The Seasonal Reader, or An Exercise in Pretentious Literary Navel Gazing

The seasons are continuing with their habits of shifting, gradually and carefully. I woke up earlier with David this morning, around 6:00, and was surprised to see how much darker it was than I expected. It’s lightening up now, just a bit before 7:00, but still. I’ve already heard the words ‘pumpkin spice latte’ floating around Seattle on cooler, crisper air, a foggier, dense air that almost smells like salt water. I’ve even heard my boss talk about the PSL, an annual homage to Starbucks’ most impressive ad campaign. Chunky knits and tights are starting to be collected, even if it’s not the right temperature. I bring sweaters with me now, and I’ve even busted out my denim jacket once or twice. Traces of all these things, as well as the required feelings about fall, are on blogs everywhere but I’m skipping right over all that nonsense.

When it starts to look like fall is going to make an appearance, I start my annual process of carefully deliberating what I think is going to be the best book to read in winter.

I take this pretty seriously, even if I’ve always been a bit unsuccessful. But books have themes to them, though, themes that are complemented by some seasons better than others. My sister and I have chatted about this before–first agreeing that Jane Austen goes perfectly with that transition of spring to summer, right when it feels right to bust out some iced tea and you can finally read outside.

Russian and German novels are pretty solid late January reads, when second winter hits Seattle and that fear that you’ll never feel the sun on your bare arms comfortably starts creeping around the back of your mind. January and February are the months I’m most likely to try for the umpteenth time to read Crime & Punishment. It’s when I’ve read These are neither Russian or German, but I think I read Shelley’s Frankenstein and also Stoker’s Dracula during Februaries. They had the right feel, but most British literature feels right to read when that drizzling, unrelenting fall rain starts soaking into everything.

It’s not just the weather but also the time of the year influences what I want to read, and I’m definitely still mentally on a school-based year system. When I think of fall I think of learning, of new experiences and books. I think of fresh starts, of new people to meet and teachers to listen to. Fall makes me want to learn new things and take a second look at whatever was catching my eye towards the end of summer. It’s like building a line up of tv shows, only with books. The idea is a bit of sampling platter, right, that tell you what you’re going to want to spend the most time on during winter. Winter, the season that requires the most careful planning, is the time of year I want to find books that I can sink my teeth into and really explore a new subject. Maybe a relevant non fiction to accompany my fiction, or sometimes predominately non fiction. Fall might be a bit of a grab bag, but somewhat carefully so, to properly set the tone for reading in my winter hibernation.

Spring I want to enjoy what I’m reading, like an minty aperitif after a heavy, satiating meal. I read the entirety of the Game of Thrones during a spring, right when I moved back to Bellingham after a year stay at home. It felt like this easy escape, structured enough for me to track easily but complicated and broad, with all these pieces that branch out of the different plots. It was right before the tv shows came out, so I was the tail end of the group of people who watched with their friends a bit haughtily, with that air of “I know what happens next”. It’s also the time of year I first started getting into collecting Animorphs, and the time of year I’m most likely inclined to reread the Ender series.

I do a lot of rereading during spring, and it builds up what I’m in the mood for during summer, which is when I usually try to knock back a couple books I’ve been procrastinating. I read Tess of D’urbervilles during summer, a new Murakami book I’ve been looking forward to, and a few choice pieces dealing with race, American culture, and a reflection on how our society interprets and fears love. Summer is my “oh yeah I wanted to read that” time, when I read David James Duncan’s The Brothers K after spending a winter with Dostoevsky. Somehow summer is almost always more American, too. I’ve spent this summer reading Normal Mailer essays, Tom Robbins and a British book centered around Kurt Vonnegut novels (which I definitely think counts). I’ve actually loved my summer reading list this year, and I’ve outlined a recap already, as well as a post for my fall lineup. For now, though, reassure me–tell me you’re a seasonal reader, too, shaped by the weather? Internal timeline of the year? Yes? Or maybe, I guess, if you even managed to get to the end of this incredibly navel gazing post, just tell me what you’re reading now and we’ll call it square.

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