Summer Beach Reads
posted by Amy

June, July, and January are the three months of the year when I read nearly solely for pleasure. I prepare by stockpiling books on my shelves, in my Amazon shopping cart, in my library online request list.

I can say it's my professional duty, since after a semester of reading 100 or so essays every week or two, I tend to start making the kinds of errors I've been marking in my students' essays. It's a hazard of the job, and not a terrible one, but it makes me appreciate reading essays someone else has helped edit far more than I might otherwise.

So I was elated when I saw that Anne Fadiman had a new book of essays, At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays, coming out this summer. I was so happy I actually bought the book, in hardback. This is pretty rare these days since, between the review copies landing on my front porch every day or two and the lovely willingness of the public library to fund my obsession with books at no cost to me, I've become very reluctant to actually buy a book new.

But I have read (and paid full price for) every book Fadiman has written, and this new one was no exception. It got added to my Amazon cart before it was out, and it came just when it was time for me to leave for the city-run family camp in the Sierras we go to every summer, where the kids go off with others in their age groups and enthusiastic young adults who help them tie-dye and make lanyards and do other essential activities while we parents sit reading on lounge chairs on the patio by the lodge or down at the river with our feet dangling in the icy water. (There IS actually a rec leader for those adults who want to take part in archery and rock climbing and hiking. I'm just apparently more in need of the rec leader who will bring me a cold beer and maybe a chocolate milkshake as I recline on my chaise lounge.)

With such high expectations for a book, you're probably expecting that I was disappointed. But this is Anne Fadiman we're talking about here, people, and so you'd be wrong. The book was delicious, and I followed it up with two novels by Maile Meloy. The first, Liars and Saints, was one I couldn't put down, and the second, A Family Daughter, is currently blowing my mind. Add Kate Atkinson's Case Histories to the pile, and you've got my perfect pile of books to pack up for a week at the beach.