June 22, 2014

Jamie Jones: The new summer reading list

Back then, summers were nothing but fun.

The swimming pool during the scorching days, kick-the-can under the stars when the temperature waned, video games in-between.

Then high school happened. More specifically, required summer reading happened.

Each year, many Dalton High School students were forced to read three or four books during the three-month break between school years. When students returned each fall, the first weeks of English class were spent discussing the assigned books. Students then took tests and wrote papers on the books.

The most vexing dilemma was when to read the books.

Do you knock them out early in the summer then risk not remembering the details?

Do you wait until the last week of summer vacation and plow through every book?

Do you just buy the Cliffs Notes?

I was in the procrastination camp. The final days of my summer vacation were spent holed up with books.

There were more clunkers than hits.

I read Moliere’s “Tartuffe” three times. Each time, I understood it less. My 14-year-old mind was on a level of comic books and pro wrestling magazines — not a theatrical comedy from the  mid-1600s.

“The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” by Georgia author Carson McCullers made my head feel lonely.

To be fair, I enjoyed several summer reading books. I still count “Brave New World,” “Fahrenheit 451” and “Lord of the Flies” as a few of my all-time favorites.

I understand — and even then understood — the reasoning for designating books over the break. Prevent the “summer slide” of losing attained skills during a prolonged summer off from learning. Have material ready to cover right as school starts.

But spending summers reading books you don’t want to read is oppressive, borderline cruel and almost un-American.

Let us read what we want! Now that teachers can’t tell me what to read, I am doing just that.

I’ve put together a summer reading list for myself covering racism, ‘80s karaoke hits, fantasy sports and pro wrestling. It’s an eclectic grouping.

Here they are:

• The final 126 pages of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” as told to Alex Haley: People I know can plow through a book in an afternoon. Not me. In September 2012, I began reading this on a plane ride to Columbia, Mo. I’m still reading it almost two years later. In my defense, the book is more than 500 pages.

• “Late, Late At Night” by Rick Springfield: A friend gave me the Australian rocker’s memoirs as a birthday present a few years ago. I made it through the inside jacket overview. I am intrigued about whose girl Jessie was.

• “Fantasy Life” by Matthew Berry: Another gift. Another inside jacket read. Berry is one of the top fantasy sports analysts for ESPN. I’m well-acquainted with the ups and downs of fantasy sports. After all, I am a two-time Daily Citizen NFL (DCNFL) fantasy football league champion. And a 10-time DCNFL loser.

• “Inside Out” by Ole Anderson: I’ve been that bad friend who borrowed a book and has yet to return it. This loaner is going on six years. I’ve read the first 50 pages of this autobiography by the pro wrestling great. My goal is to make it through the rest of the pages.

At the end of the summer, I hope to have completed all four books — books that I actually want to read.

But come August, please don’t give me a test about “Late, Late At Night.”

I might have forgotten the inspiration for “Jessie’s Girl” by then.

Jamie Jones is managing editor of The Daily Citizen.

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