Summer at the Library of Congress is a magical time. The halls of the Library’s Jefferson Building seem to fill with students and families, just as the desks in our office spaces seem to mysteriously go quiet and colleagues make a break for their own vacation. For me, it’s the season of the perfect lunch hour: a few snacks and a good book facing the beautiful landscapes of the Capitol.
This week, I’ve spent my lunches with The Pickup by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. I picked up (pun-intended, as always) a used copy during Fourth of July weekend in a small bookstore in historical Haddonfield, New Jersey. Washington, D.C., such a diverse and transitional city, feels like the perfect spot to read about one of the novel’s protagonists: Ibrahim, forced to flee his home in South Africa after his illegal status is uncovered by the government. Ibrahim and his South African lover Julie struggle between two worlds—South African and Middle Eastern—revealing the intersections, commonalities, and boundaries that define the two.
For me, The Pickup is a great summer read: it features faraway landscapes and a rich love story, but it’s also grappling with difficult issues that keep my mind engaged until I walk back to the office and the work on my desk. My summer lunch hour is its own vacation into books, and it infuses my day with a sense of wonder. Even as an adult, summer reading feels like a mental break—a time set aside from the rush of the year to lounge in the sun and daydream about wherever a few pages might lead me.
Today, I noticed another reader on the benches outside the Jefferson Building, and I couldn’t quite catch the title of their book. It got me wondering: How many of us still enjoy that magic feeling of summer reading? How many of you are entrenched in that special book now—and where is it taking you? (Rob Casper, head of the Poetry and Literature Center, is engrossed Dinaw Mengestu The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.) Feel free to share what you’re reading in the comments too, and let us know of your summer reading highlights!