It’s summer! Long, leisurely hot days divided between the lush outdoors and the domestic indoors. This is the summer of Covid-19, so we will not camp on the shores of Lake Superior, travel to Pompeii, or explore a national park. But we will still have a shopping bag with books by the kitchen door, so we can riffle through it and grab a book for outside. The odd thing is that my taste hasn’t changed much: I spent a summer lugging around The Complete Jane Austen (Modern Library) when I was so young I could barely carry it. Nowadays, I prefer to carry an individual copy.
Books get so tattered on the go that I recommend cheap books to stuff in your purse or book bag. But as you see I break my rule with the first book on the list, which happens to be new, but is very short and light.
A LONG ESSAY. I loved Coffee by Dinah Lenney, a charming little book in the Object Lessons series, published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic. Lenney, a writer and former actress, is a coffee connoisseur. She is so authoritative on the art of making coffee that she “was suddenly having trouble letting anyone else make the coffee.” In this gorgeous essay, she describes her own experiences with coffee, that of her friends and family, compares the coffee culture in the U.S. to the more casual cups of coffee in France. She also interviews experts on the history of coffee and the new artisan coffees. A perfect gift book!
THE CHEAPEST OF THE CHEAP. Summer is a good time to catch up with the classics, but you don’t want to compromise your nice copies when you’re on the go. Opt for the Wordsworth editions! Though the covers are rather strange and inappropriate–and I prefer the ’70s blue cover of The Professor to the 2012 black cover of Mary Barton— they are cheap and sturdy–under $5. You can pack them with your lunch and they’ll still survive.
BEAUTIFUL INEXPENSIVE BOOKS. Everyone adores Elizabeth Gaskell’s short novel Cranford, and Pride and Prejudice is the favorite of many Janeites. A used copy of theattractive Vintage edition iof Cranford starts at $4.50, and the colorful Modern Library paperback of P&P is $8 new.
OLD FAVORITES. On the left is Mary Wilkins Freeman’s stunning collection of stories (which I wrote about here), on the right are two mysteries,and you can’t go wrong with Simenon and Michael Innes. Be cheap! Support used books!
Any suggestions for summer to-go books? And do you prefer any particular publishers for outdoors reading?