Time to Make Your Summer Reading Plan for 2024

May 29, 2024 | Reading Lists

We’ve seen the Flower Moon, the last full moon of Spring. Summer officially starts on June 20 this year. Maybe you think it “really” starts earlier, on Memorial Day. That’s the start of “psychological summer” for me. It’s time to make up your summer reading list. Here’s how I do it and the story behind the method.

My father was a Lutheran pastor, and a pastor’s life is busy. It’s filled with sermon preparations, visits to church members at home and at work, and meetings of all kinds. My father was a voracious reader. He usually read two or three books a week despite his demanding schedule. Some of his reading was related to his work as a pastor. He also loved history and biography. His escape reading was mysteries, lots of them.

When summer came, things slowed down. My parents sent my sister and me away to camp in July, leaving them with the house and all of New York City as their playground.

August was the month for our family vacation. We rented a car for the month and stuffed it with everything we thought we might need. I remember sitting in the back seat with my sister, surrounded by everything that wouldn’t fit into the trunk. We drove several hours to a cabin near where several of my parents’ friends vacationed.

Before we left, my father put together his “reading plan” for the summer. He knew his vacation month would be filled with naps, pinochle games, and long conversations with friends over a beer on the porch. Summer was the time to read things he might not read during the rest of his busy year.

Every year, he followed the same process. He chose books to read in each of the following categories.

Something You’ve Always Wanted to Read

There was always one book my father had wanted to read and had not gotten around to. Sometimes, it was a “big thinking” kind of book. Usually, he practically inhaled books, but he approached a big-thinking book differently. He often read it a little bit at a time to have time to reflect on what he had read before moving on.

Sometimes, the “always wanted to read” book was on a subject he knew well. One summer, he read the collected sermons of the Scottish theologian Peter Taylor Forsyth. Other summers, he read a particularly intriguing novel.

Choose one book you’ve always wanted to read for your summer reading and take the time to read it. I’m giving “always wanted to read” a little twist this year.

Edward Rutherfurd writes excellent historical novels. His books are histories of places. I’ve loved his books about New York, Paris, London, and Russia. Check out his author page on Amazon to see a complete list. I’m hoping he’ll do books about Edinburgh and Berlin.ssia

I read Rutherfurd’s books as they came out for years, but somehow, I missed the most recent one. It’s titled China: The Novel. I’m going to read it this summer.

Something to Read for Fun

My father’s reading for fun often meant reading several books by the same author. Most of the time, those collections were fiction, like the year he chose James Michener. Choose something fun to read this summer.

I’ll read the Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2023 this summer. If that collection is as good as my friend Blaine says, I’m sure I’ll read the earlier editions, too.

A “Pump-Priming” Book

My father tried to read a book every summer that was outside his usual reading range. He got ideas about what that might be from asking people what great books they had read recently.

One summer, he read a book on post-World War II German church architecture. Another year, he read about the painter Paul Gauguin. The topics were all over the map, but the one thing they had in common was that they were not the kinds of books my dad usually read. He felt that reading one good “pump-priming” book every year or so helped you stay fresh and creative.

Prime your pump. Choose a book that’s outside your normal reading range.

I love Oliver Sacks, and I love music. Imagine Sacks writing about music and the brain! That’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, my “pump priming” book for this summer.

Re-Read a Great Book

I learned a lot from my father, including how to pick books for summer reading. But I can’t leave well enough alone, so I’ve added a fourth choice to his three. Every year, I want to reread a great book that I’ve read in the past. This is always a tough pick.

Before Ernest Hemingway and Willa Cather were my writing role models, there was Jimmy Cannon. When I was a teenager, I bought a copy of the New York Journal-American every day to read his sports column, which was about so much more than sports and some of the best writing you’ll ever read.

This year, I received a copy of Nobody Asked Me, But … as a gift. I had a copy once, but in a moment of weakness, I loaned it to someone who used to be my friend. That was over a decade ago. Now, I can re-read some of Jimmy’s marvelous columns as much as I want. That’s what I’ll do this summer.

What will you be reading this summer?

What great books have you read that others may want to read this summer?

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