It's been a few years since I deliberately planned and treated myself to a good summer read. A book made for reading in a park, or sitting in my courtyard on a warm early evening, or even for reading in bed on the too hot nights when I can't sleep and the ceiling fan just isn't cutting it. Something interesting, preferably weighty and a bit challenging, and maybe something I've promised myself to read for a while. A book with gravitas, or at least some eccentricity.
I'm not much of a beach goer, so not for me the slim, trashy, beach read. (It's an important distinction.)
I seem to gravitate towards art books and biographies as summer reads. Once, many years ago, when I was on what should have been a short work assignment in monsoonal, tropical Cairns, I ended being stuck there for 7 weeks. I was feeling lonely and frustrated, and after finding what was (at that time anyway, I'm not sure now) the inner city of Cairns's only interesting little bookshop, I consoled myself with a spending spree on summer reads. I read about the life of Gertrude Stein. Then I read her "autobiography" of her "tricky, dicky darling" Alice B. Toklas. I rubbed shoulders with Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, before finishing up with Bloomsbury's own "house of lions", Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant et al.
My memories of that time are an incongrous blend of Parisian/English/New York smart sets saying smart things in smart drawing rooms, torrential tropical rains, and hours spent lounging by the hotel pool reading during the all too infrequent breaks in the rain.
A while back I read an article about a new Vincent Van Gogh biography that was coming out based on new research, and which promised to be "the definitive" work on his life and death. Just the sort of thing for a summer read! I had recently signed up with a co-op bookshop that offers substantial discounts to members (after a small one-off membership fee), and a quick search of their website showed they had this book at $45.00, rather than the regular ticket price of $59.95.
So now I have it. Even the heft of it says summer read. It's thick. It's hardcover, which has been nicely wrapped in clear plastic by the bookstore (so as to protect from any summer evening sweaty hands or glass of rose accidents, no doubt). It has illustrations. All in all it looks just the ticket.