Sunday Salon: Seasonal Reading
Listening to one of the recent episodes of the Readers Book Based Banter podcast got me thinking about my own reading habits. The co-hosts for the show were chatting about whether the type of books they read changes with the seasons. Simon’s interests get darker as the evenings draw in apparently —so lots more of the big Victorian classics it seems are on his horizons as we go into Autumn and Winter.
This isn’t something I’ve ever thought about before. I do make mental lists of books I want to read in the few months ahead but I’m not conscious that I choose them based on the season.
Only recently we were seeing promotions for ‘the perfect summer book’ and ‘summer reading recommendations’ but it’s a concept I’ve never really understood. What does that phrase ‘a summer book’ mean anyway? Something that is set during a summer period for instance or does it denote a particular subject matter or something that is light and frothy so you can read it on a sun lounger with eyes half closed?.
My reading habits don’t really change through the year – I read what I feel like reading at the time, regardless of what the calendar says or the thermometer. So if I feel like reading a novel set at Christmas but the sun is shining and officially it is summer, then I’ll read it rather than save it up for later in the year.
But my current reading experience has shown that there are times when reading within the season has its advantage. By absolute co-incidence I just happen to be reading a novel that couldn’t be more closely matched to this time of the year – it’s Harvest by Jim Crace (shorlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize). It’s a wonderful evocation of country life sometime before the industrial revolution, marking the cycle of growing, reaping and sowing. Right now that cycle is also in evidence in the lanes around my home with farm vehicles of all description brought into service as the farmers gather in the last of this year’s crops. A delightful confluence of fiction and reality. I might not change my reading habits radically as a result but just enjoy it when it does.
What about your reading habits —do you read different books depending on the season? Did you have a summer reading summer plan – if so, on what basis did you choose the books?
PS: If you want to hear the Book Based Banter discussion, it’s episode 82 – you can download via ITunes or the webpage – http://bookbasedbanter.co.uk/thereaders/
18 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Seasonal Reading”
I don’t generally choose books for the season, but I will admit I’d find it odd to read a whole book set at Christmas at another time of year. As for summer or holiday reads, people vary so much in what they consider that to be. I don’t change that much from my usual fare but some people seem to turn to lighter books for holiday while others choose the big or dense books they otherwise would never have the time to get through. Like your experience with Harvest, it can be nice when a book exactly correlates to the season/weather/setting I am in, but I definitely wouldn’t want to always follow that. The whole point of reading for me is to broaden experience!
The only seasonal reading I do is September and October for the RIP challenge. I get my fill of spooky and atmospheric and the occasional ghost. Then the rest of the year it’s whatever strikes my fancy.
My reading has always been seasonal simply because come September I’ve had my reading controlled by what I’ve need for work. Usually that’s meant at least some classical fiction be that for adults or children. Consequently, I do see Summer as a time when I read rather differently if only because it is the time when I get to choose what I read. I must get round to reading ‘Harvest’. I keep bumping into Jim Crace’s partner round the University and I have to be able to say congratulations as if I know what I’m talking about should it win:)
if you were not tied into that cycle and could follow your natural instincts do you think you would be reading in a different way? Harvest is well worth reading by the way
I thought about this a little after listening to the podcast, too…and I don’t think I’m much of a seasonal reader, though I do appreciate it when a book aligns with a setting I’m in. This weekend I took a nice getaway and thought it might be a good quiet time to get pulled into some great literary fiction…but I ended up getting totally sucked into a non-fiction book I brought – go figure!
I love The Readers. I often find myself talking back even though they can’t hear me! (sad). I don’t deliberately read certain books at certain times of year BUT, like Simon, the big historical tomes or classics do seem so much more attractive when the weather gets chillier. I suppose logically the more time spent indoors the more time I spend reading and…well, Dickens just doesn’t have the same atmospheric pull when you’re eating icecream or mooching along a beach.
I listen to the episodes in the car which does make it difficult to take notes on the names of books I like the sound of. I see the logic of reading Dickens in the winter when you may be confined to home for more time ..
I get a kick out of seasonal reading. That’s why I hosted a New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge and a Back to School Reading Challenge in the last year. The first for books to support resolutions, projects, or goals and the second for learning something new from books.
I also like seasonality in my fiction when I can pull it off. For a few years in the 90s, romance novels included a lot of seasonal books, but the publishers don’t seem to be as committed to it now. I’ll read more serious or classic novels in the back to school time period and usually aim for something light and exotic at least a few times in the summer.
I also occasionally like to do something completely off season. I can get myself out of winter doldrums by reading a fun book set in the Caribbean or Hawaii.
The idea of immersing myself in sunshine when the weather outside is definitely chilly has its attractions.
I often find my reading taking on a darker tone as the weather becomes darker and colder but then they are genres I like to read all year round.
i’m going to have to try and monitor what I read to see if my instinct is right and I don’t change according to the season. I’m not conscious of it if I do change and adapt
I read what appeals to me, not necessarily for the season. Although I must admit that beach books are more appropriate for the summer…and maybe I’ll read more of them then.
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Hi Laurel, I suppose my issue is that I don’;t do beach holidays or poolside holidays either so those kinds of books never really occur to me to read
How interesting. I’ve never chosen books by season and I never could understand the whole idea of “summer reading” either! I guess the assumption is that people are in holiday mode during the summer months, and prefer books that are light and breezy. I like my books “heavy” throughout the year, though will read something light in between as a break.
Thanks for the link to the podcast – it had never occurred to me that there might be book chat programs!
There are lots of good podcasts on book themes Cecilia. if you go to ITunes store and look for ‘arts’ and then literature you should find plenty. One of my favourites is the Guardian book podcast
I think like you I don’t consciously save books for a certain season although I do like to read A Christmas Carol each year (at Christmas)
Now that might be the exception Cleopatra. its probably as much a part of the festive season as watching It’s a Wonderful Life
Too true – there are some things that are tradition!