I spent the better part of an hour tinkering with the title for this post.
Hmmmm, should it be?
Bipolar Beach Book Bonanza?
Bipolar Summer Reads?
I settled on the B(u)y the Book, By the Pool, Bipolar because it captures it all. The season, my library, my finances and my moods.
And ’tis the season! Everywhere you look there are lists of “Best Beach Books” or “Sumptuous Summer Reads.” And here on U&U, I wanted to add my own.
I am well qualified (or at least so I think.)
Joani is a voracious reader whose reading knows no seasons — or at least there is no season in which she doesn’t pick up at least a dozen books. But summer is different. In summer, she believes she can read at least a dozen more!
And I am not alone. On vacation, lots of us bibliophiles shove a few novels into our suitcases, a few mysteries, a biography, maybe a memoir or two.
So just why do we read so much pulp fiction by the pool?
Just in time for the summer solstice, The New Yorker answered this question in this fabulous piece: The Invention of the Beach Book. And in it, Katy Waldman reviews a book about books (my favorite kind.)
“”Books for Idle Hours,” a new history by the academic Donna Harrington-Lueker, unpacks both the constructedness of “summer reading” and its gravitational pull. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, urbanization and industrialization gave summertime a new radiance—it offered a chance to escape the sweaty, overcrowded city and reconnect with nature. The steamship and the railroad made vacation getaways more accessible. Periodicals and newspapers began running features on resort towns and advertised summer activities and goods: cruises, camping gear, mineral springs. In the pages of Harper’s, the artist Winslow Homer published chic illustrations of fashionable, sun-dazed women watching horse races or strolling along the ocean. In short, bolstered by the era’s print culture, a new market of pleasure-seeking Americans emerged.“
So in the summer, book shops, libraries, book stalls and drug stores all stocked up on beach books. As the reader’s appetite soared so did the publisher’s profits.
Schools and colleges and universities hijacked the tradition. The “Summer School Reading List” unfortunately is a buzz killer. Mandatory reading on holiday is just homework by another name.
But I digress.
Happily my reading is virtually all voluntary. I juggle a few volumes at a time, picking up whichever title matches a particular mood.
So let me “offer unto thee myself, my soul and my body” in my very own Bipolar Beach Book List. Here are a dozen mostly-read and a few hope-to-read titles. Fiction and non-fiction, familiar and far-flung. And be forewarned, my reading tastes tend toward the dystopian and dark, the provocative and the historic with a bit of self-help-psychology thrown in (like a cherry on top.)
(Blurbs are directly lifted from digital book jackets.)
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley “This groundbreaking dual biography brings to life a pioneering English Feminist and the daughter she never knew. Author Charlotte Gordon reunites the trailblazing author who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and the Romantic visionary who gave the world Frankenstein…two courageous women who shared a powerful literary and feminist legacy.”
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman “Arguably the earliest written work of feminist philosophy, Mary Wollstonecraft produced this manifesto of woman’s rights in the time of the American and French Revolutions. This era induced many to reconsider not only the rights of men, but also of women, and none argued for female emancipation more eloquently or effectively than Wollstonecraft.”
Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley describes the ethos behind what became her famous and frightening cautionary tale, “My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.“
M.R. James Collected Ghost Stories “Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, M.R. James was an eminent scholar…His classic supernatural tales draw on the terrors of everyday life, in which documents and objects unleash terrible forces often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot. Lonely country houses, remote inns, ancient churches…great libraries provide settings for unbearable menace. These stories have lost none of their power to unsettle and disturb.”
Dark Tales “After the publication of her short story “The Lottery” in the New Yorker in 1948, Shirley Jackson was quickly established as a master horror storyteller. This collection of classic, unsettling, dark tales, includes “The Possibility of Evil” and “The Summer People.” In these deliciously dark stories, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunting world of Shirley Jackson, there’s something sinister in suburbia.”
Picnic at Hanging Rock Joan Lindsay’s classic Australian novel. “It was a cloudless summer day in 1900. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, three girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing through the scrub into the secluded volcanic outcropping. Farther, higher, until at last they disappeared. They never returned…”
Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table “A fascinating and unusual chapter in American history about a religious community that held radical notions of equality, sex, and religion—only to transform itself, at the beginning of the twentieth century, into a successful silverware company and a model of buttoned-down corporate propriety. ” Written by Ellen Wayland-Smith, descendant of John Henry Noyes, the founder of the Oneida Community in upstate New York.
Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Growing Up and Starting Over “In the first in-depth research of its kind, Janja Lalich interviewed sixty-five people who were born in or grew up in thirty-nine different cultic groups spanning more than a dozen countries. What’s especially interesting about these individuals is that they each left the cult on their own, without outside help or internal support. In Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over, the authors craft Lalich’s original and groundbreaking research into an accessible and engaging book, the first of its kind.”
The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tale that inspired the Hulu Original Series. “The story is told through the eyes of Offred. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate and wry, Offred reveals to us the dark corners of the establishment’s facade…It is at once scathing satire and a dire warning and Margaret Atwood at her best.”
The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels “We have been here before. In this timely and revealing book, Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham helps us understand the present moment by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame fear and division. With clarity and purpose, Meacham explores contentious periods and how presidents and citizens came together to defeat the forces of anger, intolerance and extremism.”
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are “A motivational and inspiring guide to wholehearted living, this eye-opening work of Brene Brown, Ph.D. bolsters the process of personal development with characteristic heartfelt honest storytelling. Based on her original research, Brown explores the psychology of releasing notions of an “imperfect” life while embracing a life of honest beauty — a perfectly imperfect life.”
Attached “Is there a science to love? In this meticulously researched book, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel S. F. Heller reveal how an understanding of attachment theory – the most advanced relationship science in existence today – can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment explains that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways: Anxious, avoidant or secure.” Which one are you?
All available in multi-media – ephemeral and real. Click on the links to learn more.