I got into the swing of summer reading last week when I was in a bookstore picking out a birthday present for myself from my daughter and her family. The store had a great selection, but it was really hard to choose something right there in front of my grandchildren. I started wishing they had just given me an Amazon gift card, so I wouldn’t feel so pressured.
Not only did I want to pick something that I wanted to read, but I didn’t want to look foolish, old fashioned, or boring. I ended up choosing “Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove.” This is a hot-off-the-press autobiographical work by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, one of the founders of the hip-hop musical group The Roots.
The Roots are the unlikely house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and are soon to be the official band for the “Tonight Show,” when Fallon replaces Jay Leno in the fall.
I’ve recently heard Questlove being interviewed on the radio and I’ve read a couple of reviews touting the book, so I’ve been eager to read it. More importantly, however, the book seemed hip enough, as to not provoke derision or condensation from the younger generation (aka peanut gallery).
I have always contended that recommending a book to someone or even letting someone look through your library can be painfully revealing. Picking out a book can be just as bad, as your book preferences can tell an awful lot about you.
Shortly after choosing my birthday book, I read the Time Magazine summer issue, which has an article entitled “Best Books for the Beach.” In this piece, a group of young novelists describe how summer reading influenced them and their writing. For example, novelist Curtis Sittenfield (author of “Sisterland”) tells about the summer of 1991 when he read Pat Conroy’s novels, Haitian novelist Edwide Danticat recounts her discovery of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” the summer she turned 13 years old, and Phillip Meyer (author of “The Son”) describes stumbling upon Hemmingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” when he was 17 years old.