Summer Reading


sometimes feel really old. Today is one of those times. As I cruise my subscribers/subscriptions, it seems that every other blog mentions the new Harry Potter book. I have seen the three movies, but I have never read a single volume. Are they that good?

As I think about my own childhood/youth, I don’t remember reading very many books that was targeted for young readers. I never read a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys story. I never read anything by Roald Dahl (Willy Wonka, James and the Giant Peach) either. When I finished reading Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle in second grade, I had read my last children’s book. I read some stories for youths, but that was because it was required reading in elementary school, around 5th and 6th grade. Johnny Appleseed, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. They were okay.

My reading in elementary school focused on one type of literature by the time I was 12, one that the likes of Abe Kobo might label “unpure” literature. The material could be in any medium, but mostly they were comics and supermarket fiction. When I read comics, I never read Archie or Casper the Friendly Ghost. I read Spiderman and Iron Man and Thor. All Marvel characters–I just could not get into DC’s Batman and Superman. As for books, I read a number of non-fiction biographies, but all were baseball players. For me, the life of a ball player enthralled me. The trials and tribulations of a man struggling to be the best in his sport and ultimately leading to success was indeed exciting–Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Dizzy Dean–and at times sad–Lou Gehrig. Man, I think I read every single baseball biography available at East LA Public Library back in the late 60s. My appetite was insatiable.

But by the time I got to high school, I was reading mostly fiction. And virtually all of it was pulp. I was never into high-brow books, like The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) or Babbit (Sinclair) or A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway). So sue me. I enjoyed mysteries, such as Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle–I have read every single one, from A Study in Scarlet to His Last Bow, twice… some (like the Hound of the Baskervilles) three times. (Amazingly, they are all online.) I also spent many nights reading the adventures of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Another one of my favorites was the Conan the Barbarian series by Robert E. Howard. I read most of the books which ultimately led me to the comic book version–by Marvel, natch. I freaked out reading Blatty’s The Exorcist and Fred Steward’s The Mephisto Waltz. I also read Peter Benchly’s Jaws and The Deep, Irwin Shaw’s Rich Man, Poor Man, Robin Cook’s Coma, John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire, and a number of Sidney Sheldon books, including The Other Side of Midnight, A Stranger in the Mirror, and Bloodline. And who could not have read James Michener’s Shogun. Okay, okay, I DID like some of the assigned stuff in high school: like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun.

Since then, my taste has changed little. I don’t read sports biographies anymore–except for Sandy Koufax–but I still read pulp fiction: Clancy (The Search for Red October and Cardinal of the Kremlin are classics!), Grisham (A Time to Kill and The Firm are great stories), Cornwell (The Body Farm). And of course, Stephen King. (I’m sure enygma is shaking her head in disgust by now. Clancy? Did he say Clancy?) I must admit, however, that neither Clancy nor Grisham is interesting anymore. And King’s The Green Mile was the last full length novel I read—except for the novels I have my students read in Japanese Literature in Translation.

Anyway, what really make me feel old is the fact that I no longer read. Decades ago, summer was a time to bury myself in novel after novel. Is it a sign of the times? I often wonder. Back then, I wasn’t rich enough to go to movies often. We only had about 8 or 9 television channels to choose from–this was before cable and satellite TV, of course. There were certainly no home computers and definitely no Internet (read: Xanga). Besides my choice of diversions today, I am otherwise preoccupied by personal and familial responsibilities: career, fixing a leaky faucet, taking the family to a movie.


I feel like I should read more. I feel mentally sluggish and verbally challenged at times–What was that word again? I ask myself constantly. Maybe I should give up TV. Or maybe sign off of Xanga. And maybe I should consider J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. I’m not sure if witches and warlocks would interest me. Anything about the supernatural should be scary, a la King’s The Shining. But that would be better than a steady stream of drivel such as Lost, Monk, The 4400, Battlestar Gallactica… Wait, I can’t live without BG!

So given my penchant for adventure/scary novels, does anyone have a recommendation for me?