Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What's Your Idea Of A Great Summer Read?

For me, summer is the best time to book binge. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here.) THE best time. I mean, think about it. If you're in school, either high school or college, you've just hit your biggest breather all year. Sure, you might get a job, but now is the time that you get to read what you want, not what some teacher or professor says you must. And if you're adult, this is the seasons of summer vacations and weekends at the beach. PERFECT for diving into a book.

It seems like everyone has their idea of what a great summer read is. Usually it's light and fluffy, or, if it's a bit more complicated, at least it's not so complicated that you get a headache. For example, my attempt to read Dune for the first time while at the beach was a baaaad choice. A great summer read often involves swoontastic romance or exhilirating adventure. Other people seem to have it in their heads that, especially for kids, summer reads should be "educational," preferably classics.

I may not have a precise definition, but I know what it is NOT. You know what it's not? The crap my store is offering.

Yep, I said it.

My store has a huge display of summer reads broken down by age groups - elementary, middle, and high school. The elementary and middle school books are actually pretty good. They mix in classics like Chocolate Fever and James and the Giant Peach with Rick Riordan books and The Name of This Book Is Secret (my gosh, I love Pseudonymous Bosch books).

But look at what they offer for high schools (aka, YA readers):

- The Outsiders and That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton (Depressing, but a classic.)
- That Summer, Someone Like You, Just Listen, Lock and Key, Along for the Ride, and The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (Appropriately beachy.)
- Looking For Alaska by John Green (Never read it, but it's like YA Kerouac, right? Okay.)
- Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar (Technically a better fall read, but okay.)
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Okay, this one can stay.)
- Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper (Car accidents and suicide - fun stuff.)
- It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzinni (A book about depression, but at least it's newer.)
- Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (Who the heck wants to read about "the horrors of addiction" on summer break?!)
- Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
- Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman (New, but has a winter cover.)
- Willow by Julia Hoban (ANOTHER car crash!)
- Eon by Alison Goodman (Fantasy where a girl is disguised as a boy?... Okay, I'll allow that.)
- Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Scary adventure and it's on my to-read list, that passes.)
- Something Like Fate by Susan Colasanti (Also okay.)
- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (This one would pass if it didn't come off as such an OBVIOUS cheap grab for attention by the bookstore. I mean, title sound familiar?)

In the parentheses are my thoughts on the books. I didn't say anything about Life of Pi, because it sounds weird enough that it might be okay, but I'm not sure. As for Austen, Hawthorne, and Shakespeare (and possible Hinton, for that matter), while I'm okay with reading "educational" books during the summer, who wants to read a book that you know they're going to make you read again for class anyways? Summer is supposed to be FUN!!

I think we can do better. My store's choices are middling at best. Granted, we only shelve what corporate tells us to but still. So I ask you, what's your idea of a great summer read?


Next week, I'll share what I would put on that shelf if I had free rein, but I want to hear your answers first. What do you think of as a great summer read, and what books would YOU shelve if given the chance? Also, what do you think of my store's list? Is it as bad as I think?

UPDATE: Our new and improved list is up here. If you have any more suggestions, continue to comment and I'll add them!