Summer reading isn’t what is should be

Want to hear my summer reading plans? I haven’t made any. I know I should make some because I happened across a women’s magazine annual list of suggested summer reading when I was at the doctor’s office the other day. So far, reading that list has been the extent of my summer reading.

I hope Robert Fulghum was right with his theory that everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten. That’s probably the last I had time to read anything of considerable length or substance, albeit under the scrutiny of Mrs. Seifke and with the threat of recess loss bearing down.

The idea of finding the time to devour a delicious summer novel is just that – novel!

When I do read, it’s almost always non-fiction stuff, usually biographies. I scan them like how-to manuals for becoming rich and famous. Life being short, I figure I need all the help I can get.

I fantasize about reading the kind of fantasy books I enjoyed as a kid, but am afraid that if I got so much as a toehold in unreality, I would never want to return to the daily grind. The men in the white suits would drag me kicking and screaming out of Narnia or one of the many other places I escaped to in childhood.

Once you come out of the closet, there’s no going back.

When I was growing up, my friend’s mom always had some kind of good book going. I look back through adult eyes and hate her for that luxury. If that weren’t enough, her car was always shiny, too. Talk about unfair! She was also thin, despite page-turning being her favorite form of exercise. Just what was that about? I need to consult with the Guinness people about it. The beverage folks, not just the ones who compile the world records.

Since I’ve had children, most of my reading has consisted of cardboard-covered, monosyllabic, primary-colored tripe. I try my hardest to pick out kids’ books that have some kind of adult appeal. Hooway for Wodney Wat! Still, I long to read something without cartoonish pictures, torn pages, and chewed edges.

If it weren’t for the writing on the wall, some days I would not read at all.

The other day I caught one of my employees finding the time to read during lunch. I disciplined her for it because my morning meetings often spill over into my lunches, containing unpleasant operational business that make Jurassic Park seem like a stroll in the park. Shortly after getting busted with that romance novel, she asked for time off to watch her grandchildren. I happily granted it, knowing it meant reading interruptus.

For months I’ve been carrying around a 500-page biography of the acid-penned newspaperman H.L. Mencken. It’s starting to look like a treasured, antique volume, thanks to the wear and tear of anticipatory use. “Is that any good?” my dentist asked. How would I know? It’s difficult to judge a book by its first six pages.

Dentist’s office magazines are likely to comprise the bulk of my summer reading. So I’ve signed us up for extra fluoride treatments to gain more reading time. Truth told, I selected my dentist on the basis of his magazines. Instead of reading the Mencken book he so rudely pointed out I’d also had with me at my last visit, I selected a juicy tabloid detailing Britney Spear’s weight loss, latest man, and new tattoo.

The sound you just heard was my brain turning to mush.

Union City is going to have a wonderful new library, but I won’t for the foreseeable future have time to read the books in it. But for those who will, let me share Daniel Pennac’s Reader’s Bill of Rights:

The right not to read.

The right to skip pages.

The right to not finish.

The right to reread.

The right to read anything.

The right to escapism.

The right to read anywhere.

The right to browse.

The right to read out loud.

The right to not defend your tastes.

 Now get busy reading if you’ve got the time. You owe it to those of us who don’t.

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