Summer reading when you’re a grownup

Does the kind of book you like to read change with the seasons? The idea of “beach reads” or that “summer reads” will be lighter, breezier has always seemed a little odd to me. The books I enjoy change more with my mood and my stress level, and even then there isn’t any real pattern.

For me, a beach book has always meant a book that I won’t mind if it gets a little sand or water on it. I would pack Proust for a beach trip if it was what I was reading right then. (This is easy to say because I have no intention of reading anything by Proust any time soon, so I don’t have to worry about dribbling a little iced coffee on it.) My criteria does make it less likely that a library book will make it into the beach bag; and I guess a paperback would be preferred.

My summer reading program avatar, complete with canine accessory and arms in a relaxed position.

My library has a summer reading program for adults. As you might imagine, adults aren’t motivated by reading certificates and stickers. And there’s that whole thing about “reading for pleasure should be its own motivation; you don’t need prizes.” But wouldn’t a little snack or a small cup of coffee be nice? A few years ago, anyone who logged reading three books and submitted a short (super short!) review form got a $5 Starbucks card. I don’t know if five bucks was necessarily a huge incentive to people, but it was FUN. And people were excited. They turned their forms in to librarians and we had a chance to chat them up about the books they read, and then offer suggestions of what they might read next.

Staff members could earn a coffee card, too. It may seem totally cornball, but I was thrilled when I got mine. I got myself an extra expensive concoction with my five dollar card, and I had a little thrill thinking “the library bought this coffee for me because they are so excited for me to be reading.” I didn’t actually think those words, but it was a feeling. I got a little charge out of it.

The coffee cards and short reviews were a big hit. Then there were a couple of summers where readers could enter reviews for a drawing to win either a “book lover’s tote bag” or, the next year, a Nook or Kindle. Still, people missed the coffee cards.

This year our adult summer reading program is all online. The incentive is badges. Really? Do people get excited about earning badges? About as excited as getting a sticker …  But you can make a a little avatar of yourself. This is mine (above). It’s the same as last year, except I spent an excessive number of minutes changing the color of my shirt. I have the same “accessory” as last year; an adorable dog that looks reasonably close to my dog, at least more so than the sheep option, which of course I tried, along with the goldfish and drumset.

The pleasure of an adult summer reading program, for me, has become changing features and animals on my avatar.

Book dominoes at Seattle Public Library

I love this video so much. On May 31, 2013, the Seattle Public Library set a book domino world record: 2,131 books. It took seven hours to set up and five tries. Here’s some background on the project and the two college students who created it.

This was filmed on Level 3 of the Central Library, in the area known as the “Living Room.” This is where I work, as in that’s my floor, that’s my area.

Lucky Day at the Library


When there’s a book on hold ready for me to pick up, the library sends an email. Sometimes I check the hold shelf even if I didn’t get a message — just in case something should arrive. I miss the days when I browsed the shelves, just looking for a book that sounded interesting or coming across a title that I’d meant to read but hadn’t had the time. The pure serendipity of discovering a new book or author seems rare these days when what I usually do is put things on hold, and then pick them up. Check the hold shelf “just in case” is about as near as I get to surprising myself with what I’m going to read next. Anyway, today a wonderful surprise was waiting for me: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Lucky me!

I also picked up: I Love You Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle (good reviews and cover) and Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer .