Summer 2021: How to Stop Time

Monday, September 13, 2021

It was one of those mornings in Georgia where something about the light and the air makes you think it's chilly out and you'll need to put on a sweater. But alas, it's in the 80s today -- and likely will be into October. Nevertheless, I made both Joe and me pumpkin spice coffees this morning to feel just a hint of the fall we're not yet experiencing. 

It's not secret that I love to read. And while I love to read all year long, there's something particularly special about summer reading. Because I had Hank in June, I didn't get to read as many books this summer as I usually do, but I still got a decent amount of reading done, and for that I am grateful. 

As we close out summer reading for 2021 and look towards fall, here is sample of books I read this summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with some of my favorite quotes from each. I'd love to know if you read any of these or if you plan to! 

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig 

"Never underestimate the big importance of small things," Mrs. Elm said. "You must always remember that." 

We don't have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

His favourite moment, even more than the sweets shop and the single large jawbreaker she would occasionally buy for him, was the chance to look at the children's books at the library and find something new to borrow. Because -- and he still did not understand how people like his brothers could not see this -- inside the pages of each and every book was a whole other world.

"We love Jane Austen because her characters, as sparkling as they are, are no better and no worse than us. They're so eminently, so completely, human. I, for one, find it greatly consoling that she had us all figured out." 

"And that's exactly what Austen gives us. A world so part of our own, yet so separate, that entering it is like some kind of tonic. Even with so many flawed and even silly characters, it all makes sense in the end. It may be the most sense we'll ever get to make out of our own messed-up world."

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

If it were up to me, every child would have a year in the library before they went to school. Not just to read, but to roam. To befriend a librarian. To bash their fingers against the computers and to turn the pages of a book while making up a story from their superior little imaginations. How lucky the world would be if every child could do that.

The Switch by Beth O'Leary

"Whereas dating, dating is full of hope. In fact, dating is really one long, painful exercise in discovering how disappointing other humans are." 

She looks expectantly at me, but I haven't a clue what I'm meant to talk about. It's easy talking to Grandma, she's Grandma, but actually I don't really know what chitchat with elderly people entails otherwise. (<- If you know me, you get why I love this.)

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

I should also say, in case it needs saying: I don't know for sure that the words I write were the words that were actually spoken. They probably weren't. But this is how I remember these things, and all we can ever be is faithful to our memories of reality, rather than the reality itself, which is something closely related but never precisely the thing.

I loved her instantly. Of course, most parents love their children instantly. But I mention it here because I still find it a remarkable thing. Where was that love before? Where did you acquire it from? The way it is suddenly there, total and complete, as sudden as grief, but in reverse, is one of the wonders about being human.

It is a popular modern idea. That the inner us is a something different to the outer us. That there is an authentic realer and better and richer version of ourselves which we can only tap into by buying a solution. This idea that we are separate from our nature, as separate as a bottle of Dior perfume is from the plants of a forest. As far as I can see, this is a problem with living in the twenty-first century. Many of us have every material thing we need, so the job of marketing is now to tie the economy to our emotions, to make us feel like we need more by making us want things we never needed, to feel poorly travelled if we have been to only ten other countries, to feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren't photoshopped and filtered.

Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don't expect, I feel civilisation has become a little safer.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

When you think about it, isn't a person just a structure built in reaction to the landscape and the weather?

Occasionally, though, the worst version of someone was the actual version of someone, but it was difficult to know if one was in that situation until after the fact.

"Because the things we don't have are sadder than the things we have. Because the things we don't have exist in our imaginations, where they are perfect." 

... I am a person with an interior world you know nothing about.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

After all, the only way to absolutely ensure things will go badly is to be late.

Margarettown by Gabrielle Zevin

And isn't love just curiosity at the beginning anyway? What makes a person keep reading a book? First sentence? Not bad. Chapter one? All right. By the time you're almost at three, why not keep reading? 

"I could listen to this song the rest of my life," she said. "Every time I hear it, it's different somehow." 
"Or maybe you're different?" I suggested. 

In life, Jane reflected, the most interesting things tend to happen when you are on your way to do something else.

My picks of the summer:

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Just a beautiful, beautiful read.) 

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (No one writes a character like Gabrielle Zevin!) 

The Switch by Beth O'Leary (A fast, fun, happy read.)

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (A great young adult book. Read if you want to cry!) 

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry Prizant (A must-read if you are close to someone with autism.) 

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore (An intriguing concept, executed brilliantly.) 

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (A great pick for lovers of history and thrillers.) 

One by One by Ruth Ware (Another great one by the prolific Ware.) 

See my Summer 2016, Summer 2017, and Summer 2020 lists. And remember, you can always find an ongoing list of all my book recommendations here and here

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