Three Books That Make Me Long for Warmer Weather

Snow in winter

What it looks like in my back yard this morning. (Ted Leach)

So this morning, celebrating my snow day by browsing a few new blogs, I found my way to a blog titled Lost in Books. Admittedly, I haven’t dug too deeply into the content of this blog.  I suspect I’m going to find myself back there before long, as I was very inspired this morning by her challenge to write about “Three Books That Make Me Long For Warmer Weather.”

I like winter.  But I love summer.  Unless I can get outside in the sunlight for a few minutes each day, I get a bit cranky.  Summer, to me, means lots of time to sit on the porch or in the hammock and read.

So here’s three books that I think of when I think of summer.

A Pirate Looks At Fifty — Jimmy Buffett

What can I say?  I’ve always had a love for all things Buffett, and this book is no exception.  Buffett, who’s long said that he’s an entertainer more than a singer, tells a few stories from his extensive and unique career.  The premise for this book is a mid-winter escape from the northeast courtesy of his Grumman Albatross, a flying boat he describes as “a big, strange bird” that to him conjured up images of simpler, more romantic days of aviation in the islands of the Caribbean.  Simply opening its pages brings a warm feeling to me.

In Dubious Battle — John Steinbeck

An obscure book, and my reasons for this one are a bit odd.  During the summer between completing graduate school and beginning my first teaching job, I began reading Steinbeck.  A lot of it.  In total, I think I read six different novels by Steinbeck, including, for the first and only time in my life, East of Eden.  At the time, I lived in Marlboro, Massachusetts, a small city about an hour west of Boston that had a wonderful public pond with a sandy beach.  Every day that summer, lacking anything better to do with my life than send out resumes and wait for job interviews, I’d load a towel, book and water bottle in my backpack, hop on my bike and ride the few miles from my apartment to the beach.  Locking up my bike and dumping my bag under a tree, the first thing I’d do was dive into the water.  Emerging from the water, I’d dry myself off, plop dwn under a tree, and read Steinbeck.  I did this for almost the entire summer, until I got a job and had to begin preparing for the school year by reading less interesting things.  I haven’t read In Dubious Battle since then, but it doesn’t surprise me.  I think the only reason I would read it again would be if I were to be, again, single, unemployed, sitting on a beach with nothing to do but bury myself in an author.  Not sure those days will ever return — nor do I want them to! — but they’re nice to think about.

The Best American Sportswriting of the Century — David Halberstam, ed.

Again, perhaps this is an odd one, but it’s one I associate with summer.  As part of my transformation from a mild-mannered high school English teacher into the school’s “newspaper guy,” I realized I knew next to nothing about sportswriting.  So what better way to learn than by picking up a 776-page anthology and reading it cover to cover?  I did.  And in the process of reading it, I discovered that great sportswriting isn’t about numbers and scores; it’s about the raw emotion and drama and people that make up sports.  I discovered dozens of great writings I might never have encountered: Tom Wolfe writing about NASCAR; Arthur Kretchmer describing Dick Butkus as “the meanest, angriest, toughest, dirtiest son of a bitch in football”; William Nack’s heart-breaking story about the last days of the racehorse Secretariat.

The camper

The pop-up in May 2009. A few chairs fit nicely under the awning on sunny days. (Ted Leach)

But paradoxically, the piece from this anthology which most reminds me of warmth is Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.  In it, Krakauer describes an attempt to climb Mount Everest that goes horribly, horribly wrong.  And where was I reading this?  In mid-July, sitting under the awning of my camper in the Vermont mountains.  Shoes off, feet propped up, all others napping, adult beverage in my hand, I was happy, relaxed.  And then I read this:

The climbers hunkered in a pathetic cluster on a windswept patch of ice.  “By then the cold had about finished me off” says Fox.  “My eyes were frozen.  The cold was so painful, I just curled up in a ball and hoped death would come quickly.”

And suddenly I became very, very cold.

What have I learned from this writing exercise?  To me, a good book is often associated with the time and location in which I read it.  With the exception of the Buffett book, the books I wrote about here aren’t about summer.  But they bring me back to it nonetheless.

Thanks for the challenge, Rebecca.  I enjoyed it.  Hope you — and anyone else who lands here — finds the same.

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2 thoughts on “Three Books That Make Me Long for Warmer Weather

  1. Hi Ted!

    I am so glad you found my blog and decided to play along! I do a new challenge every week so I hope you will come back next Tuesday to play again! I haven’t read Buffett’s book, but I love his music, and I am certain it would transport me right to the sunny beach as well!

    • I know he’s written at least one novel, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the non-fiction writing. Besides the simple fun of reading stories from his life (such as his college years), there’s something about the way he blends memoir with general observations about life that I appreciate as a writer.

      But thanks again for the challenge. I’ll try to do next week’s as well.

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