It's Summer Reading Time

Illustration for article titled Its Summer Reading Time
Image: Getty

Everything’s a mess, but you know what? It’s still summer, and that means it’s summer reading time. What are you reading, and where are you reading it? Thrillers in the yard? Romance novels in a hammock installed in your living room? Celebrity biographies from the 70s in your bathtub?

Advertisement

The tradition of summer reading in America goes back to the 19th century, when summer vacations began to become accessible to more than just the ultra-wealthy. The Boston Globe reports that specially selected books were a staple of these trips from the very beginning:

But what did vacationers do in those gardens, or around that pool, or after a vigorous game of lawn bowling? From the very beginning, they read. In a list of travel tips in 1874, the Globe saved its best tip for last: “Don’t forget to take some books with you.” It’s not clear how anyone could forget, given how actively advertisers promoted books as a vacation staple. In one giant summer spread, next to its picnic baskets, yacht chairs, bathing caps, and croquet sets, Macy’s promised to have “all the light literature of the day for SUMMER READING.” The department store even offered to ship the latest titles directly to your resort, just as soon as they came in stock.

Advertisement

But while summer reading has been tied up with leisure, which has always tied up with money, books also offer a pretty cheap escape even if resorts aren’t in the cards, whether that’s due to financial considerations or public health reasons. That’s the message of this WPA poster from the late 1930s, during the Great Depression.

Of course, many libraries are currently closed; if only we could move some selections outdoors, like in this open-air street library photographed in Hong Kong in 1955, where patrons could stand and read on the spot.

Illustration for article titled Its Summer Reading Time
Image: Getty
Advertisement

Someday, though, it will be nice to return to the crowded confines of a public pool or packed-full park, where the concern isn’t life and death but just generally a desire for personal space to spread out and read.

Illustration for article titled Its Summer Reading Time
Image: Getty
Advertisement

Maybe even sitting with a friend? Someday!

Illustration for article titled Its Summer Reading Time
Image: Getty

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

I always read a lot, but i’m at a whole other level right now. I just finished 3 books in 3 days, all beach read type books. I’ve read 20 books since SIP started. I read at home, inside, outside, in bed, in my home office bed, basically anywhere at home, since i don’t go anywhere anymore.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

Conversations with Friends - Sally Rooney (Also, if you haven’t read/watched Normal People on Hulu, highly recommend, the book is great, and the show was really well done)

FireFly Lane - Kristen Hannah ( I cried so much reading this)

The Great Alone - Kristen Hannah

In Five Years - Rebecca Serle

Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler

The Scent Keeper - Erica Bauermeister

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me - Adrienne Brodeur

The Islanders - Meg Mitchell Moore

The UnHoneymooners - Christine Lauren (This book me laugh a lot)