June 29, 2012
The Father-Son Summer Reading Experience
This summer my elder son and I are trying out what we’re calling “The Father-Son Summer Reading Experience 2012,” which involves the two of us sharing our reading experiences over the summer by each reading what the other reads.
The way it works is pretty simple: we maintain a list of books that the other has finished. Whenever one person finishes a book, he looks at the other person’s list and if there’s something there that he hasn’t read yet, he reads that next. Otherwise, he’s completely free to choose whatever strikes his fancy.
I’m taking it easy on my son this first summer (and probably for several summers to come, if it’s something he continues to be interested in), and not putting everything I read on the list. Since school released its charges out to wreak havoc on parents’ schedules and occasionally their patience, I’ve read six or seven books, but only put two of them on the list: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a collection of Ray Bradbury’s stories selected from R is for Rocket and The Golden Apples of the Sun. He has finished both and embarked on a second John Grisham novel, Playing for Pizza; it’s fun to follow along with what interests him as well as exposing him to some of the things that interest me, or which I particularly enjoyed when I was a kid. I’m hoping one or two will catch fire with him and make him dive deep -- he has previously read Fahrenheit 451 and I think he’s interested in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe now, so something’s catching on.
I’ve got quite a few books on my list of things I think he might like. Next up for me it A Tale of Two Cities, because Dickens is a totally favorite writer who I’d love to see him fall in love with, and after that it’s things from the list below, though I haven’t picked out an order:
- Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn: Can’t decide which. Both are fantastic, though the latter is I think the far superior work. The former is probably a bit more accessible, and may not have time for both. Maybe Sawyer this summer and Finn next?
- Foundation. While I have the whole first trilogy in a single edition, I figured I’d just start with one and if he really liked it, he’d keep going. I’d have no problem revisiting those three by any means.
- Something by Stephen King. In the summer after sixth grade, I read all the long-form fiction Stephen King had written up to that point, which included Carrie, Cujo, Firestarter, The Shining, The Stand, The Dead Zone, and ’Salem’s Lot and maybe even Christine and Pet Sematary, though those might have been the year after (his alter-ego, Richard Bachmann, had also published a bunch of novels but the pseudonym wasn’t revealed until later). I remain a fan, though I haven’t read one of his novels in a few years and will probably try to get to one or two before the year is out.
I’m really torn here, as all of these I liked, though some are a little more problematic for me to recommend than others and I’d almost rather have him discover them on his own (there’s a bit of uncomfortable sexual stuff in Cujo and Carrie, for example). My son doesn’t believe a book can really scare you, not like a movie, so I’m somewhat leaning towards ’Salem’s Lot, which had me sleeping with a crucifix by my bed for weeks when I was eleven. The other front-runner is The Shining, which I think is perhaps his best book altogether. Decisions, decisions...
- The Old Man and the Sea. I love, love this novel, and have been holding off from my infatuation with Hemingway’s work from earlier this year so that I can share this one with my boy.
- Girl Parts by friend John M. Cusick, a modern YA science fiction story about a robot girl, as far as I can tell. I'm looking forward to it.
- Casino Royale. I sort of like the idea of introducing him to a good spy novel of the old school, and I think starting him with the very earliest James Bond might be the way to go. Not decided on this one.
- The Catcher in the Rye. Not sure about this one either... might be totally boring for him but you never know what will connect.
That’s the list so far -- it’s already the end of June, though, which just leaves two months. Maybe I’ll write a follow-up post come September and let everyone know how it turned out.