I’ve written about it before, but one of the best parts of my job is that there is a beginning and an end to each year: a built-in opportunity to reflect, refresh, revise. The summer season is truly a gift. Most summers I have some kind of writing project to work on, but this year I decided I wanted to continue the line of thinking that began last fall and throw myself into something that felt artistic, deadline-less, like play. I spent most of my July mornings reading through art books and working on drawing and watercolors, rereading Henry Nouwen’s With Open Hands and Mary Oliver’s poetry. Less writing happened this summer, but it was one of creative freedom and cultivation. I found myself at the ocean every weekend and breathed deeply. My family drove in from Kentucky and we were able to spend some glorious days at the beach out in the Hamptons with my uncle, aunt, and cousins.
August weekends were mostly spent traveling to celebrate weddings and see family and old friends in the midwest. The weeks were suddenly filled with less art and more work as I started preparing for a new summer school program I helped run, and to get ready to have a full time co-teacher and plan for some changes in our curriculum. I love my job, so it was engaging and enriching as I dreamed about growing kids into stronger readers and writers, but some of the summer magic slipped away under the piles of binders and stacks of young adult short stories. I kept reading, but alas, have not written (or painted) much this August. But what I’ve learned is that there is a season for everything–and I am ready to embrace the fall and the ways it makes me feel alive. But first, here’s the rundown of what I did read this summer–in typical fashion, I covered a lot of the fiction from my original summer reading plan, but not the nonfiction (links are there where applicable and super short descriptions).
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (a quick, delightful read for the nerdy set)
Someone by Alice McDermott (a poetic, yet unromantic, sketch of an “ordinary” woman’s life)
Transatlantic by Colum McCann (the first half was difficult to get through, the second half, magical and especially moving for me)
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (a darkly comedic family story, soon to be starring the likes of Jason Bateman and Tina Fey)
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (beautiful and thought provoking…a full post coming soon)
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (solid summer mystery)
The Charm School by Nelson DeMille (an interesting companion to watching The Americans, though with an underdeveloped female main character)
Yonahlosse Riding Camp for Girls by Sheri Fink (historical coming-of-age, though I felt lukewarm about it)
How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer (quirky, slightly underdeveloped but entertaining love story that walks the line between astronomy and astrology)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (my favorite book of the summer)
The Summer Book by Tove Janssen (on my parent’s porch, and as always)
A few weeks ago my mother-in-law sent me a picture of the earliest trees near her house in Ohio that were beginning to have a touch of autumn on them. It was the perfect reminder that each year in late August I mourn the loss of summer, yet enjoy the pull of fall and the promise of its color and crispness. May September bring you good books, hot drinks, hooded sweatshirts, and the perfect soundtrack.