By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Ah, summer.
I was thinking back to the golden days of yesteryear and what was on the agenda as soon as we heard those magical words: “Schools out!”
For me, the big four were spending time with friends, swimming (in nearby Lake Michigan, the Pere Marquette River at our place up north or at my grandparents’ resort at Lake Margrethe in Grayling, Mich.), staying up late and reading.
My friends and I would lounge on the almost-as-white-as-White-Sands sandy dunes of the Lake Michigan shore and devour all the Baby Boomer classics: Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Bobbsie Twins and Hardy Boys mysteries, and even some of the classics: “Heidi,” “Little Women,” “Treasure Island,” and “Tom Sawyer.” We shared vast stacks of comic books (now referred to as graphic novels in some circles). There was the popular line of “classics” comic books based on great literature, which mom and dad approved of because they correctly figured they would whet our appetites for the real thing, and my cousins’ sleazy romance comics, which did not delight our parents.
Not that there was any kind of censorship in our tribe. By the time I was a sixth-grader, I’d zipped through “Gone With the Wind,” James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” and potboilers like “Peyote Place” and “My Wicked, Wicked Ways,” Errol Flynn’s “uncensored autobiography.”
My parents’ attitude was that anything I was old enough to want to read and ask them questions about was okay. When I wanted to read “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and “Brave New World,” they helped me change the rules so that an 11-year-old could check out books from the “adult” sections of public and school libraries. This was back in a more innocent era, when an “adult” label was not synonymous with porn, but was meant to helpfully wrangle little kids to subjects more compatible with their interests and reading levels.
But as soon as I learned to read, I was unwilling to be wrangled. I still remember my profound sorrow when I realized that I could not possibly read every book in the world.
Those pangs have since been assuaged by years as a book reviewer, slogging through eight to 10 books a week in my prime, some of which I could’ve happily lived without encountering.
But I’ve never quite forgotten that summertime joy of discovering a great new author, hopefully a prolific one, who invites you into rich new worlds that you can revisit at many stages of your life.
I am thankful that the fanatic reading gene seems to be dominant in our family DNA.
Son Ryan and grandson Alexander the Great have shared — and sometimes introduced me to— some of the best summertime reading ever.
Ryan and I shared the enduringly entertaining and surprisingly spiritual fantasy novels loved of Madeleine L’Engle, whose “Wrinkle in Time” and other books have offered us clues for living in strange times. ( “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children,” she once noted.)
During vacations, I’ve shared Las Cruces Harry Potter marathons with Alex, who also got me hooked on the Stephenie Meyer “Twilight” series, long before the first movie hit the screen.
During our last vacation, we did all the things you would do in the outdoor summer paradise that is the Pacific Northwest. We communed with horses and wildlife, hiked, swam and fished. But we also packed books.
Ryan always has some exotic contribution — rocker biographies, maybe, or laugh-out-loud humorists, from Dave Barry to Graham Roumier’s definitive Sasquatch profile: “In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot,” a haunting account of the ravages of fame.
Summer reading is still my fave vacation activity, accessble to us all. What are you reading this summer?
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org