Summer has finally arrived (almost) and every year the same kind of articles appear online and in magazines: Top 10 Beach Reads, The Five Books You BEED To Bring On Vacation, etc.
Although I’m a big fan of reading, I don’t particularly like these kinds of lists, since reading can be a year-long activity and not something you just do to fill the time when you don’t. you’re not at home.
For this reason, I decided to compile my own list of books – books that are good to read any month of the year, any time. If these are not my favorites, they are very close.
1. “In Youth Is Pleasure” by Denton Welch
OK, this one is actually my favorite – my favorite novel, anyway. It concerns the actions of a 15-year-old boy, Orvil Pym, who is on vacation with his father and two older brothers. While the story, if you want to call it that, is about what he does on this vacation, the underlying theme seems to be that Orvil not only doesn’t know he’s gay, he doesn’t even know that such a thing exists. (The reader is never informed of this fact of life either.)
Written in a clean and precise style, the book is wonderfully descriptive and funny like few books are. If you don’t want to take my word for it, none other than William S. Burroughs named Welch as the writer who most influenced his own work.
Burroughs wrote, “Denton Welch makes the reader aware of the magic that is right before their eyes, for most of the experiences he describes are of a mundane variety: a walk, tea, a peach melba, rain on a river, a visit to an antique store, a painting on a biscuit tin, a bike ride, teenage tears.”
2. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
Forget the movies, with their clumsy, inarticulate monster. The book’s monster is downright talkative, spending several entire chapters talking about the places he’s been and how he feels about being brought to life against his will.
While I can’t say the book frightened me (the only book that did was about the Hartford Circus fire), it contains many unforgettable scenes and images and reaches a surprisingly emotional and ultimately tragic climax. . It’s more than just a monster story.
3. “Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds” by Charles Mackay
Even though it was written in 1841, this book is as fresh today as it has ever been, for the simple reason that while technological and social circumstances can change, people don’t. A classic in debunking false beliefs, the book tackles psychics, haunted houses, economic bubbles, scams and gang hysteria.
The text is not dry, which is also a welcome change from many other books of the time and many other books on the same topics. It’s funny and sarcastic, almost cynical. But when it comes to tackling these topics, the objectivity is almost offensive.
4. “The Dorothy Parker Laptop”
Speaking of sarcastic and cynical humor, you don’t get much more sarcastic than Dorothy Parker, especially in her book and theater reviews, some of which are included in this volume. (For example, she writes that she “vomited” after reading “The House on Pooh Corner.”)
Yet she’s also able to write insightfully on serious subjects, such as her best story, “Big Blonde,” which is partly about a failed suicide attempt.
Dorothy Parker may not be as well known as some of her contemporaries, or considered a spirit and nothing more. It’s a shame, and a perception that this book goes a long way towards reversal.
5. “This is Orson Welles” by Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich
The back cover refers to Welles as the “world’s greatest storyteller”, and the interviews in this book make that claim hard to disprove. Welles engages thoroughly while dissertations on a variety of topics that are not limited to the mediums in which he has worked: film, radio and theater.
A talent like Welles happens once in a generation, if at all, and it’s nice to be able to read his own words to get a better picture of his creative process. It’s a shame there aren’t more books like this for other artists.
That’s it for my summer reading list. I’ll be waiting for your reports on my desk when school starts again in the fall.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among Echo Press editorial staff.