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Slices of Life: A summer for the books

School's out! Summer stretches out before us like a long and indulgent novel. We pull out shorts, flip flops and bathing suits and stock up on sunscreen and bug spray. We plan for time on the boat, days on the beach, bonfires at night, barbecues in the backyard and the activity I always look forward to at this time of year: summer reading.

It's a contest each summer. How many books can I amass; how many can I read? Any avid bookie will tell you there is a difference between the two. Amassing requires acquiring and placing the books on the bookshelf. Reading requires taking them off the shelf and turning the pages, one by one, from start to finish.

Amassing is akin to collecting. Reading is akin to knowledge.

You've probably guessed: I have shelves and shelves filled with my favorites — hundreds of them. Some shelves are double stacked because I've run out of room for new books. Still I continue to gather more.

Each year I start planning my summer reading list long before April showers bring May flowers. Preparation is key to a list that is like the mother bear's porridge — just right, or in this case neither too long nor too short. A summer reading agenda isn't a plan to be taken lightly. There are infinite books and a limited number of days so a wise reader proportions her time accordingly and prioritizes books judiciously.

This year I stumbled upon a novel I thought would be of interest to my high school son (who also has a summer reading plan doled out by his school). Perfect! I ordered the book and thought we could both read it; sort of like having our own little book club. (I haven't told him about it yet. I'm sure he'll be thrilled.) The only thing better than reading a book is having someone to discuss it with — especially when that person is your mom.

The novel in question arrived in the mail. I unwrapped it and put it aside because it wasn't summer yet. It sat on the table. Beckoning.

Read me. Now.

I diverted my eyes away from temptation, knowing what would happen if I started turning the pages of this book. I wouldn't stop until I reached the end. That's the one problem about reading; it's hard to stop until you find out who done it, if love prevails, whether the clown monster ends up being a spider alien, if believing in the green light has a positive outcome and who finally defeats Voldemort.

Still, maybe just the first few pages wouldn't hurt. To get a feel for the story. Like an introduction. Famous first (and last) words.

I picked up the book. It felt at home in my hands. The next day and a half (and 330 pages) are a blur, but the plot was good and the characters well-defined. I finished the book on a Sunday afternoon a month before the official start of summer. This (ahem) defeated the possibility of a book club with my son. But here's the good news: it left me with a summer reading void that certainly and most definitely needed to be remedied. There was only one thing I could do: go online and find another book to fill the gap.

Which I did. Gladly.

More good news: I found another novel I think my son might enjoy.

How many books can one person fit into the shrinking expanse of what once seemed like an infinite summer? This reader is going to find out.

So many books, so little time.

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