Lady Banks Bookshelf

Lady Banks Pick of the Week

"One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by." --Jeannette Walls

It is officially summer at her ladyship's house on the North Carolina coast. She knows this not because her sugar snap peas have died back, not because her sunflowers have started to bloom. Not even because Memorial Day weekend looms and the evenings are filled with the crashes and bangs of over-eager neighbors too impatient to wait to set off the truckload of fireworks they purchased for the occasion.

No it is summer because of one indisputable sign: her ladyship, the editor, was at last driven to turn on the air conditioning in the house.

It is a step she defers as long as possible, preferring instead to have open windows and ocean breezes. But when the temperatures climb towards the 90s she caves to the resigned drooping looks of her dogs and cats and her own insufficiency of fans, and thus she closes the screens and the windows, shuts the back door propped open to let the four-footed residents of the house come and go, and flips the thermostat from "Off" to "Cool." "Cool" being something in the mid-70s.

Book PileThe flipping of the thermostat switch has an unlooked-for and curious effect upon her ladyship's reading. Her "reading spots" have changed. No longer able to endure the heat of the sunny back deck (even under the deck umbrella), she has been forced indoors. But her usual reading chairs -- situated by windows to take advantage of cross breezes, are no longer as inviting. The closed windows offer no breezes and the windows themselves, her ladyship freely admits, could do with a wash and are not at the moment very nice to gaze through dreamily in between chapters.

Instead her ladyship finds herself settling to read in parts of the house she tends to avoid because they lack sunlight and windows. Her large library table is once again stacked with books she has been meaning to get to. The living room couch, normally of use only for watching television and providing the dogs a soft place to sleep, is now a place to stretch out and read in the evenings, as it happens to be the room with the thermostat, and thus the coolest room in the house. The dogs are not unduly put out by this new habit, as they are as perfectly willing to sleep on her ladyship's legs as the couch itself.

All this shuffling around of reading spots has also resulted in several new stacks of "books to read" in new locations -- interestingly enough more nonfiction on the library table, whereas the coffee table by the couch has piles of novels. Books piled by former reading chairs have remained where they are, waiting for the day her ladyship can turn off the air and open the windows again. Sometime in October, most likely.