luckily, the sea is about 15 minutes away by car, so we gather bottles of water to drink and cups and big yogurt tubs to play with, and trundle down to Cirali to spend some time letting our thoughts drift out to sea. The boys have a lovely time, burying each other in the pebbly sand and splashing in the water.

I suppose that this is where I am meant to do that Summer Reading that we always hear about. I read all year round, naturally, but somehow Summer Reading is a separate entity in my mind. There are summers that are defined by what I read (like the summer that I spent buried in the five books of Game of Thrones) and there are summers where one book just leads to another. I sometimes prepare for summer, stockpiling books, and other times, like now, the books drift in and I immerse myself.

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I’ve read plenty this summer, though never at the beach — I read in the heat of the day when it is too hot to go out to the garden, even with a hat on, or late at night after my chores are done and everyone is asleep. And I wanted to share three books with you. I thought of writing what I thought of them, but I think I’ll just type out the opening passage of each book and let them speak for themselves. Well mostly, anyway!

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Hi!
My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time bring is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.
A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be. As for me, right now I am sitting in a French maid cafe in Akiba
Electricity Town, listening to a sad chanson that is playing sometime in your past, which is also my present, writing this and wondering about you in my future. And if you’re reading this, then maybe by now you’re wondering about me, too.
[Ruth Ozeki is one of my all time favorite writers. Her books are cozy like tea and toast.]

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry

Whatever’s wrong with us is coming off that river. No argument: the taint of badness on the city’s air is a taint off that river. This is the Bohane river we’re talking about. A black water surge, malevolent, it roars in off the Big Nothin’ wastes and the city was spawned by it and was named for it: city of Bohane.
[Kevin Barry’s writing is as lean and muscular as a snake. He’s got a collection of short stories being released in the US in the fall, called Dark Lies the Island, that is dynamite. Really. Smoke comes out of my ears when I read them.]

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell

Before our first encounter with the bear, I had already finished building the house, or nearly so.
In the hasty days that followed, I feared we moved in too fast and too early, the house’s furnishings still incomplete, the doors not all right-hinged – and in response to my worries my wife said that was no trouble, that she could quickly finish what I had mostly made.
Beneath the unscrolling story of new sun and stars and then-lonely moon, she began to sing some new possessions into the interior of our house, and between the lake and the woods I heard her songs become something stronger than ever before.
[I find this book’s tale difficult because it is a story with an ugly streak, but the writing is so beautiful, I keep coming back to it.]

My dad agreed with the conventional wisdom about judging books by their covers, but he always said that if a book couldn’t grab you in some way by the time you turned the first page, it wasn’t doing something right. (Actually, he put an enormous stake on first sentences, as a writer.) Did any of these grab you?