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Sunday Salon: Seasonal Reading

September 25, 2011

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Every time the season starts to turn, I notice bloggers compiling lists of what they want to read over the next three months or so. I find this fascinating, because while I do love the changes each season brings, I don’t find that my taste in books varies much throughout the year. For instance, I love reading classics during the summer, when the long days provide plenty of sunlight for me to lay outside with a giant book in front of me. And then in the fall, with that ‘back to school’ feeling, classics just seem appropriate. Not to mention, in winter, when I want to curl up indoors with a mug of hot chocolate, what could be better than a classic to accompany it? And finally in spring, when the world feels renewed and I celebrate my birthday, I enjoy trying out new-to-me classic authors. I could do this with every style of book I love to read: there seem to be seasonal cues all year round! Browsing my books read page doesn’t seem to turn up much of a pattern either (except I can see the months when I was very ill because I barely read any books during them): I seem to always be reading international fiction, and mysteries, and classics, and various types of nonfiction, and a ton of British books, with a sprinkling of fantasy and scary/gothic to round things out.

That being said, I now live in a place that, while it has four seasons, is less ‘traditional’ (aka, winter weather would be like fall in many places, spring is like an ideal summer, summer is just helaciously hot, and fall, even if it’s significantly cooler than summer isn’t really scarves and tights and hot cider weather; oh, and most of the leaves fall in the spring, since most of the trees are live oaks). As a fan of traditional seasons, I’ve been inventing my own little rituals to mark the moments (if you’re curious, I follow the sun calendar for seasons, so spring begins around March 22nd, summer around June 22nd, fall around September 22nd-hence why I’m posting this Sunday, and winter around December 22nd), so that even if the climate doesn’t always cooperate, I can create changes in my own life. So most of these changes revolve around food and clothing, but I’m trying to expand them. And I thought a fun tradition would definitely be to have a short list of seasonal ‘rereads’: I wouldn’t have to reread each one every year, but pick at least one from the list to honour the change. And that’s where you come in! If you’re a seasonal reader, please share your own bookish go-tos to help me kickstart my brainstorming. Of course, Carl‘s wonderful Once Upon a Time and R.I.P. Challenges are very inspiring for spring and fall, and I will definitely be taking those into consideration, but I’d love to see what other ideas you have. Also, feel free to chime in if you’re not a seasonal reader, like myself!

Now that you’ve indulged me, here’s what I’ve been reading this week! Notice that I at least liked every book: woohoo! Curious about my new structure? Visit the explanatory footnote.

Books I Loved and Found Every Page a Delight

Read Jazz by Toni Morrison if…you’re looking for ‘literary’ historical fiction set in 1920s Harlem or a book that explores the complexities of (straight) romantic love or you’re just a huge Morrison fan looking for another fix.

Read The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood if…you’re interested in women-centered fiction or fairy tale reimaginings without any fantasy elements or just a smart, page-turning chunkster (or you’re participating in Literary Transgressions’ Classics Challenge).

Read Paris, Paris by David Downie if…you savour beautifully crafted essays full of elegant prose or want to take an imaginary trip to Paris or relive memories of your actual one(s).

Books I Would Have Loved, Except for One or Two Little Quibbles or Books I Really, Really Liked

Read My Great Wide Beautiful World by Juanita Harrison if…you find the idea of a strong, funny African American in the 1930s travelling solo around the world, stopping to work as a lady’s maid when necessary to get more funds, irresistable or you love idiosyncratic nonfiction or you want a peek into an absolutely fascinating life (this is a diary, and I suspect if Harrison were doing the trip today, she’d keep a blog!).

Read Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop if…you love nonfiction that blends science, history, and personal experience or you’re curious about bees (did you know they have eight little slits in their abdomen to excrete beeswax?) and their relationship with people or you’re just looking for a readable, interesting nonfiction book.

Read Death at Rainy Mountain by Mardi Oakley Medawar if…you’re looking for a historical, ‘traditional’ mystery series (this is the first one) with a unique setting (northern ‘Texas’ amongst the Kiowa tribe of the post-Civil War era) with a funny narrator, vivid characters, and a strong puzzle plot and aren’t concerned by the occasional overshare of background information.

Books I Definitely Liked, Although They Didn’t Blow Me Away or Books that had Great Points Counterbalanced by Not-Great Ones

Read The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole if…you’re curious to see where Gothic literature got its start or want a short eighteenth century read and are willing to overlook characters who are a pale shadow of actual Medieval lit.

Read Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon if…you’re looking for fantasy with a non-European background and/or a strong female lead and don’t mind a more basic level of writing and oddly-paced plotting (I think fans of Nnedi Okorafor would enjoy this).

Read The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths if…you enjoy strongly atmospheric mysteries and aren’t put off by adultery, a main character who frequently castigates herself for being ‘fat,’ and a plot that involves quite a few coincidences.

The Sunday

New Format Explanation: I’ve arranged my one-sentence thoughts into rough groups by how much I loved/didn’t love the book. You’ll notice that there are five groups, presented in descending order from most to least loved; remember that these represent a judgement of my reading experience, rather than the actual book (for a bit more detail, see my books read page). The first three (loved through liked) are all categories I would definitely recommend, more or less enthusiastically; the final two (didn’t really like and wish I’d abandoned), I’d (usually) still recommend but to those with different tastes than myself. I hope the new structure is helpful for anyone who wasn’t always sure how I felt about a title based on my one-sentence recommendation! :)
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35 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2011 6:46 am

    Hot cider – now there’s a thought!

  2. September 25, 2011 6:48 am

    I am trying out the RIP VI challenge at the moment, but I must admit I don’t seem too good at seasonal reading. Perhaps it has to do with my life being practically the same all year round, and not having had a true ‘Summer vacation’ etc, that make me less likely to adopt seasonal readings. I don’t know.

  3. September 25, 2011 7:10 am

    So glad that you enjoyed The Robber Bride. It’s one of my favorite Atwoods :)

    I’m like you in that my reading preferences don’t change with the seasons. It’s one reason those “summer reading” lists are utterly lost on me. The only change that’s likely for me is that if there’s a season when I have more free time, I may plan to take on a bigger, more complex book. So I might read something heavier in summer. (These days, though, my free time doesn’t vary much during the year.) Last year, I did more spiritual reading during Lent, but that wasn’t a mood thing so much as a spiritual discipline thing–so kind of different.

  4. September 25, 2011 7:15 am

    I think blogging made me much more of a seasonal reader than I used to be – and I particularly blame Carl’s challenges :P It’s not so much that my reading mood changes with the seasons as it is that it can be so much fun to read Gothic literature/fantasy/fairy tales/whatever along with everyone else. But other than the wanting to join in factor, I’m mostly like you.

    The Robber Bride is one of the Atwoods I’ve been saving. It sounds like I should do myself a favour and just read it!

  5. September 25, 2011 7:21 am

    I am more of a seasonal reader than I was before I started blogging. I want beach reads or road trips for the summer and RIP style reads leading up to Christmas. Once December arrives, I want snow and tinsel in my books.

    I am now desperate for some mulled cider.

  6. September 25, 2011 7:37 am

    I enjoy mysteries all year round but may gravitate to some poetry this winter.

  7. September 25, 2011 7:56 am

    I am not usually. A seasonal reader but Atlanta was so gosh darn hot this year that it’s nice to welcome fall and ALL it has to offer. Im loving my search for fall centered reading.

  8. September 25, 2011 8:31 am

    Like you I live in a place that doesn’t have drastic changes in weather. I can’t read Christmas books any time of the year but end of November and December but other than that I think that I read pretty much anything any time.

  9. September 25, 2011 8:34 am

    I’ve spent all my adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area where we famously have no seasons. We have them, actually, but they tend to be a bit subtle, marked by rain rather than snow. Lately, I’ve been thinking about moving to a place where I could get snowed in once in a while, just so I’d have the chance to read for a long stretch of time. I may rent a cabin somewhere this winter.

  10. September 25, 2011 9:59 am

    All fun books. I don’t really do seasonal reading at all either… though I do have four real seasons. Or rather, three short seasons and a long winter ;)

  11. September 25, 2011 10:48 am

    I’m not much of a seasonal reader either. Like you, I read what I read year-round. I lean heavily toward crime fiction, with a mixture of other genres sprinkled throughout.

  12. September 25, 2011 11:13 am

    I spent most of my living in places without “traditional” seasonal changes — hot for nine months and cold for three. Living in New England with a real fall and Montana with a real winter is quite a change! So I never marked the seasons by changing my reading habits. That would just feel so strange to me!

    I’ve heard good things about Robbing the Bees. I’ll have to check it out.

  13. September 25, 2011 11:42 am

    Fall is one of my favourite seasons. I usually like to read mysteries, light classics and some books with elements of fantasy. Agatha Christie is perfect for this time of the year, as the Bronte sisters.

  14. September 25, 2011 12:05 pm

    I think I always make resolutions about seasonal reading and then forget and abandon them, because frankly, my mood for books is basically the same at all times too. Which is to say, governed by whim.

  15. September 25, 2011 1:54 pm

    I’m the same way with the classics, I’ve been reading them in all seasons, and I don’t think it’s effected whether or not I enjoy it which is good. I do prefer books with sun in the summer, however I’ll happily read winter books then too. I think I’m a summer reader more. I’m hoping to read The Castle of Otranto soon, so I’ll keep your words in mind!

  16. September 25, 2011 1:55 pm

    I do like your concise review style. I’m not really a seasonal reader either – I love Jane Austen all year round!

  17. September 25, 2011 2:17 pm

    Hmmm…seasonal reads? I’m not sure that I necessarily read by season (although slightly spooky seems appropriate to the fall), but sometimes books seem just ‘right’ to a season. I remember when I was in grade school, my parents gave me The Dark is Rising series for Christmas and I read them all that winter. Ever since, especially for the second which takes place over the Christmas season, I have only really been able to reread them in the winter. But in general, I’d say I read more by mood than by season. (Excepting perhaps tales set at Christmas. It doesn’t seem right to read A Christmas Carol at any other time.)

  18. September 25, 2011 2:34 pm

    I must say I’m not a seasonal reader at all! :) My reading does not change with the seasons, only with my mood.

    Paris, Paris sounds pretty perfect! Have you read Parisians by Graham Robb? I bought it earlier this year, but have not yet read it.

  19. September 25, 2011 3:46 pm

    I’m not a seasonal reader either but I always enjoy reading others’ lists. :-)

  20. September 25, 2011 3:59 pm

    Over the years I’ve become a seasonal reader. I wouldn’t dream of reading The Secret Garden in the fall or A Christmas Carol in the summer. I love Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas so my reading has changed to include books that fit perfectly with these holidays and the seasons. I wished California had more traditional seasons too though oddly enough it’s a perfect autumn day right now. :-)

  21. September 25, 2011 5:33 pm

    I can see why challenges would make one more of a seasonal reader. I don’t think I am one, really. I read The True Deceiver, set in dead of winter in Finland, in August :-) I just read whatever jumps out to me at the time.

  22. September 25, 2011 5:44 pm

    I’m the same way with seasonal reading! I don’t do much with it…I sort of read in the same way throughout the year. I like the idea of seasonal reading, but then my reading never actually changes. I do feel the seasonal reading pull most strongly around this time of year, from Halloween on. It’s the easiest time of year to find season-appropriate reading, I think.

    Must read The Robber Bride! And I added My Great Wide Beautiful World to my list when I saw you post about it earlier. It really appeals to me, but sadly, my library doesn’t have it. I’ve been keeping my eyes open when I attend used book sales. Maybe I’ll get lucky!

  23. September 25, 2011 10:17 pm

    I couldn’t imagine living where there wasn’t seasons… I have to admit I could do without snow some winters, but I enjoy the changes that each season brings with them. Or, well, maybe I could just go for skipping from fall to winter? :)

  24. September 25, 2011 10:59 pm

    I don’t think I consciously change my reading material based on the season, but I do think that as the weather starts to cool down I seek out spookier reads for a while. It just feels right! But Classics can be read any time of year!

    Also, glad to hear that you enjoyed both Jazz and The Robber Bride because those are both books I’d like to read at some point!

  25. September 25, 2011 11:45 pm

    I think being a California native and not being used to having real seasons, I have never been prone to seasonal reading. My reading tastes don’t seem to vary by the seasons at all. I can imagine that if I lived in snow country I might be more apt to curl up with a cozy mystery or a good ghost story in the winter.

  26. September 25, 2011 11:46 pm

    Another non seasonal reader here! I just read whatever comes up next most of the time! Interesting comment on Silver Phoenix. I read it years ago and didn’t like it all that much. I felt it was a bit too much like a video game. Go here and talk to this character and then complete the quest. Now, go and talk to this character and complete the next quest.

  27. September 26, 2011 1:49 pm

    I probably am not as much of a seasonal reader as I think I am, but there is something about fall and winter that make me want to pick up more classics, spooky stories and long Victorian novels. Not sure why–maybe since it’s too cold to have to do yardwork–I have more time to snuggle up with a book! I’m glad to see Robbing the Bees on your list as it is a book I’ve had on my pile for ages–must get to it soon. And I have reads lots of Margaret Atwood, but not Robber Bride yet! Hope all is well with you!

  28. September 26, 2011 7:39 pm

    I don’t do much season reading, although perhaps I would enjoy it, maybe? I prefer to go with the impulse of the moment, though, unless I’m reading a book group book. The only change I make because of seasons is that I’m more likely to pick up a challenging book during the summer when I have a little more reading time. That’s when I read Infinite Jest, for example. But otherwise … it’s just the same year round, which is to say, no pattern at all that I can discern!

  29. September 26, 2011 9:35 pm

    I love everything by Margaret Atwood. I read that one soooo long ago, and it was really good.

  30. Jodie permalink
    September 27, 2011 3:54 am

    Yay I just read Jazz for the second time this year and was reminded how amazing Morrison’s work can be. I just ahve to restrain myself now so I haven’t finished her entire backlist before she releases a new novel.

  31. September 27, 2011 5:20 am

    Nothing seasonal about my reading – more whimsical than seasonal really :)

  32. September 27, 2011 7:33 am

    I am not a seasonal reader at all save for Carl’s R.I.P. challenge. I just read whatever moves at the moment.

  33. September 28, 2011 7:13 pm

    I just checked out The Crossing Places from the library. I’m not huge on adultery so I’m curious to see how I’ll feel about this book when I read it. I love these posts and your new format!!


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