Baumgartner Vaughan: Summer reading all year

Jul. 05, 2014 @ 05:57 PM

Summer reading. It’s not just for kids. Sure, children are encouraged to keep up their literary skills when school’s out, and frequent visits to the library for programs, or reading books at home, are a great way to do that. But summer reading is also something adults do because it seems like we have more free time in the summer.
People go on vacation during the summer. The sun stays up later during the summer. Things seem to move a bit slower in the summer heat. So we like the idea of having a book nearby to read, to pass the time, to escape, to explore, to learn.
If you read our Books section, which is in every Sunday paper, you may have noticed that this summer my colleague Cliff Bellamy and I have been rolling out more reviews than usual. In past years, we’ve published a summer reading guide in one section at the beginning of the summer. This summer we decided to read as many books as we could, and publish our reviews throughout the season. This way you get a steady diet of literary suggestions. My own reviews so far this summer have been “A Long Time Gone” by Karen White, “Looking for Me” by Beth Hoffman, and the first two books in a South Carolina-set lowcountry trilogy – “The Summer Girls” and “The Summer Wind” by Mary Alice Monroe.  I’ve reviewed White and Monroe over the past few years, and know and enjoy their work. Most of their novels come out during the summer months. It’s a busy writing schedule for them, but a nice expectation for readers to know they’ll get a new book every June or so.
As soon as I finish one book, I write the review and wait a few days before beginning the next one. I let the last book clear out of my mind, as I lived with those characters for weeks and have to mentally move on. Sometimes that’s hard, because you miss characters you’ve grown to know and love. Right now I’m reading the debut novel of Laura Lane McNeal, called “Dollbaby.” It’s set in New Orleans, and begins the week that the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, 50 years ago. It’s about the South and race and culture and history and family, things that many write about, but not all successfully. I love it and don’t want to leave the characters yet. But I will soon, and my review will appear in next Sunday’s Books section. The timing for that review isn’t just to offer a summer reading choice, but to also let you know she’ll be coming here on her book tour. We have some great local bookstores that regularly host authors, including The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill and McIntyre’s Fine Books in Pittsboro. McNeal will be reading from “Dollbaby” at Flyleaf on July 15.
If you enjoy “summer reading,” don’t stop when fall arrives. There is always time to read, even if for only a few minutes at the end of a long day.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at or 919-419-6563. Follow on Twitter: @dawnbvaughan.