A few years ago, my husband surprised me with a three day beach weekend. It was much needed. What else was much needed was the reading time I'd lost due to school, work, and planning our wedding. On Wednesday, I packed the books I planned to bring, and on Thursday, I pulled all of the books back out. Why was it so hard to commit to Anna Karenina when I had three whole days to read it? Wasn't Homer's The Iliad a summery enough book to read with my feet in the sand? After staring at this stack of books for well over an hour, I drove to my local bookstore and asked the owner (a good friend with excellent taste) what to do. She handed over three books; The Vacationers by Emma Straub, The Rocks by Peter Nichols, and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. "These were some of my favorite beach reads," she said. "light but not fluff."
I planned to read one a day, and only read while I was on the beach, toes in the sand and the sun barreling down on me. It's not my natural state of being, but if you live in Florida, this is the way you're supposed to relax. Because I was saving these books as my literal beach reads, I also brought along The Martian by Andy Weir to read in the car. I'm not much of a Sci-Fi person, but everyone said it was quick and great for summer. Cut to two hours later, and I've given up on The Martian and started Beautiful Ruins. I loved it, and what was so mysterious and magical was that even though I'm not much of a beach person, it got me in the mood to run down to the beach and feel the cold water nibble at my feet as the hot sun scorched my skin.
I've been thinking a lot about that trip lately. Mostly because I want another vacation, but also because I realized that every summer, I gravitate towards the same books. It's always light reads, either a little romantic or funny, sometimes a mystery, but anything as long as it feels like a vacation. If I had to do some soul searching to figure out why things are this way, I'd guess it was because every summer since I can remember has been the vacation season. Even if I didn't go anywhere, I was still out of school or visiting my mom or a friend. Has my brain gotten so used to using the summer as its resting period that it looks for the easiest things possible? Maybe it's Pavlovian, who knows, but I just prefer to read lighter books around this time of year.
I'm not like this during any other time of year. In fact, if you handed me a beach read in December, I'd toss it on my bed and find a door stopper (like Anna Karenina). During the winter months, I crave a book that's at least 600-pages, filled to the brim with devastation, and loaded with words I have to google just to finish the sentence. I tend to have more patience during this time of year. The pressure to finish my goals has mostly dissipated (I either completed the goals or have given up) and I know January is basically my mental reset button. Is anyone else like this? I feel like this is common among readers, but I could be wrong. It just seems like what you do; it's cold and there's not much to do, so you curl up on the couch, swaddled in blankets, and read a hefty book. This one still has me stumped
As far as Autumn goes, it's the beginning of awards season. The National Book Award, The Man Booker, just to name a few. This is when I buy any of the books on the long list I don't already have and devour them before they announce the winner. It's become a fun challenge for me, predicting the winners every year. Autumn is the time I read all things high literary. I'm also programmed to have my brain turned on since school always started right before Fall. I also love to read nonfiction/memoir around this time. Another reason I think I like to read more literary works around this time is that I've given my brain a rest all summer. It's recharged and ready to think about the tough questions again. (Oh, and I also love to drink the Pumpkin Spice frap from Starbucks while the leaves turn orange. There's something about reading in that atmosphere that's just so delightful.)
Spring is Poetry. I feel more romantically inclined during that time of year. My rose-colored glasses are on and if I'm not taking time to smell the roses, it's only because I'm reading Maya Angelou, Ocean Vuong, Sylvia Plath. I read other things around this time, but poetry is definitely my main focus. I know a lot of friends who read romance novels around this time. I personally love reading family dramas in Spring. It's most likely because I associate springtime with such events as Easter, and since I grew up in the south, the family takes those holidays seriously. We sit in the pews at church and someone always says something they shouldn't while I chew on the body of Christ. I don't know many people who aren't from the south or at least privy to its traditions, so I'm not sure if the family gatherings around this time are only regional. What I do know is, any time I recommend a family drama to a friend around Easter, they come back a week later and say, "Remember the scene in that book where...happened? Well, I was sitting at the table and you'll never guess who did just that!"
I know reading is different for the individual, but I do think we share a pattern of what we read and when. It may not be seasonal. It was just something I've been considering for a while. But even if it isn't seasonal, it has something to do with our current reading rhythm or with what major books have just been released that we all happen to be excited for. And even then...doesn't the marketing team decide what time of year certain books perform better? Maybe I'm crazy (it's highly likely) but i'd love to know your thoughts. Do you read certain types of books at different times of year? Do you think it's seasonal, or something else?