Summer reading options range from charming to cautionary

June 3, 2018

Recommended reading lists are always in vogue in the bookstores, especially at this time of year with summer bearing down on us. Right about now, we find ourselves in the midst of book covers with images of Nantucket-looking homes surrounded by white picket fences, and a lot of footprints in the sand leading along a path. Sometimes there is a woman in a long dress sitting on the sand dunes.

Obviously, there is a reason for not showing a ticket being written for an expired parking meter, people gnashing what few teeth they have left after winding through a construction zone where no one is working, and of course, any beach scene that resembles the movie "Hangover."

That's because the plot is usually similar in all the books - a woman's husband or lover has left her in a midlife crisis; it always happens in the summer.

Or the woman may have left her husband; the leaving is attributed to finding oneself. This escape takes place in the only destination where answers to life's philosophical questions may be found, that place being staring out at the ocean. It's as if each wave has some sort of follow-your-bliss mantra.

But now there is a stampede to the store or whatever tech device readers are using for a new kind of book. One that will quell the panic from the recent headlines about the adult child being sued by his parents because he refused to find his own place after years of rent-free, no-expense living. According to recent popular-book lists, the No. 1 seller is, "How to Turn Your Completed Basement Back Into a Crawl Space." This is followed closely on the charts by "Never Answer the Door and Other Perils of Having a Recent Graduate."

Now, don't get me wrong. We all want to give our kids a lift until they can get back on their feet. A few months at home or a couple of extra bucks is one thing, but eight years has stirred up quite a conversation.

You envisioned sitting around in your elder years on a nice plastic-covered sofa, the lamps all matching and beautiful vacuum marks across the carpet.

The conversation would quite naturally revolve around blood pressure monitors and the latest CAT scans. But now you can panic.

Years ago, I had a friend whose son had his own apartment, drove a nice car and seemed to have a good job. I asked her how they managed this feat. What was the answer to this success? Well, she answered, we simply pay his rent; that's understandable, since we have been doing it since the Eisenhower administration.

And we almost have his car paid off, but my husband got this boil on his foot from the hole in the cardboard shoes he has been wearing. Of course, with the high grocery bills for our son, we didn't keep up the insurance, so my husband lanced it himself and, well, you can imagine.

Never mind, I thought, as I crossed myself, genuflected, and raced to my car.

I remember when the summer reading used to be mostly for coupons.

You can no longer enter a store without them, unless you want to feel totally humiliated, giving off the vibe that you don't really care enough when the clerk asks for them. Mailboxes are stuffed with coupons to the point where most mailmen have to take at least two weeks of sick leave.

Other big items on the summer reading lists are stuff like text messages, Facebook, Twitter and of course directions on how to hook up a sump pump. I was never big on directions, preferring instead to rip the package open with my teeth and get right to the first stage. Richard Nixon left many bottles of aspirin around the White House with teeth marks on the lid.

So anyway, back to summer reading. The current advice books on the return of the prodigal son have been snatched off the shelves.

The best you are going to find is how to enter the federal witness protection program for parents. I hear there is quite a waiting line.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.