The Thinking Person’s Summer Reading List

Willard Spiegelman, the Hughes professor of English at SMU, is the author of Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness. His book was suggested for summer reading.

By Hillary Kelly

With the first day of summer officially upon us, the long, well-marketed season of mindless reading has arrived as well. There’s nothing wrong with summer froth, but, among the dozens (hundreds?) of “Beach Book” guides that have surfaced in the past few weeks, there is little in which to sink your intellectual teeth.

Maybe most people don’t see a terry-cloth towel as the ideal perch to peruse Anna Karenina, nor the blistering sun as a welcome companion for a quick study of Heidegger’s Being and Time. But our brains don’t turn off in the heat, and, for most working folks, summer is the best opportunity for protracted periods of reading—the ideal moment to immerse one’s self in a book that packs some cerebral punch—and they needn’t be the brand spankin’ new, standard mass-marketing hardcovers that bookstores so desperately want us to buy.

So, by the pool or on the beach, try some of this: prose that proves one can be enlightened and entertained at the same time. A guide to summer reading that won’t melt your brain: . . .

For those bent on self-improvement, Seven Pleasures is English professor and editor Willard Spiegelman’s foray into the self-help industry, though his recommendations are not the usual prescriptions. Instead, Spiegelman chooses seven activities that, in his opinion, advance happiness without forcing fastidious psychological regimes. These seven essays—on reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing—are delightful accounts of the simple pleasures life affords us if approached with the appropriate receptivity.

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