Summer reading lists take a quirky quarantine turn

April 19, 2020

Lists for summer reading are always in vogue in the bookstores – that is, back when they were open – and online, especially at this time of year. And with early summer-like temperatures, we used to 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 was a woman in a long dress sitting on the sand dunes. 

The plot was similar in all the books – a woman whose 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 themselves. 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 being quarantined. Not that spending quality time with your family is a problem, but when you forget to get dressed for the day, it might turn into one. Just ask any politician who recently resigned.

According to recent popular book lists, the No. 1 seller is, “How to Turn Your Completed Basement Back Into a Crawlspace.” This is followed closely on the charts by, “Never Answer The Door” and “How to Put Together a Sump Pump.”

Reading a good book used to be a must to relax with and take your mind off problems; but now you don’t care anymore if you are not wearing undereye concealer and those dark circles under your eyes look like two saddlebags. Or the fact that the Palm Beach Beige foundation you lived by has gone out of stock, leaving you looking like a beached whale. Or that the dog has eaten your last tube of lipstick and one gray hair has crept down between your eyebrows. The book on “How To Cut Your Hair So it Doesn’t Look Like a Waldorf Salad” sold out weeks ago. 

This quarantine has taken a heavy hit on your appearance and attitude. So, you will have to look to new places for new answers. 

For instance, 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, which is 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. 

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

So anyway, back to what used to be summer reading. Forget the romance novel; the hottest book out there is, ”How to Make Your Own Toilet Paper.” It’s very academic. Stay safe.

  • 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.

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