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What exactly is a summer read?

While many of us edge closer to our weeks abroad for the summer, hoping to gain not only some well earned sunshine but some peace from the pandemonium of london life and working too, magazine after magazine begin to emerge with the ideal ‘summer reading list’. Though the question is nowadays, which books are actually a summer read?

From a personal point, and as a student, the term ‘summer read’ usually means I can finally read my own books of choice, ones that aren’t my courses reading list. No matter the genre.

The general belief is that they’re an ‘easy read’ something short and enjoyable without demanding too much concentration, and with the term easy read comes the attachments to the genres Chick-Lit, Young Adult and Comedy. The common belief is that a summer read is time away from intellectually challenging novels, novels of a genre mystifyingly deemed more serious or important. However, doesn’t this seem to degrade the other genres? Genre’s that are constantly topping the New York Times best-sellers list? And not just during the months of summer. They may not be contenders for the Booker Prize, but does that necessarily mean they’re not as important?

The last time I checked, anyone who reads in their spare time reads for enjoyment, and usually any book that engages you – no matter the genre – is an easy read. When fully invested, you’re just as likely to binge read a 500 page crime thriller than a short contemporary romance, and finish it just as quickly. 

 

Airport bookstores are constantly packed with Sophie Kinsella, Rainbow Rowell and John Green novels, as if wanting to read about romance and friendship is only suitable when lounging on the beach and hoping for a tan. I’m not sure about you, but when picking my ‘holiday reads’ I seldom consider – if ever - which book will take the least amount of concentration. Besides, if you’re not fully concentrating when reading any novel, is it really something you actually enjoy reading?

Surely many avid readers simply pick out of the stack what they’ve been meaning to read in their spare time since they purchased the book? This whole pretentious notion that if a novel isn’t a highly articulate work of literature and isn’t the size of a bible means that it doesn’t count as ‘real literature’, and therefor can only be read in the summer when you supposedly only pay half attention to it, is slightly perplexing. Pleasure reading is supposed to be relaxing, not like being forced to read in a class room where you must over analyse and debate what significant meaning a blue sky should have in a particular scene.

Though they are arguably some poorly written novels out there, that some may think require you to be semi-conscious to get through, why should this necessarily speak for an entire genre? And what I may find to be a poorly written piece of work will be another reader’s Holy Bible. That’s the beauty of literature in general, a single sentence can be interpreted a million different ways to a million different people. And diminishing that love for a novel by labelling it as an ‘easy summer read’ seems to be unnecessary, especially when an author invests their time in it.

For when you read, you don’t just look for escapism, or to explore important political and social issues, you also hunger for a protagonist that you can identify and sympathise with. A protagonist with personality traits and a personal story that you makes you feel a little less alone, because when we really can’t connect with a book, it’s usually down to not connecting with the author’s protagonist. 

Posted in Blog by Carmen Jimenez