Suggested Summer Reading…. (Part One)

Summer-Reading-Guide-HEROAs a public service to you (and a rather fun thing for me to do at the same time), I thought I’d gather some of the titles that I’ve read over the years and that seem to have a summer kind of feel…

Just seeing these titles brings up memories of outside fun in the sun and reading inside in the cool, so perhaps you may like some of them for your reading choices this season. (The list is in completely random order, btw…)

I’m not sure that some of these would qualify for the traditional “Beach Read” definition, but they’re enjoyable all the same. (I’d read them on the beach, but perhaps I’m weird!)

And, naturally, I’d love to hear your suggestions (even if your summer isn’t here yet).

Books with a child’s perspective (and sometimes coming-of-age narratives) would also make up quite a few of my recommendations. (Who can forget those days of summer when you’re a kid [if you’re a lucky kid])?

So, to start off, I thought I would begin the list with some more traditional summer-focused (perhaps “summer-feel”) books.

Since I’m in America, I’ll start off with Twain’s two great summer books, Tom Sawyer  (1876) and Huckleberry Finn  (1884). Sure, there are “teachable” moments in each of them, but these just remind me of childhood in some ways. (Admittedly, my childhood was nothing like them as I grew up in Bedford, England, but they’re still good to read. Our town did have a lovely river though… )

Oh, and don’t forget the adorable Anne of Green Gables who will charm your socks off.

A more English-y summer selection could be, let’s say, Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908) (which I adore) but which has no blog post (pre-blog). Hmm. May have to reread this little gem again over the next few hot months….  It’s as close to perfect a gentle summer read as anything you’ll find.

For a more caper-ish approach to English summer, try Just William – Richmal Compton (1922), which has some really funny scenes  in it regarding its titular character, William, and some of his adventures… (Plus there is a series of books about him… Lots of summer reading ahead!) Compton also wrote some more adult fiction which others have raved about, so you could check that back-list… Good caper novels are also some of those by John Buchan (who wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps et al.)

If you’re more interested in the gently humorous adventures of a particular young bear, then you can’t go wrong with the the Paddington Bear Series as they are set in mostly sunny summers (despite being in England ). Yes, they’re children’s lit, but they are so sweet, and sometimes when it’s 114 degrees outside (as it was the other day), you just want gentle and sweet…

If you’d rather have an arachnid as the star, don’t forget about E. B. White’s delightful (and rather poignant) Charlotte’s Web  (1952).  Sidenote: E.B. White also has several books of well-mannered and pretty gentle essays that are perfect to read on a lovely summer day in a hammock, for example. Try this one for starters: Essays of E. B. White (1977). Reading it is like having a great cup of tea (or glass of iced tea) with an interesting and funny conversationalist.

Ray Bradbury has a couple of strong contenders in this category,  Dandelion Wine (1957) being my favorite. (He also has a sequel of sorts, Farewell Summer  (2006), and it’s almost as good as that first one, but then it gets all weird in the last chapter without explanation, so perhaps a more muted endorsement there.) If you’d like something more challenging, check out Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for a good spec fiction type of read. (Haven’t read his other sci fi titles, but I expect that they are pretty good.)

From English soil, I’d suggest Winifred Foley’s trilogy that starts off with A Child in the Forest (1974), an autobiographical book of Foley’s childhood  of living in a loving but poor family in the forest in Gloucestershire. Marvelous commentary on her life, with some really good and very witty pieces in there as well.

Along those same lines (but with a very different British childhood experience), check out this title, From Middle England: A Memory of the Thirties by Philip Oakes (1980) which is another very witty childhood recollection, this time of growing up in an English boarding school.

(Other boarding school stories which are not very demanding reading but would still be fun include Mallory Towers series from Enid Blyton…)

Oh, almost forgot this one: The Railway Children – Edith Nesbitt (1906). (Lots of jolly hockey sticks, how dashing, old thing, perhaps a midnight feast or two, and lashings of ginger beer…)

For a great summer read, you certainly can’t go wrong with Laurie Lee’s classic, Cider with Rosie (1959) (pre-blog) followed up with its sequel of sorts, As I Walked out one Midsummer Morning (1969).

For an American perspective of growing up, perhaps you’d like the play, Brighton Beach Memoirs  (Neil Simon (1984), which details the childhood of a funny young man as he navigates those teenaged years on the East Coast during the 40’s…  🙂

(That reminds me: if your community has any local plays, serious or otherwise, they can be really fun to attend and it’s great to see (probably) local volunteers acting their hearts out. Just go with a generous spirit… 🙂 )

Moving into a slightly older age group with the characters’ lives, I’d suggest Seventeen – Booth Tarkington (1914) which covers a gently humorous approach to the tragedies and fragile joys of having your first love. (This is a U.S. book, but the feelings are universal.)

For a complete change of pace but still linking with the topic of coming-of-age/young people, I rather think that Lucy Knisley’s graphic novels have a summer-y feel to them: Displacement and French Milk seem warm-weather to me… Or what about An Age of License: A Travelogue or even her first book Relish?

This leads me to funny (or what I think are funny) books. Have a try at some of these if you’d like to have a good laugh (assuming you have a similar sense of humor as I do):

  • A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson (1998) or any of his earlier works. (He gets crabby and grumpy in the more recent books, but the old ones are still rather fun.)
  • P.G. Wodehouse books are mostly light-hearted summer fun
  • Three Men in a Boat– Jerome K. Jerome (1889) (pre-blog but worth searching out)

The Jerome book is in a diary format with short entries, and if you’re in the mood for some good and pretty funny epistolary (journal/letter format) reading, I can suggest the absolutely gorgeous read, Letters from New York – Helene Hanff (1992).

More diary joy resides in The Country Diaries: A Year in the British Countryside (Alan Taylor (ed.) (2009)) which, just as it says on the tin, covers a whole calendar year of real diary entries about rural living in England from people through history up to the present. An excellent read, and great for picking and putting down, should the summer temperatures affect your concentration…

(You could also try The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diaries edited by Irene and Alan Taylor. More of the same except broader in scope —  a much longer read from a wider selection of sources…)

And Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader (2007) had me nodding with agreement as he talks about how the Queen of England discovers the joy of reading… 🙂

Some other authors with lots of titles that don’t particularly need to be read in order (because – summer!) and that are just plain good and perfect for hot days:

And then don’t rule out the older titles for they also can be great. For example, the long novella/short novel, Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton 1911) is a great read packed with lots of things to think about during and post-reading.

Christopher Morley is a US author, but if you’ve not heard of him, never fear. He’s available on Project Gutenberg and elsewhere, and for just a plain good read of a book about the joys of books and reading, look no further than Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop . *Perfect* for bookie people, these may very well bring tears to your eyes as they are so gorgeous…

English author, T. H. White, is more known for writing about King Arthur and his men, but he does have a gorgeous and poignant back list title called Farewell Victoria (1933) which is a novel following the life of an older character who is struggling to keep up with the process of time at the turn of the twentieth century. (He wasn’t the only one, naturally, as there were/are whole generations with the same struggle.)

I’ll make a break here, but watch out for the non-fiction-heavy book list of suggested summer reading coming soon.

In the meantime, what are your recommendations for some hot weather reading?

ETA: I’ve just noticed that this list of recommendations has very few POC authors or topics in this. I’ll get that addressed soon as there’s a ton of good reads in that category as well…

No Cowboy Post Today…

All is well and Cowboy is fine, but going out of town and having my lovely mum stay with me has put me behind with scheduling real life. We’ve been really busy just hanging out and doing things. More to come, but in the meantime, here’s a photo I took the other day of a stack of foam pieces that just look fantastic….

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Normal service to be resumed as soon as possible. Please stay tuned.

A Letterpress Weekend…

 

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Very kind and patient artist who was helping us with the new skill…

I’ve recently been itching to do something arty (as in drawing or something along those lines), and to try to scratch that itch, Superhero and I went along to the monthly First Friday Art Trail that is hosted by the arts organizations in our community. It’s a big event and happens once/month when most of the big galleries here in town open their doors on a Friday evening, rain or shine, and you can just walk around and see what’s shaking up in the local arts world. (There are also food trucks, which also helps gets us downtown on those evenings. Yum.)

As we were strolling around, looking at the hundreds of great artworks on display in both indoor and outdoor venues, I caught my eye on a flyer advertising a printmaking workshop for that following Sunday, and having seen some really good letterpress pieces hanging around town, decided to sign up for that afternoon’s activity.

If you’re not certain what letterpress art is, it rather looks like an early example of printing, and it’s a piece that typically comes out of an old-fashioned heavy iron printing press, and is usually heavily reliant on fonts and words of some description. (Naturally, as it’s a LETTERpress.) So off I trundled to see what I could learn.

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Some of the letter forms used to make the print on the piece of paper….

It was a very casual workshop set in a really well-lit renovated studio that used to be a former gas station (or maybe an old fire station) years ago. Now it’s this great creative space with really good light and with loads of space to spread out and do artist things.

It was a small workshop, only a few participants, and led by two printmaking artists who were very patient at all our questions and inquiries as we learned the process. It’s typically used for broadsheets (large pieces of paper) only printed in very small quantities. You may have seen examples for graphic pieces or perhaps a short poem with plenty of white space surrounding the words. I’d been dying to have a go at this, so was pretty excited to get to do it.

letterpress_workshop_June2017Seeing as it was more of “experiential” workshop than a 100% serious “teaching” workshop, we all got to try our hands at creating some postcards and notecards which, obvs, was very exciting because – ohhh. Writing materials! Each piece was pre-cut with a matching envelope with really good weighty paper that the ink would not be able to bleed through. (Pet peeve.)

(If you’re curious about my results, check out the pic on left. Most of playing with space and graphic design, so no worry if they don’t make much sense.)

Such good fun, and although it’s incredibly unlikely that I will ever get my own printing press (big, expensive, bulky), I had a great time and it really scratched my creative itch which was good. If you ever get the opportunity to try it, it’s pretty easy and extremely satisfying. (Instant gratification. Hooray!)

We’re just about to head off to Albuquerque, NM, and drive with my mum and sister around to look around so things might be quiet here on the blog for a couple of days. Fear not. I will return, and then we can catch up with reading, news, and all those other things that make a life well-lived.

 

Things on Cowboy’s Head: Guest Post

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Here is DB (or, on a less positive behavior day, Diablo). She is also a rescue, and just showed up one day and decided to hang around. She was pretty feral for about two years or so, but after a concentrated effort of teaching her that we weren’t out to kill her at every opportunity, she has chilled out enough to hang out inside with Cowboy.

Cowboy is Diablo’s best friend, and I’d argue that Cowboy Cat is the only cat to fully “understand” Diablo’s rather complicated personality. DB’s a good cat, but after living outside in all weathers and being chased by almost everything in the neighborhood, she understandably has a few issues although she does trust me. No sudden movements or loud noises, and follow her lead in how you approach her, and you should be ok.

(DB almost snuggled with me the other night. It was like trying to snuggle a rather nervous tiger.)

She’s come a long way and we’re glad she chose us to be her Forever home.

Catch Up Time…

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So I’ve been doing some reading and thought I’d do a quick catch up post of mini-reviews for you. Nothing wrong with these books at all – just perhaps don’t have that much to say about them, really. Don’t let that stop you from reading them (except for the Bradbury – I can save you some time there. :-))

A Child in the Forest – Winifred Foley (1974)

A delightful memoir of a childhood growing up in the Forest of Dean with a family close to the poverty line – perhaps poor of money, but rich in other ways (but that’s not much good if you’re cold and hungry though….) Anyhoo, this was a really sweet and poignant collection of autobiographical memories for Winifred Foley, and almost made me cry. Along the lines of Cider with Rosie (pre-blog) but a bit tougher of a childhood, I think. The author has a very sly sense of humor which frequently made me smile.

Farewell Summer – Ray Bradbury (2006)

Having been delighted with Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine , I came across this sequel only to find out (post-read) that it’s actually Book 3 in a trilogy. (Dandelion Wine is number one.) No worries. This still works out of order. It’s a fictional take on a small town group of boys who are coming of age as the summer months come to an end, and there are some really good descriptions here of the long summer days and an ongoing half-serious half-humorous battle between the old men and the young gang. Both groups are aching to stop time (but for different reasons), and it’s this theme that runs through the novel. I adore Dandelion Wine, and consider it to be one of the best autumn books to read at that time of year. I think that this title would also be good to read when the leaves turn. However, no leaves turning here and as I’d also been reading another childhood memoir (but NF), I think that this title suffered in comparison. (Plus there was a very unexpected last chapter which was totally out of the character with the rest of the book. Bit weird.) A very quick read, and one I’ll have to pick up again in a few months. It might be fun to read the whole Green Town Trilogy (as it’s called)…

And by golly, I’m determined to finish Arnold Bennett’s Anna of the Five Towns this week. It’s been a few weeks on this one, and I just need to devote some solid reading time to it. Also about growing up in a small town up in the Potteries in England (but this is set later on in childhood, really). I’m enjoying it, but just piddling around with this read. More to come.

How’s your reading life coming along?

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Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 192

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Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 192: Plastic funnel.

Background Note: Cowboy is one of our cats who showed up out of the blue one snowy January day seven years ago. Since then, she has made us her Forever Home (which works with us). She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (Olympic-level) and she eats a lot.

All of these points are helpful with this project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

May 2017 Reading Review

So May has come and gone, and we’re at the halfway point to the year. Thought I’d do a round-up post to review last month’s read, and see where we are and what we’ve been up to. (Note the royal “we”.)

The reads for May included:

So to the numbers:

Total number of books read in January: 4

Total number of pages read: 1,462 pages (av. 365).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 2 fiction / 2 non-fiction.

Diversity: 2 POC. 2 books by women.

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 3 library books, 1 owned book and 0 e-books.

Plans for June: I’m planning not to plan. [Hollow laugh. We’ll see how that goes…!] 🙂