Greetings and felicitations, word nerds! Who’s signed up for a summer reading program? I know that by the time this is published, I shall be registered. If you are an adult who also takes part in a local summer reading program, let me know in the comments! I’d love to know what you’re reading and if the concept of “summer reading” changes what you choose to peruse. Whether you are signed up and publicly accountable or enjoying the experience privately, I invite you to join me in the following literary travels.
Here is your May 2022 Leisure Learning List:
Sometimes, familiar themes presented in new contexts spark an area of interest our brains have otherwise deemed “dormant.” Summer reading usually implies breezy reads, but here are ten pieces of visual art from some of the world’s greatest art museums that will hopefully provide just enough interest to goad you into picking up that piece of literature you’ve always wanted to get around to reading or could review, now that you have some decades of experience in the real world.
Click the link above to get a glimpse into Dali’s Alice in Wonderland or Picasso’s surprisingly stark Don Quixote. Just a casual glance at the list guarantees either your literary or visual arts knowledge will be enriched.
I had planned on using the above link for a recommended feature alone, but found myself falling into the rabbit hole of The Book Family Rogerson.
This family of bibliophiles, based in England’s Peak District (i.e., beautiful countryside situated in the middle of England), boasts a personal library of over 2,000 books. In an effort to educate their school-age daughter and expand their own interests, this trio seamlessly incorporates reading into their everyday lives. They often plan entire vacations around literary settings and use their social media to show off independent bookshops they both seek out and stumble across.
If you’re going to Europe or already in it, check out their literary trip bucket list. Whether England is on the itinerary or not, their documentation of these 42 U.K. sites is worth the armchair perusal. Did you know there is a German Fairy Tale trail, where you can see the real-life inspirations made legendary by the Brothers Grimm?
Perhaps most importantly, if you’re feeling really inspired (as you should be because this family’s word nerdiness is authentic and heart-warming), plan your own bookish holiday by starting at your local library.
Ever consider getting lost in a library of maps? Want to take home a museum-quality snowy owl? How about comparing the feel of different pelts so that you can get a better idea of what our human ancestors considered “outerwear”?
This 16-minute YouTube video profiles exceptional lending collections and reading spaces where one can get lost among a number of things not traditionally associated with the word “library.” I promise, it’s worth every minute.
The Neapolitan Quartet & Ferrante Fever (documentary)
We are all aware of how a book can transport us to distant lands, filled with characters that seem to live their own lives even when we’ve shut our literary adventures for the day.
If you’re not going anywhere this summer, give your staycation a foreign, gritty, worthwhile destination in post-war Italy. Elena Ferrante’s 4 book series, known collectively as The Neapolitan Quartet, makes for an epic yet intimate experience detailing the 60-year friendship between two highly intelligent women.
What exactly is intellect when at play in the real world? Think The Godfather with less crime and more philosophy. It makes for a great series to consume over an entire summer. Are you a Lena or a Lila?
Alternatively, check out the HBO series, “My Brilliant Friend,” which is an adaptation of the first book. Plans are being made to round out the quartet over several seasons under the “Brilliant Friend” moniker. I do warn you, however, that if you can’t watch just one episode at a time, you will most likely be compelled to read the entire series.
(As quickly as possible.)
As a companion to the series, I point you to the documentary “Ferrante Fever,” which sounds like a standard Bio-Doc, but actually focuses on one of the most intriguing aspects surrounding The Neapolitan Quartet: the fact that no one knows who Elena Ferrante really is. It’s a pseudonym, crafted and guarded over decades.
Add dimension to your reading by questioning the novels with Jonathan Franzen and Elizabeth Strout. “Ferrante Fever” is a book-club-meets-masterclass-meets-speculative-whodunnit that is worth checking out for the eyebrow exercise alone.
Make a night of it and invite your brainiest friends to join you while consuming some post-pandemic prosecco.
If “Ferrante Fever” night should go late, you might find yourself waking up with a tattoo that you might not exactly “remember getting.” Have some class and consult these examples before opening that 3-5” binder everyone else pulls from. Consider something like the green light from across the lake in Gatsby or an inspiring line from Amanda Gorman.
The best stories stay with us throughout our lives. Their details become special treasures, while their themes weave themselves into our own personal philosophies. It seems only fitting that such thoughts should become permanent parts of our bodies. **If you’d like to share your literary tattoo(s), please do in the comments. Why not show them in a forum where they’ll be appreciated?**
Tell us in the comments: Which of these May 2022 Leisure Learning picks are you most excited to try?
Melissa Haas is the author and illustrator of Catula: The Misadventures of Dracula’s Cat and The Night Before Christmas (NOW WITH CATS), among other books. Follow Catula’s whereabouts on Instagram @CatulaTheCat or download a free coloring page at www.catulathebook.com.