Why a Summer Reading List will Change Your Life

The house that I am living in for part of the summer is lined with books.  Bookshelves line the living room, the guest bedroom, and the dining room.  Stacks of books sit on the side tables and in shelves around the hallways.   Needless to say, I’m in Heaven and the only problem that I’ve encountered so far is ‘Where do I start?’

I’ve always been a reader.  It originated with mom reading to all of us kids when we were little.  We’d each pick a book and huddle around her as she read every afternoon after lunch.  After we learned to read on our own, everything was fair game.  I grew up in a little town, and I quickly demolished the little public library’s collection.  Their shelves were lined with books I had already read and re-read.  My love of reading woke me up early and kept me up late at night…even resulting in the reason that I wear glasses today, due to strained eyesight from trying to sneakily read under the covers.

Needless to say, I love books.  I read past my bedtime.  I finish a book, have a good cry, and get over the loss of beloved characters by starting a new book.  I purposely read slowly through the last chapter so that the book doesn’t end as fast.  Call me crazy, bookworm, bibliophile, or nerd.  But I truly believe that reading makes you a better human being and I’m challenging you to put together a summer reading list and watch it transform you.

Books let you see the world through another lens
I love Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  How could you not…he is loyal, blunt, and adventurous.  Clumsy yet practical, he longs for adventure that will take him out of the comfort of the Shire, and perhaps see some Elves along the way.  Sam’s genuine character shines through Tolkien’s pages and inspires friendship to no end.  But his tale is only one of the multiple characters who make up the Fellowship of the Ring.  What about Gimli, the dwarf with quick wit and blunt humor? Pippin and Merry with their antics and quick thinking?   Each character weaves into the intricate world of Middle Earth.

But it’s not just Middle Earth that is complicated.  The world is a muddy place full of muddy people (and hobbits).  There are different vantage points to every story and reading allows you to see into the perspective of the other – a life skill that comes in handy most days of the week.

Books makes you healthier
Fun fact: Did you know that reading can prevent Alzheimer’s, improve your general brain health, reduce your stress levels, and help you better empathize with others?  With benefits abounding, reading is the way to go to improve your life overall this summer.  So far, the only negative affects from reading that I’ve found are an empty wallet due to book purchases, bloodshot eyes due to 2:00 am reading binges, and anger that bubbles up when a movie director missed an important part of the book in his attempt to crush a week long, page turning journey into 1.5 hours.  But don’t let that deter you – the pros far outweigh the cons.

Books expand your knowledge and imagination
I’ve never cooked a lobster.  In all honesty, I’m not planning on it.  Seafood creeps me out and having to cook those overgrown bug-like crawling creatures alive sends shivers down my spine.  But I can tell you how to cook one thanks to Julie Powell and “Julia and Julie,” a book about a food blogger who is determined to master the art of Julia Child’s French cooking techniques.

I’ve never ball room danced.  I think it’s beautiful, the movements are graceful and the intricacy of two people working together is thrilling.  Yet I can tell you the struggles of communication between dance partners, the stress of a competition and the sheer relief of triumphing over a daunting routine you never thought you’d beat – at least according to Pat and Tiffany from “Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick.

While these experiences, I’m sure, are better if lived in the ‘real world,’ the expansion of knowledge that comes from opening a book is immense.  This identification combines with an expansion of the imagination as you train your mind to picture what the lobster would look like as he crawls out of the silver pot that boils on the stove.  Or the sweat the drips down your face as you turn and catch your dance partner on the competition floor.  After all, Albert Einstein did say “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Putting Together Your Summer List
Ah summer.  We’ll blink and it’ll be August, our summer plans sitting on their Pinterest boards, untouched and unexplored.  Make this summer different!

Start your reading list by picking out three books: One you’ve wanted to read but never have time for, one recommended by a friend, and a classic.  For me that means I’ll be reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, The Book Thiefand Our Mutual Friend.  That doesn’t mean you have to stop after those three…believe me, I’m already on book four of the summer and am not planning on stopping (or sleeping) anytime soon.

Hang up your hammock in the backyard, make yourself an iced coffee and let’s get to it!

May your shelves always overflow with books.

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One thought on “Why a Summer Reading List will Change Your Life

  1. Entering winter here, so the experience is a bit different, and my reading material tends to lean heavily towards the how-to school. I agree about reading: I grew up in a house full of books and we were epically encouraged to read (one of my sisters’ husband has said you always know you’re in a Tuck house when bookshelves outnumber all the other bits of furniture). Although, I do tend to agree with what Andrew Marr said a few years ago about today’s writing in the Guardian: fiction now is kind of a dead art form: “The hundreds of good novel-craft-workers, who have industriously and carefully learned the lessons of plotting and character, of where to be lush and when terse, are turning out modern replicas of thinking-machines developed to their full range a century ago. It is as if the internal combustion engine had been technically perfected in 1870 and all today’s cars were simply Victorian models with updated styling.”. Thinking the most recent work of fiction I’ve read – John Boyne’s ‘The Absolutist’ – there was nothing in it that hadn’t already been said by Erich Maria Remarque or Wilfred Owen (among others). It was all very well said, but there was a sense of the wheel being reinvented. Genres like crime fiction or fantasy are now simply congeries of clichés. Marr sums the contrast with modern non-fiction up well when he says that “David Bodanis’s ‘biography’ of Einstein’s equation E=mc² jolts even as it rams home the lessons of that familiar modern icon. Is it any wonder that these writers, and others like Pinker, Jay Gould, Dawkins, Ridley, Gleick and my fellow-judge Steve Jones tend to produce such exciting prose? Maybe it’s because they are excited, because what they write about is exciting?” (the article, if you’re interested, is http://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/may/27/artsandhumanities.highereducation). Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your own reading list!

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