The editors of the New York Times Book Review (and there are surprisingly many of them!) get to read books constantly for work, in what we imagine is the perfect job. So what kind of a reader do you have to be to qualify? Recently, the editors assembled a summer reading list of the books they plan to read apart from the ones they have to read for work, and the few recurring themes gave us a little insight into how to be the type of reader that gets paid for it.
1. You can’t read everything. One comforting thing about the summer reading list was that it was full of books that many of us feel we are “supposed” to have read, but haven’t quite gotten around to yet. Copy editor Ihsan Taylor is yet to read Jonathan Franzen‘s “Freedom,” despite it being the most talked about book of the year. Preview editor Jennifer Schuessler is yet to finish Lydia Davis‘ translation of “Madame Bovary,” which was right under “Freedom” in terms of wisespread acclaim. And preview editor Jen McDonald may finally get around to reading “Infinite Jest,” one of the most talked about books of the last couple of decades. So it’s okay if you haven’t read everything! Summer is the time to catch up.
2. But you must read Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Deputy editor Bob Harris just read a book about “Moby Dick,” so plans to re-read the classic itself. And preview editor Gregory Cowles just finished “Moby Dick,” so plans to follow it up now with the related “A Whaler’s Dictionary.” Schuessler in turn hereby vows to finish reading Donovan Hohn’s “Moby-Duck,” the “tale of a flotilla of 28,800 bath toys let loose on the high seas.” Close enough.
3. Be a permanent student. The term “summer reading list” evokes our school days, which may be why college classroom favorites were the books of choice for several editors. Editor Sam Tanenhaus is filling in his political theory by reading classics like John Locke‘s “Two Treatises on Government,” senior editor Alex Star is reading “The Nature of the Child,” by Jerome Kagan, and copy editor Valencia Prashad is re-reading the Bible — but this time, with study tools.