I took an English course during the summer that preceded my last year of high school, to lighten my course load for the following year.

Previously my summer reading had been comprised of unwieldly stacks of library books: lots of re-reads because the time for reading seemed endless, inviting both fresh and familiar reads, and a pleasant mix of childhood favourites, YA reads and books written for adults (beginning with my cousin’s true crime collection, my other cousin’s horror collection, and my grandmother’s mass market picks from the racks at Towers).

Oh, I loved summer reading. Even more than reading during the rest of the year.

That summer of the English Class, however, I remember struggling with Hamlet on the hottest days of the year, sweat dribbling down the backs of my knees as I sat in the shade with my Heath Companion to English Literature cracked open in my lap, the webbing of the lawnchair leaving nasty imprints on the backs of my thighs. This was the first time that reading Shakespeare involved doing so in advance of our classes, independently, and my copy has more pencilled annotations than text; perhaps that’s there my idea of reading serious literature in the summer is rooted.

But rooted as an ideal because I’ve had some very hard reading summers along the way as well, summers in which I only managed to read a handful of books because I struggle more with humid weather more than I ever struggled with Old English. But the past couple of summers I’ve read quite a bit, particularly in those Augusts, and I’m looking forward to a good reading summer this year as well.

So I’m going to try to push my Bookish Luck some more and return to the idea of Serious Summer Reading. Which begins, for me, with getting back into War and Peace, which I started reading last September, but have let sit more often than not whilst more portable books tempted my reading attentions away. And continues with Thomas Hardy (with whom I’m only ever-so-briefly acquainted) and E.M. Forster (whose novels I’ll finish this summer).

Ironically I am getting back into a Tolstoy-frame-of-mind by watching the 1972 BBC mini-series (the one with Anthony Hopkins); it does feel terrifically dated, but I am still enjoying it as a means of reviewing the the story before I pick up the book again (which of course I’ll do before the on-screen version ventures into unrecognizable territory because I have a strict Book First rule).

I don’t have to worry about spoilers only three episodes therein because it’s got 20-something episodes in total. But perhaps there are other film versions of it that you would recommend instead? (I’ve steered clear of them religiously having stumbled upon the last five minutes of Anna Karenina on screen completely by accident, which ended up completely ruining the end of the book for me the following year. It was the lovely Sophie Marceau version but, still, if you know the story, you understand my disappointment.)

Are you planning any serious summer reading? Or are you taking a reading vacation? Is there another time of year in which you find yourself predisposed to seek out the classics, or do you simply read them year round?