Wednesday, June 27, 2012

10 *FREE* Summer Reads

The Millions
As a writer, one of my recurring doubts is whether the world really needs any more books written. There are already millions to choose from--more than any person could read in a lifetime--and more being put out there every day. Even supposing yourself a picky reader--only liking certain genres, only liking book covers with women in long gowns with long hair, hating authors who use certain words, and so on--I imagine there are still hundreds of thousands of books you might choose from. No need to be a lemming and choose your books from today's bestseller lists. Be a historical lemming, and pick a past bestseller. Two reasons:
  1. Any of the book's popularity that stemmed from contemporary trendiness or other unworthy reasons has long since faded away, so, if it's still famous, there must be a reason; and, 
  2. Most old books can be gotten for cheap or free. If you have an e-reader, all classics are at your disposal, and, if you have a library card these are usually available with no waits, and sometimes also as library ebooks. If the book was a runaway bestseller, the local Goodwill often has several copies for the negligible price of $0.25-$1.00.
I got the idea for this post because I picked up a current bestseller from the library, a historical fiction book set before WWI (no need to name names because, thanks to Google, authors always find out and get ticked). After hitting my first jarring, I-don't-think-that-would-have-happened-then-if-ever moment, I abandoned it, thinking, "Why would I read a book re-creating this era when I could read something written in this era--namely, Edith Wharton?"

I have this same argument with my children when I see them reading American Girl books when they could be reading Laura Ingalls Wilder or Caddie Woodlawn or Betsy-Tacy or L. M. Montgomery. No need to read historical fiction if you can read fiction that is--er--historical. Of course, this doesn't work for every era (I'm looking at you, Middle Ages), but it works for many.

Therefore, in the spirit of historical truth and very-current tightwadishness, I give you 10 FREE Summer Reads. (Small print: I define summer reads as ones that don't require lots of brainpower to understand and which end relatively happily.) Download 'em now!

(1) The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton. Just devoured this one and left this review on Goodreads. A penniless couple living off rich society friends finds the price of their lifestyle might be too high for love. Wharton is always great for a summer read--the trick is not picking one of her tragic books, of which there are way too many.

(2) Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. Yes, it was written in the 17th century, but the (mis)adventures of this adventurous woman make for always interesting, sometimes titillating entertainment. 

Julie Christie as Bathsheba
(3) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Compared to his other novels, this one is a frolic. I promise you--everyone does not die! Sheep-shearing, 19th-century valentines, and a character named Bathsheba Everdene--what more could you ask for?

(4) Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. Recommended to those who love to immerse themselves in a place and time and really, really get to know and love a set of characters. It's Middlemarch-lite, right down to the doctor whose profession allows him to cross social boundaries. Warning: W&D is unfinished because Gaskell died(!), but it's pretty much tied up, and how fun to write the last scene in your head!

(5) The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. If this summer holds only a staycation for you, join Twain's "pilgrims" on a trip to Europe and the Holy Land. He skewers both the tourists and the toured and provides many grins and a few belly-laughs along the way. (Note: if you hold political correctness near and dear, this may not be the book for you.)

(6) Barchester Towers  by Anthony Trollope. I know, I know. I've recommended this before. But the clerical doings in a cathedral town are so fun and funny that I must try again. I can't seem to convince my book club, either.

(7) Room with a View by E. M. Forster. A delightful novel for lovers of Florence and one of my favorite movie adaptations. Who could resist a heroine named Lucy Honeychurch? I confess I owned the movie tie-in copy. Read with Kiri Te Kanawa in the background.

(8) Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. Yes, it's thick (not that you can tell on your e-reader), but it's also endlessly entertaining, and the wily and grasping Becky Sharp will appeal to anyone who dislikes the insipid heroines found in, say, Dickens.

(9) The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. While I'm not a lover of short stories, I know some of you are. Rich 14th century Florentines skip town to escape the Black Death and entertain each other with stories, some funny, some sexy, some informative.

(10) The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. Lud, sink me, if this book isn't loads of fun! The Reign of Terror, an unhappy wife, a secret agent. Good stuff, with only a fraction of A Tale of Two Cities' melodrama.

You're welcome.

With all the money you just saved on books, you can treat yourself to the new Spider-Man, and just maybe not have to sneak your own concessions in!

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