Summertime: What’s On Your Reading List?

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdI live in a beautiful coastal town, but “the beach” isn’t the first thing I think about when summer rolls around.

It’s the books.

For me, summer brings a lightened workload (the students are on vacation!) and long, warm days that I use to pare down my lengthy “to-read” list.

On the list is To Kill A Mockingbird, my favorite novel. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it, yet it never fails to move me. In this novel, Harper Lee wrote one of the most rewarding sentences in literature and it’s only four words: “Hey, Boo,” I said. I try to read this novel every summer.

black-beauty-novelRecently, while sorting through stored boxes, I found my copy of Black Beauty, the beloved story written by Anna Sewell and published in 1877.

Sewell was a cripple from a young age, and horses were her helpers and her friends. The way she wrote the story (narrated in the first person by a horse) created quite a stir in her day. Sewell uses Beauty to teach the reader about the proper treatment of horses and, at the same time, to teach how people should treat one another — with kindness and respect.

The copy that I own was printed in 1894 — almost 120 years ago. The cover is lovely, but its best feature is the note of endearment written on an inside page:

When I think about Ralph, as I hold this book in my hand, I imagine him to be a child no older than ten. Was April 18 his birth date and the book a present from “Papa and Mama”?

Sewell did not write her book for children, but parents took notice of the richness and virtues that flow out of this story, and Black Beauty became known as a children’s book.

When I was a child — and I don’t know how she could afford them — my mother would purchase children’s books for me and my siblings through a book club.

How blessed we were to have a mother who valued reading.

The club had a series that we couldn’t wait to receive. It was “two books in one”: We would read the first, and then flip it over and upside down to read the second. Paired up were The Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe; The Jungle Book and Dr. Doolittle. It was through this book series that I first read Black Beauty.

And now that I’ve found it, I plan to read the story again when Summer comes — outside in the warm sun, with a cool drink in my hand, under the shade of a tree or a backyard umbrella, ready to listen as Beauty tells his tale.

Along with a slew of other novels, I also plan to dig into nonfiction: David McCullough’sĀ The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge is on my list, and so is Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orleans.

Summertime … and the reading is easy. What books do you plan to read this summer?

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

8 Comments Write a comment

  1. Your reading list is something I could easily settle into–but please, do not neglect to write! I find such pleasure in your words, and I am certain I am not the only one who reads, then rereads, your posts. They are like your cool drink in the warm sunshine.

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    • Kristen, you always make me smile. Bringing pleasure to a reader is my goal, so you can count on me making time for writing! I read a lot not only for pleasure but also because it’s one of the keys to becoming a better writer. There’s so much to learn about the authors’ styles and their views of the world, which sharpen and broaden my own. I wrote a post on this over on Darla Writes http://www.darlawrites.com/reading-better-writer/

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  2. I have a lot of YA books on my list. Six series I read all came out with a book in the last six months or so. Hopefully, by the end of the summer I can get caught up on all of them! Next, I’m trying to work my way through the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. šŸ™‚

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  3. I love that you have an old copy of Black Beauty. What a treasure. I don’t anticipate reading much this summer, unfortunately. Gone are the days where I can laze around under the apple tree, sipping sweet tea and reading for pleasure. Any reading I get in will be books I read to my kids. Perhaps I will pick Black Beauty. šŸ™‚

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    • Oh, but I sure do miss the days of reading to my son. Those are some of the most precious times of my life. I read to him while he was in my womb. And I’ll never forget when he read “Are You My Mother” to me when he was about three years old! I cried, of course. But your tea-sipping days will return, my dear. Hang in there!

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  4. I’ve never read Black Beauty. I might have to add that to my list this summer since I plan to devote a good portion of this summer’s reading time to classics I’ve never read. Your copy is beautiful! I would love to have a book that old.

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    • Sounds like a great summer goal! I love to collect old books. You can find single copies or batches of them on eBay. I received Black Beauty as a gift from my sister who found it in a used book shop, another great place to find treasures. I do hope you give Black Beauty a try.

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