The temperature is hitting in the low 90s here in Vermont, and much of the country is also suffering from the first wave of hot summer weather. People stream into the bookstore and the first thing everyone says, “Oh, it’s so nice and cool in here.” Most folks in my neck of the woods don’t have central air-conditioning, so a store that’s 25 degrees cooler than the parking lot is a good, good thing. People seek a different kind of book during a warm stretch and come in with specific things in mind to help them beat the heat.
Generally, the first thing people seek are books that “are easy to get into” and “page-turners.” Clearly, the summer heat has effected the brain of the average reader. It’s like the reading experience is as short as the season, so every book must be a winner. Or, maybe everyone only has room for one book in their beach bag and they want a good story. Even the kids say the same thing. Except they cut right to the chase. “I want something fun to read.” They have no judgment about what they need, they just know they want a pleasing book.
So, this got me thinking about when I was a kid and what was fun for me to read during the long hazy days of summer. I was one of those kids who skipped the middle grade section and went right for the adult horror books. Stephen King, Peter Straub and Mary Higgins Clark were hugely popular with me. I think one of the reasons I only read horror books in the summer was because it was light so much longer, so there was less chance of reading a truly scary part of a book in the dark of night. Some kids like to be scared these days, and honestly, with some dystopian novels being serious nightmare fodder, kids don’t really seek out horror books.
It seems a lot of kids this summer are coming in wanting funny or realistic books that aren’t sad, The Fault in Our Stars being a notable exception. I love that kids are not leaving the middle grade section too soon. They are craving stories that mirror their lives. This might explain the popularity of the Middle School series by James Patterson with various co-authors, including Vermont’s own Chris Tebbetts. These books, like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, offer up a humorous take on the very challenging middle school time. What’s good about these is they shows the challenges of those hard years with accessible characters who make it all seem okay. Mostly, because none of the character’s exploits are actually happening to the reader.
There is something delightful about a mystery in the summer. You have time to unravel the plot and guess who might be guilty of the crime. The Westing Game is always a popular favorite. The Great Brain series is old-fashioned fun, and believe it or not, there are still lots of kids who haven’t read Holes yet. The newest addition to the mystery section is Varian Johnson’s The Great Greens Heist which is just flying off the shelves. It’s also funny to me that the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books surge in popularity this time of year.
So, readers, what do you gravitate towards in the summer? And, booksellers, what books are you recommending this summer?