Summer equals reading list. Ugh. Right?
But I'm lucky. The only rule Aunt Mill laid down is that I have to be reading something and it has to be something that (according to her) isn't completely idiotic.
Aunt Mill's apartment in Paris, where I'm currently in exile, is book heaven. Her bookcases are stuffed. There are books under the couch, filling the fireplace, stacked like stalagmites in the corners. Nothing to eat here most of the time, but you can always find a book.
The other Aunt Mill rule, unstated really, is that I don't have to finish. If I read a page or even a hundred pages and I don't want to go on, I just put the book down. No disapproving frowns. No book report required.
Of course when Aunt Mill comes home, she likes to talk about books (no big surprise since she owns half the books on the planet) and she's almost always read every book that I'm reading or another one by the same author. It's actually really fun to talk to her about what I'm reading. She's always very enthusiastic. She sees things in books that I miss completely. Lots of times, when I'm about to give up on a book, she'll go on about it in such a foam of passion that I want to rush away from the table and go back to reading.
But, okay, what books specifically?
If I wanted to be smarmy I could say A Distant Mirror (Barbara Tuckman) Collapse (Jared Diamond) and The Structures of Everyday Life (Fernand Braudel) and it would be true, if you count reading half a page of each as reading them. Someday I'll go back. Promise.
Truth be told, I'm a big re-reader. I've re-read Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson) Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) To Kill A Mocking Bird (Harper Lee) and I started in on 1984 again (George Orwell) after Aunt Mill told me he worked in Paris in the kitchen at the George V Hotel and wrote this great essay called Hotel Kitchen which she said she had in some collection of his essays which I have yet to locate in the wild forest of her books.
While traipsing through the forest, however, I have discovered a few books that I never would have looked at but really love, like Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire (Amanda Foreman) Speak Memory (Vladimir Nabokov) and Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). Admittedly I picked up Pride and Prejudice because Aunt Mill's copy had a picture on the cover of an absolutely beautiful lady in an old-timey dress, back when they wore prom dresses everyday of the week, and a pink little nose, and a headful of massive blond curls. Then, of course, inside was Jane Austen, who writes exactly like the beautiful lady on the cover.
As for newer books, considering my interests, it won't surprise you that on my list are Caveat Emptor (Ken Perenyi) about art forgery, False Impressions (Thomas Hoving) also about art forgery, and, Museum of the Missing (Simon Houpt) about stolen art. See the pattern? I also love Paris, when I'm not hating on it, so I'm reading Marie Antoinette (Antonia Fraser), Seven Ages of Paris (Alistair Horne) and Parisians (Graham Robb). I tend to read three or four books at a time, or more, so I'm about half way through all three of those.
Of course I also have The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley) standing by, just in case, and which I mention so you won't think I'm an absolutely gone, looney-tunes, bookish nerdette. But that is the actual cool thing about a summer reading list. Books are fun to talk about if you feel like talking to someone, and at the same time, you can read about anything you like and you don't have to tell anyone about it. Only you and the book will know.