Oh, the Weather Outside Is Irrelevant: A Guide to Bookish Meteorology

Since we’re thisclose to bidding another summer a nice farewell, I’ve been thinking about the weather. You know, that stuff that happens outside? Makes you uncomfortable, comes with bugs, that sort of thing?

And I know you’ve heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is fairly common, and it’s easy to understand how winter gets some folks down. Me, I love winter, but I’m allergic to the sun. Capable of burning, not just pinkening (while wearing sunscreen, mind you), in the time it takes to walk across a parking lot, I spend most of my time indoors in the summer, looking longingly at people’s photos of beach vacations and afternoon strolls. Not longingly enough to wear long sleeves, mind you, but they all seem to be having fun.

Needless to say, I spend most of my time indoors. There are no seasonal shifts in here. No drastic wardrobe changes. Just me, my yoga pants, and my bookshelves.

Because I’m nothing if not handy to have around for goofy theories and quirky advice, I’m here to share with you my foolproof way of knowing what the weather’s like; no, silly, it doesn’t involve opening the blinds or—gods forbid—any door that leads to the actual stuff. I just have to pay attention to the type of book I want to read the most.

Spring, the time of “rebirth” and “renewal” (read: pollen and sneezing), is the time of year when I enjoy reading psychology and memoirs, particularly those with mental illness as the theme. My last three springs have included books by Irvin Yalom (perhaps best known for Every Day Gets a Little Closer: A Twice-Told Therapy); Stacy Pershell’s Loud in the House of Myself, a memoir of her borderline personality disorder; and the divisive but certainly definitive feminist text, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muschio.

During the summer months, I almost invariable suffer a reading drought. I pick up fantasy and mythology the most, mostly big, sweeping stuff like the A Song of Ice and Fire series; Rick Riordan’s fun, fast-paced romps through Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology; and, just this month, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Then I get really tired from lifting heavy books and complain all throughout August that ALL THE BOOKS suck because it’s so hard to come back to reality from a spell of reading engrossing fantasy.

In the fall, the chill in the air makes my bones crave the same, so I gravitate toward the Gothic. I’ve been saving my last two Sarah Waters novels for this fall, and I’m sitting on a couple of review copies of books that come out in November until right before their release dates so I can properly enjoy them in a fall month, even if the South still insists on producing eighty-degree days (as it is often wont to do as late as Halloween). Still, Havisham by Ronald Frame and Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield will find themselves devoured in two big gulps when that (I hope) gloriously cooler month arrives. I’m due for re-reads of Great Expectations, Vanity Fair, and Jane Eyre, all of which will also happen in the fall.

Winter reading takes me on adventures. I first read Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld in winter months. I also crave truly cold climates when temperatures creep toward the sixty-degree mark or higher on Christmas, so I pick up novels like The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. And when it’s well and truly cold, in the past, I’ve headed for dystopias like The Uglies series, but I don’t see that happening this year as I’m a little dystopia-ed out at this point.

The fact that my fall paragraph is the longest confirms that it’s my favorite season. That I’ll likely find something new to gravitate to in place of dystopias tells me that perhaps winter is the season I’ve grown to associate most with possibility. Summer just sucks for me, and spring is close behind it.

I put all of this together by looking at my book journals from the past three years (since I couldn’t concentrate on actual reading or writing thanks to a summer cold), and I was a little surprised to discover there was an actual pattern; I thought at first I might have imagined it in my fever-addled brain haze.

What about you, readers? Do your reading habits change with the seasons?

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