A warm summer breeze taps the wind chimes, signaling us to visit the books that have been waiting patiently on our shelves for this moment to arrive. As an avid reader, I don’t always need a seasonal signal to allow me to shift gears. Books and food have an egalitarian relationship in my world; I can’t live without either.
I am, however, understanding of those whose academic calendars and professional demands don’t always allow them to set aside time for their heavy tomes—that is, until summer presents its permission slip. Whether it’s two weeks on a vineyard beach or a rainy stay in London, everyone can get lost between the covers of a book, for a book lets the daylight signal the hours and the subtle winds turn its pages.
One of my most vivid book memories began atop a lifeguard chair. With my book in hand, a bag of carrot chips and sitting high above the fray, I marveled at the exquisite sunset and the perfect view of the ocean.
When I opened my iconic novel, “Jaws,” a sudden gust of wind blew off this young teen, reading in a backless chair. When the blast hit me, I somersaulted backward, landing in the sand. And although the impact fractured my lower vertebrae, my main concern was my book. After barely catching my breath, I managed to ask, “Where’s my book? Where’s my book?” Ah, the priorities of a reader!
Here are what fellow bibliophiles have to say about what they’re reading and the books that had a lasting impact on them.
Anita Diamant, Author of “The Boston Girl” and “The Red Tent”
Current and future reads: “‘The Book of Separation’ by Tova Mirvis. I’m about to revisit Mary Oliver’s ‘Why I Wake Early.’”
Most impactful book: “I read a lot of poetry.”
Lisa Gozashti, Co-Owner and Co-Manager of Brookline Booksmith
Current and future reads: “I just finished Clarice Lispector’s ‘Agua Viva,’ which is amazing! Currently I am reading Darcey Steinke’s ‘Flash Count Diary,’ a tour de force. I was just thinking today that I wish I could read Martin Buber’s ‘I and Thou’ again. It’s so good, revelatory and timeless.”
Most impactful book: “Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ is the book that has exerted the most influence upon my life. My mom read it to me when I was a child. When I rediscovered it as a teenager, I knew I would spend the rest of my life studying literature.”
Jane Sutton, Author of “Paulie’s Passover Predicament”
Current and future reads: “’Educated’ by Tara Westover.”
Most impactful book: “’George and Martha,’ written and illustrated by James Marshall. The spare stories are sweet and funny and model how to be a good friend. The lovable eponymous hippos are well-drawn in text and art, with the slightest change in the placement of their tiny eyes revealing emotion. The whole series makes me happy.”
Dara Horn, Author of “Eternal Life”
Most impactful book: “In a class I just finished teaching at a summer institute for Jewish high school students, I introduced students to one of the now-classic books that inspired me to become a novelist: ‘Mr. Mani’ by the Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua. Published in 1989, it’s the story of five generations of a Sephardi family in Jerusalem—a family with a recurring suicidal gene. The most amazing thing about the book is its structure. Yehoshua tells the family’s story backward, beginning in the 1980s and moving back in time to the 19th century, through conversations between people who have had some passing encounter with one of the book’s five generations of Mr. Mani’s. The book is almost like a tell, an archaeological mound where the uppermost layer is the present, and you keep tunneling down through different layers of history until you finally reach the source. I highly recommend it!”
Joyce Kauffman, Kauffman Law and Mediation
Current and future reads: “’Noonday Demon’ by Andrew Solomon.”
Most impactful book: “’Doctor Zhivago.’ I read it when I was very, very young and it was probably the first adult book I’d read. The intensity of the emotions stays with me; I remember watching the movie and being moved to tears.”
Meredith Talbot, M.D., Physician
Current and future reads: “’All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf’ by Katharine Smyth and ‘Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love’ by Dani Shapiro.”
Most impactful book: “My favorite book from childhood is ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ by Katherine Paterson, which tells a powerful story of friendship and loss. Two of my favorite books are Toni Morrison’s ‘Song of Solomon’ and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’”
Barbara Nezer, Ph.D., Retired Educator
Most impactful book: “I remember the Nancy Drew series when I was a young reader. She was young and was always involved in solving mysteries. I read every book. I think I liked the fact that she was a girl who was inquisitive, strong and smart. A good role model!”
Erin Cantor, College Student
Current and future reads: “‘The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator’s Creative Breakthrough’ by Hope and Wade King. I am hoping it will give me some ideas as a future teacher! I wish I had time to read ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama.”
Linda Rossman, Reference Librarian
Current and future reads: “’Beneath a Scarlet Sky’” by Mark T. Sullivan.”
Michael Kanter, Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Cambridge Naturals
Current and future reads: “Articles and magazines speaking to the issues of our climate crisis, abuse of refugees, excessive income, wealth inequality and the like.”
Rita Fireman, Resident of NewBridge on the Charles
Most impactful book: “Barack Obama’s book, ‘Dreams From My Father.’ I bonded with his experience, even though I am a white person. It gave me a window into his life. I read it in rehab after I broke my hip. I was crying when the nurse came into the room. She thought I was depressed and contacted the social worker to come see me. But I was so moved by his experience when reading the book that my emotions were so close to the surface and I burst into tears.”
My childhood was all about walking and bicycling to and from the libraries. My summer nights were spent reading voraciously. Books, over the years, are like photo imprints of what I read, marking what was happening in my life—from childhood through adulthood.
When I lost my sight and hearing completely in the year 2000, I forced myself to learn braille. It was after reading Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” in braille that I knew I was able to read books again, and my list grew, as did my pleasure of reading. Giving up the printed books, The New York Times subscription and the visual world altogether was a metamorphosis worth its time. I was grateful for the authors who wrote with great detail as it offered me “visuals.”
After suffering for 14 months from the complications that accompanied my blindness and deafness (it was 2001 that I received a cochlear implant in one ear), the book that provided the most profound impact on my life was when I re-read, in braille, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” That’s when the isolation began to subside. Anne described how she could only see the sliver of light from the attic window. It was then that I realized I could have a life and break out of my isolation by opening my own window—and reaching out to the world.
Find your reading list, fetch your favorite snack and grab that chair—keep books alive!
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