In Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women, there is a scene where the four March girls consider how they are going to spend their long-awaited summer vacations. Each makes a choice based on their personalities; for me, of course, the best choice was the tomboyish, writerly Jo’s, when she declares, “I’ve laid in a heap of books, and I’m going to improve my shining hours reading on my perch in the old apple tree.”
Losing oneself reading a book, in a tree, perhaps crunching a fresh, juicy apple...nothing seemed more idyllic to me, growing up as a bookworm in the making. And, whether it’s summer or not, reading remains my favorite pastime, as it seems to be for many in our community.
The popularity of our local library systems, the continuing existence of independent bookstores here where they have often failed in other cities, the higher education and sophistication so many of our residents have (along with a fair amount of leisure time and discretionary income) all seem to indicate just how important reading is to us——to say nothing of myriad book clubs, book signings and author talks taking place regularly.
Plus, we have a long tradition of writers as well as readers here, dating from the days of the Sarasota artists’ colony starting in the 1950s. Often our corner of Southwest Florida, with its historic combination of natural beauty, hurricanes, retirees, hustlers, millionaires and boom-and bust cycles, has been as much a character in those books as a setting.
We’ve assembled here the perfect package for book lovers, from reading recommendations for the summer to libraries and book shops you may not know about to area authors you should sample if you haven’t already. Whether your reading perch is in a tree, on a waterfront condominium balcony, or snuggled under the covers in your bedroom retreat, a cat purring away beside you, reading really is the best adventure.