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Best summer reading list ever


By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  Ah, the summer reading list. It might be required reading for school, a Ēbest ofĒ list from a news article, or just recommendations from friends. While reading lists can be useful, librarians see them as a double-edged sword. They can introduce readers to new favorite books and authors, but they can also serve up a big helping of obligation with a side order of guilt.

  If I read a book from a list of award-winners and donít like it, what does that say about me? If critics loved it but Iím bored silly, does it mean Iím not sophisticated enough? If my teacher calls it the best play ever written in the English language but I have no idea what itís about, am I going to be able to pass this class? What if all my friends loved it but I thought it was a waste of paper? Should I let my child read this book if itís not on her grade level?

  While reading lists may be a necessary obligation for school assignments, thatís a lot of angst for something thatís supposed to be fun, or at the very least, interesting. Fortunately, thereís a simple remedy! My colleague Ada Demlow, Childrenís Librarian at the Fayette County Public Library, encourages readers to move away from lists when they can and explore the library for fun again. She calls people who can do this ďfree-range readersĒ.

  After many years of compiling and handing out recommended reading lists for various grade levels and interests, Ada tried something different this year. She put together a guide for free-range readers called The Absolutely Best Summer Reading List Ever, which she has kindly given me permission to share:

  1. Browse the shelves of your personal library, public library and favorite bookstores for books that spark your interest, books by your favorite authors, or new topics and authors you want to try.

  2. Read.

  3. If you start a book that you donít like, put it down. Life is too short. You can always pick it up another time if you really want to.

  4. Write down the titles and authors you really enjoy.

  5. Repeat steps 1Ė4 as often as desired. Donít forget to ask your librarians for suggestions if you run out of ideas. Use additional sheets of paper for step 4 if necessary.

  6. At the end of the summer, look at your list. It should be the absolutely best summer reading list ever.

  7. Save this list. It will come in handy whenever the reading mood strikes.

  8. If you really want to score awesome points with your librarian, bring a copy in to him or her and let them make a copy.   That way they can look really smart when someone else comes in and asks about helping them find great books to read.

  I love this list because Ada is right: follow these steps and you really will have the best-ever reading list, free of any obligation or guilt. It will be your list, your taste, and your favorites, and a reminder of what you really enjoy about reading.

  For more great reading advice from Ada, visit her blog at



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