The Big Read Blog (Archive)

From Paulette’s Desk

May 26, 2009
Washington, DC

It's past Memorial Day so -- despite the fact that the kids are still in school and we're still weeks away from the solstice, not to mention the neverending rain -- I'm going to go ahead and declare it's summer! What I love about this season is that even though I'm still going to work every weekday and I still have laundry to do, groceries to buy, and a bed to unbury from a week's worth of clothes each weekend, it still feels like there's time aplenty. And time aplenty means more than a few sunny afternoons stretched out on one of my couches keeping company with a big old stack of books. Over the next few months, my intention is to reread -- and in some cases read for the first time -- my way through The Big Read library in an effort to come up with some new things about which to write, rant, and reminisce on the blog. But I may have to sneak a few more tomes in there as well. Here's what's at the top of my list (not including Marilynne Robinson's Home because I'm pretty sure you're tired of me endlessly going on about how long it's been lingering on the "to read" shelf. Sigh . . . ):

1. The Decoration of Houses by Edith Wharton. In my other life, I'm an interior design aficionado, and Ms. Wharton's tome is one of the stalwarts of the field. Wharton's design cred is not surprising, given her sumptuous and exacting descriptions of the mansions and bachelor walk-ups and Cape Cod summerhouses in which her Old New Yorkers wine, dine, and unravel.

2. Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway. I regularly reread my copy of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, as it's one of those books that's guaranteed to lift my mood no matter what. (And really, how can you go wrong writing about Paris?) I love it so much that if you're keeping company with me in a used bookstore, be prepared to have a copy surreptitiously shoved into your shopping cart. I recently realized that Hemingway actually did other travel writing, so I can give Feast the summer off in favor of reading about Papa's African adventures (with a different wife, I think!). All this of course is whetting my appetite for a collection of Hemingway Paris dispatches, aptly titled On Paris, that's supposedly due out around Christmas time.

3. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith. I was a big fan of mysteries in high school, devouring all of Agatha Christie and most of Victoria Holt, who leavened her mysteries with a bit of romance. In recent years, I've become addicted to Iain Pears's art history mysteries, which remind me of being a college student in Italy and many happy days passed in that country's copious museums. Last summer, I fell in love with Smith's canny detective Precious Ramotswe in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and can't wait to work my way through the rest of the series. Ma Ramotswe may be a simple farmer's daughter from Botswana, but even Sam Spade would admire her wit, insight, and bravery -- which makes me wonder, what would a female detective drafted by Hammett be like?

So, what's on your summer reading list (and why)?