imaginary outfit: summer reading

I'd love to spend the last light hour of the day — an hour I often have to myself, since Sean gives Hugh his bath and puts him to bed — settled down in an Adirondack chair with a book, but as the sunlight fades, the mosquitos rise, and I am one of the lucky people who gets a giant, terrifying, horrendously itchy welt with every bite. Slathering myself in DEET and lighting a small conflagration of citronella candles to read outside for an hour daunts me, so I just imagine that one day the mosquitos will decide I taste terrible, and I will be able to enjoy a dusk-lit hour of reading in the backyard.

I was listening to a discussion about summer books on the radio this week, and the panelists were trying to decide what made a book a great summer read. For me, the real magic in summer reading has little to do with specific books; it is the dream of languorous mornings and afternoons with nothing to do but read. Visions of hammocks, deck chairs, beach towels, or tree-shaded lawns; sandy-bottomed tote bags with water-damaged paperbacks; chlorine smells and lake smells and sunbaked dirt smells, all mixed in book mustiness and sunblock — these are all lovely things, but time in abundance is the best. Time to be bored, to be hot and lazy, to feel like there is simply nothing else to do but curl up on the porch with a plate of Triscuits and a sweaty glass of wine and a stack of whatever has been languishing unread by the side of the bed.

This month, I've read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey; and I have slowly been picking my way through The Rise and Fall of American Growth. I'm going to read Rings of Saturn for my Instagram book club, and then ... whatever is close to hand. Most of my reading gets done in what little time I can stay awake before bed (toddlers take it out of you); I do spend a lot of time reading to said toddler (and the books we read would be enough for another post). But the idea of summer reading beckons. I'm hoping I'll find an afternoon or two just to read before the summer ends.