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Bill Gates and Unusual Summer Reading

Remember when you were a kid, and you set off from the last day of school with a summer reading list? Pages and pages of wonderful books, asking to be read. Library card in hand, you happily spend lazy summer afternoons with a book in one hand and an ice cream sandwich in the other.

Maybe that was just me. Bill Gates has his own ideas on which books to read over summer. Just check out this video:

So far, I have found that the worst part of being a working adult is summer. What do you mean I don’t get a summer vacation? What do you mean I have to spend the sunniest, laziest days sitting in a fluorescent chamber of boredom and deadlines? What do you mean I don’t get a summer reading list and hours of freedom to spend reading?

Well, this summer I decided to make my own reading list and spend as much time as possible on reading as much as possible. Summer is over now so let me tell you what I did. Instead of lazing on the couch watching mindless TV after work/dinner/housework, I was lazing on the couch reading one classic after another. That’s right, I was focusing on the classics. No fluffy novels about shopping or engagement ring for me this year!  Only the truly good stuff.

Back in March (I know, not exactly summer, but bear with me), I read T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. This is a book that my father read aloud to us as children. Except that the last time he read it aloud to ME, I was three or four, and didn’t really pay attention. So I finally reread it, and am so glad I did. This really made my Summertime a great Learning time. After all, I am (more or less) a jack-of-all-trades, as you know…

I think, truly, that reading about King Arthur’s humble beginnings back in March is what inspired my Summer of Classics. You can read a little of what I thought about The Once and Future King here.  It’s a fun read, and definitely a great read-aloud for elementary schoolers (well, at least the first book)! There always is an opportunity with every grade.

So then in May, I began my Summer of Classics in earnest. I picked up a copy of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Christo. I had read The Three Musketeers back in high school (summer reading list FTW!), loved the adventure, and wanted to read more of Dumas. Monte Christo did not disappoint!

I was completely involved in the adventure, intrigue, treasure, plotting, and revenge. I couldn’t put it down. Using this book will give every teacher the chance to bring true diversity to the classroom. I loved it so much, I was sad to see it end. So sad, I actually read the essay so neatly included at the front of the book. Fabulous.

Next up, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. Loved. I can’t wait to read these aloud to my sister’s little one (mine are getting too old for this) – and sooner rather than later. Each chapter is actually a stand-alone story. And while most of these stories follow our friend Mowgli, none are in chronological order. When I’m back, I’ll have to think about efficiency and productivity, but for now, I’ll just keep reading.

These books could truly be read to a small child, as they are filled with beautiful descriptions of the jungles of India (and the Arctic. And the polar ice cap.) and have great morals as to survival, manners, not talking to strangers, working on different paths towards my next degree, etc. I am left hoping to read more Kipling in the course of next year’s Summer of Classics.

This morning, I finished the fourth book on my list: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.  What a fun action adventure comedy of errors! This was recommended by a coworker who promptly lent me her copy the next day. She proclaimed it to be her second favorite book and lent me along with it her first favorite, which I will be reading next. Reading the description on the back cover, I was skeptical.

It looked somewhat overly dramatic, but I gave it a whirl. And was totally surprised by the sheer comedy of it! This was a fun, light-hearted read, and perfect for the Summer of Classics. Not everything has to be about Key and Peele Superbowl, you know. I’ve done four books this summer and I had a lot of fun. My biggest challenge so far was actually getting my greedy paws on the books being recommended to me. It might be time to hit up the local library again for next year’s challenging summer reading!