50 Book Challenge #7 -Local and Cheap Fun For Summer Readers
Finals are finished, school is over, and if you are like me the first thing you did was grab the book off your shelf that you’ve wanted to read for the last fifteen weeks. (Well, the first thing after collapsing into a nearly week long sleep). But maybe you want more this year than just crying over Nicholas Sparks books in your lounge chair by the pool. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Here is my top 10 local and cheap things for book lovers to do over the summer.
1) Start a Summer Tradition
Every summer I read “The Great Gatsby.” When I started doing this, it was not even my favorite
book. It has now taken the throne of my favorite novels. Somehow, anymore, it doesn’t even feel
like summer until I read this classic. It all started with the novel “The Summer We Read Gatsby” which in all honesty, is a pretty terrible novel, but it was inspiring and my tradition has been in place since then. So, make this your own. Do you have a favorite novel you could return to over
and over again? How about making it a summer highlight. If you can’t think of one and are not interested in joining me with “Gatsby,” I suggest Ray Bradbury’s amazing “Dandelion Wine.” There has never been a novel in the history of our country that has better represented everything it means to be summer than this tale of how a boy experiences summer when he first realizes he is alive. It is a tale of childhood, mischief, and urban legends that is very nearly irresistible. It is, also, a softer side of Bradbury who is most famous for his dystopian classic “Fahrenheit 451.”
2) Read a Book in Every Major Genre
It’s easy for us book lovers to get caught up on our favorite genres, but there are amazing books out there we may miss this way. Why not challenge yourself to explore the genres you have never tried, or to read one book in every genre. My favorite genres are generally historic fiction, fantasy, or drama. However, one of my favorite books is a Western called “Shane.” The best way to go about this is to figure out what you like in the genre you read and look for it in other places. My main draw is interactions—between families or the families they form with their companions. This is what draws me to Scifi like “The Wrinkle in Time.” I enjoy moments like when Calvin meets the other main characters and they invite him to have dinner with him and he has the feeling that he is home for the first time. This draw is the same thing that hooked me into reading “Shane,” which was about a gunslinger than gets “adopted” into a frontier family by a little boy who looks up to him. In lieu of listing my failed to read book—because at this point, I’m sure you all know that that one book is still on it—I have made a list of one of my favorite books in every genre if you need suggestions.
3) Hunt for Marginalia
The best part about used bookstores is the history that sits between the pages of the old books like a forgotten bookmark. The true treasure is finding the ones with writing in the margins. Sometimes it is thoughts on the work, sometimes the unrelated thoughts of a wandering mind, sometimes a note that passes the book from one person to another—“I think you will enjoy this” or “With my love.” The very best I ever found was a note from a mother to her daughter, reminding her of the time she met the author and that she should never forget what he said. I wondered what he said more than I ever wondered how the book ended. Poet Billy Collins knew this feeling when he wrote one of his pieces on this very topic:
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.
I have a chest full of letters and notes I found stuck between old book pages and several books bearing writing. There is something mystic about reading the words of someone I am unlikely to ever meet. Try looking through your local used book stores. If you try Willow Tree in Westminster, you just might find one of the books I have written in.
But maybe you are interested in less solitary pursuits with your summer reading. In that case, here are a few things you can try.
4) Find a Book Club
There are a lot of book clubs around this area. I see one often when going to coffee houses, and while I’m not recommending you crash the first group you see with a book, there are a lot of groups out there to find. Books-A-Million has a list of several different book clubs right beside
their best-seller shelves that lists how to get in touch with the club and has the book they are reading there for you to buy. If that selection does not interest you, consider starting one of your own. Most coffee shops have a bulletin board where you can post a flier for your meetings. It can be a good way to meet new people and a way to have a very different experience with reading.
4) Challenge a Friend
There is a certain level of exhilaration in making reading into a competition. When I was younger, one friend and I used to challenge each other to go to the library and find the most bizarre books. We won if we found and read a book the other had never heard of. I got to read the strangest things that summer. Now the competition I have going with my editor, Sean Gill, has taken its place. The constant ribbing over page counts and amount of books read has been incredibly motivating and kept me rather on track. Without it, I most likely would still be flitting back and forth between books as I so often do.
5) Find Local Book Signings
Sometimes it seems like we think that book signings are the exciting things that only happen in New York or perhaps L.A., but there are book signings going on around us all of the time. Book festivals, libraries and coffee shops are the best things to keep an eye on. It may be that the authors are not people you have ever read, but go anyway. It can be a fascinating way to meet an interesting person and it may even get you into their works. I had never read Tess Gerritsen before she came to Carroll’s Book Fair. Now that I have heard her speak, I love her work. On May the 22nd at 2:00 pm veteran, Jack Womer, will be at will be at the Westminster library talking about his book. If you keep your eyes open, many more such events should pop up throughout the summer.
6) Go to a Local Poetry Reading
This is a bit of a deviation from our previous talk about novels, but as another love of mine I can’t help but mention it. Here is another thing you can often find at coffee houses—does everything good happen at coffee houses? Westminster Station holds a poetry reading every second and forth Wednesday of the month. If you are a poet bring in some of your work to read, or go to hear the local voices.
7) Library Summer Reading Programs
How many of you did this as a kid? I know I did. One of my favorite parts of summer was rushing to the library and getting a reading sheet, meeting their reading challenges—things like, read a book about bugs—and getting the prizes at the end. It was a highlight of my summer. Apparently, the library understands the nostalgia value because there is a reading program for adults, too. It is worth looking into as it comes out later in the summer. Of course, if it isn’t as interest, you can always get one of the kids ones and do that, though I doubt they will give you the prizes.
9) Throw an in Character Party
I got this idea from fellow Carroll student, David Newgent and his family. Have a party with your book loving friends and give it a theme. The last one I went to was children’s literature themed. I went as teen sleuth, Nancy Drew—looking, I might add, quite retro in my knee high ice cream socks and ridiculously over done green eye-liner. If everyone is creative, there is no reason that this will have to be pricey. My costume cost a grand total of $20. The best part is guessing who everyone is.
10) Get to Know Your State
So, maybe you find yourself wanting to get out, but you don’t have the cash for a long trip. I suggest going to the library and picking up Maryland travel books. Spend some time reading about your state and learning the things you did not know, then go there. There is a lot of history to learn about. You can go by the Westminster Historic Society if you want to learn the history of our area, or if you would rather do something out of the normal, I recommend picking up “Weird Maryland” a book about the offbeat, the legends and the just plain strange. There is, also, “Spooky Maryland” or “Haunted Maryland” if you want to take a tour of the local ghostly haunts.
Join me this summer for reviews, games & quotes on twitter. Tweet or comment me book challenges and I will do the best ones. #50bookblog
— Chris Ceary (@QuillChris) May 21, 2012
The Hardy Boys: Lost Brother by Franklin Dixon
The Hardy Boys: Forever Lost by Franklin Dixon
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bonte
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The Hardy Boys: Burned by Franklin Dixon
The Hardy Boys: Movie Menace by Franklin Dixon
The Hardy Boys: Wanted by Franklin Dixon
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
Chick Lit: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Children’s: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Drama: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Fantasy: The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
General Fiction: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Historic Fiction: The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
Horror: I’m Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
Humor: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
Memoir: Lauren Bacall: By Myself
Mystery: The Dresdan Files by Jim Butcher
Picture Books: The Wishing of Biddy Malone by Joy Cowley
Scifi: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle
Steam Punk: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeild
Western: Shane by Jack Schaefer