The catalogues inundating my mailbox have switched from summer to “pre-fall” to fall. It is 98 F outside and I’m looking at heavy wool sweaters, snowshoes, arctic-weight sleeping bags, and other stuff that just makes me sit and perspire. And makes me wonder, what if books had “seasons”, like fashions do?
Somewhere I read that we have Louis XIV and his court to blame for the idea that you wear certain clothes and colors in spring and others in fall, instead of just layering for the cold and un-layering in summer. If so, then perhaps we should be glad that he was not known as a voracious reader. I shudder to imagine what might have resulted.
As it is we have winter holiday books, beach reading, and . . . um, well, that’s all I can think of as far as seasonal fiction books. Christmas, Chanukkah and kids’ stories set in winter appear on the shelves in October or so, then disappear to the remainder table faster than a snowman vanishes on South Padre Island. Come May two different sorts of titles appear on displays featuring sand castles and beach-chairs: fluffy fun books (often with pastel covers) and serious tomes. As was mentioned at the PassiveVoice blog, “beach books” can be: 1. books you don’t mind sacrificing to a rogue wave or snowcone, 2. books you intend to leave at the hotel or beach house, 3. books you want to be seen reading, 4. books you want your family to see you reading. And then there’s whatever you have hidden on your e-reader. I like to joke that “on Kindle, everyone is reading Dostoyevsky.”
But what if we had book seasons? In the autumn, in addition to cookbooks full of hearty breads and squash recipes, we’d see rows and rows of brown and deep gold and red covers, perhaps romances set in farming country, horror novels (because people only read horror around Halloween, you know), and books set in forests. Probably a number of lit-fiction titles would appear with characters in their “golden years,” and tales of white-haired women thinking back over loves lost and families long-since separated and grown. And cozy mysteries set in knitting shops, or quaint little jam-making kitchens, and harvest festivals. Postapocalyptic YA books start filling the shelves, since teenagers only read in the fall or summer, and summer is for beach romances and sports books.
The winter book season brings mountain thrillers, science fiction, holiday books, and steamy romances. And triumphant tales of weight loss and self-improvement, because that’s probably the sort of thing the Big Five publishers’ sales teams think people should be reading after the usual mid-winter indulgences. And books about poor orphans and abused souls who manage to find redemption and success despite [fill-in-the-blank], because A Christmas Carol sold so well back 150 years ago. Science fiction is a winter genre, because that’s when stars are bright and the nights are long and people want to escape the grey slush of January or the incessant droning of holiday music. Same reason for pushing steamy romances set in the long nights. We’d have spy tales set in mountain lodges, tales of daring rescues after winter storms and blizzards, and mysteries about bodies turning up when people shovel their driveways. And historical fiction, since those all take place indoors in castles or during the winter social season.
Spring would probably arrive with cozy mysteries set in flower-shops and uplifting accounts of people overcoming dreadful allergies. And political thrillers, although those might not have a season, but ebb and surge depending on which election year we are in. Fantasy books would get a spring push, because fantasy is about green things, and elves, and tree magic, right? So of course that’s spring and not fall or winter. Mysteries featuring college students might appear. And New Adult or contemporary adult romances, light and airy, mostly sweet, about first loves and new starts.
Then we’d be back to summer reading, beach books, books about beaches or summer houses, and probably a few westerns because westerns take place outdoors and that’s a summer thing, right? And political biographies, or “serious” biographies to be seen reading.
You know, I am so glad books don’t have seasons.