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Bookish Confession: Seasonal Reading

Rachel Manwill

Staff Writer

Rachel Manwill is an editor, writer, and professional nomad. Twice a year, she runs the #24in48 readathon, during which she does almost no reading. She's always looking for an excuse to recommend a book, whether you ask her for one or not. When she's not ranting about comma usage for her day job as a corporate editor, she's usually got an audiobook in her ears and a puppy in her lap. Blog: A Home Between Pages Twitter: @rachelmanwill

I have a bookish confession: I do a disproportional amount of reading based on the setting or the weather around me. This usually results in a lot of seasonally-specific reading. Or “travel reading.” Or “beach reading.” Or “back-to-school reading.” Or “I’m wearing fuzzy socks and drinking hot cocoa in front of a fireplace reading.” You can see where it might get a little out of control.

In my pre-blogging life, one of the ways I organized my reading life was by participating in Seasonal Reading Challenges through a group on Goodreads. Though the seasonal link is sometimes tenuous, tasks that instruct to “read a book that was first published in the decade that you graduated (or will graduate) from high school (or equivalent secondary education)” for back-to-school in the fall or, for summer travel, “read a book with travel listed as a genre on its main Goodreads page OR a book with a suitcase or backpack on its cover” have a way of shaping your reading habits. Especially if you do several years’ worth of these challenges.

This year, for example, I read Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead, which is about a wedding in June on a small New England island, in June. I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn while lying on a beach, a book that could keep me captivated despite the clamor of families and music and heat going on around me. I read Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night back to back at the end of September and early October, when the supernatural feels a little more real. (Also, A Discovery of Witches takes place during September and partly in central New York where fall is the most vibrant of the seasons.)

Not all of my reading perfectly aligns but it’s close enough that I feel unsettled when something just doesn’t match.

So here’s my conundrum (and trust me, I’m aware that this is as much a #firstworldproblem as you can get): I’m leaving in less than a week for a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico with my family for Thanksgiving. And I have ZERO ideas for what books to bring with me.

Right now, I’m reading the lovely, big novel Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, which of course screams winter, cold, and fuzzy socks. But presumably, I will finish it either just before or on the flight down to PR, and it will also work well as a travel novel because no one wants to bother the girl on the plane reading a book that’s three inches thick. Nothing says, “Don’t even THINK of talking to me until we land” like a massive paperback.

But even though we won’t be cooking a traditional Thanksgiving feast while on the island, the trip will still feel appropriately holiday-esque. But it will be 85 degrees every day, and we’re renting a house with a pool, so do I bring books that are weather-relevant and “beachy” or do I bring books that are more seasonal?

Is it going to be Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple or The Round House by Louise Erdrich? The Singles by Meredith Goldstein or The Absolutist by John Boyne? (These distinctions I’m making could be entirely of my own making – and probably are – but you know, aren’t all reading distinctions in our own head anyway?)