It’s reading season.
Every summer, when I got off from school, the first thing in order was a trip to the library. I waited every year for the summer reading programs. Not for the prizes or for many of the events, though I won and went to a few. I lived for the challenge. How many books could I read in a summer? How fast could I have their little challenge done? Reading was one thing I was good at. And I did it over and over again.
When I got home, it would be toting a giant canvas bag with my family’s books all jumbled together. Sometimes two bags. I would sort mine out on the living room floor and then stack them in the order they had to be read (with some concessions as to size). Everyone laughed at me, and my little tower of books. But I read them. One after the other, after the other, letting them carry me away.
I think about my summers in terms of the books I’ve read. There was the long, beautiful summer of The Lord of the Rings. One sublime memory that lingered until Christmas, when I was hunched reading The Silmarillion in an office, next to someone’s glittering tree, oft-clutched bookbag at my feet. Perfect for hiding behind, really.
There was the summer shortly after that of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Gregor the Overlander. Hardly a comparison between the two. But that summer, same as always, I had a stack of books with me wherever I went.
Right before I went to college, I was reading the final installments of Story Thieves and the entire volume of collected Grimm’s fairytales. Yeah. The entire thing. In some social circles, that’s a badge of honor. In others, proof of lunacy. And sometimes, it’s both. But it was all I could do not to laugh aloud when the other girls I was rooming with during university registration trooped into the dorm that night to find me already sitting up in bed, proper librarian glasses on my nose, and a giant, fat book of Grimm’s fairytales on my lap. Permitting me to ignore almost all the noise they made.
Perhaps I was a little rude then. At least I introduced myself with a proper reputation.
Long before those three summers, I was at a baseball field, completely disinterested in observing the practice going on, most likely having abandoned my shoes, buried in Small Persons with Wings. That was more a morbid fascination than anything else–certainly not a favorite fairy book. Yet it’s an indelible summer memory, to this day.
I still remember ages ago now reading the last few translated books of The Door to Time series on a front porch swing, arguing with my cat about how it was perfectly fine if she wanted to sit with me, but she did have to stop laying on the book so I could read. She was sometimes jealous when I would pay more attention to the pages than her, and it was a lengthy conversation. I really couldn’t tell you who won. I don’t think I went inside until I finished the book.
The summer of The Thief Lord and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Fog Diver. The summer I read the first half of Reckless. The summer I read Floors because I needed a laugh–maybe the same year I read Reckless again. The May I toted a sturdy, gilded-brown cover copy of The 1001 Arabian Nights and The Golden Braid into a university awards ceremony because I wasn’t the one being decorated this time and I had been to far too many high school graduations I couldn’t escape to come unprepared and be bored. The summer I smuggled Prince Caspian into the sporting arena and failed in my early days as a child stealth artist and had to “watch the game” with everyone else.
Don’t worry. I’ve improved incrementally since then.
My life is full of books.
I haven’t been to the library this summer. I don’t know if I will make it there before it’s done. I still have shelves crammed full with tomes from the Epic Library Sales, whispering to me like the voices of Inkheart. Telling me of good things. Dangerous things. Ordinary, bewildering, bookish, yes, sometimes dull. That’s a chance you take when you pick up a book. They aren’t all made of dragon fire and fairy lace.
But summers are for books.
I haven’t found one to make this year quite special yet. To remember it by.
So I wonder.
What book will lure me away next?
I hope it will be a very good adventure.