Joys of Summer | Page 61 | Newberry

Joys of Summer

We recently had a donation of a kind we see every couple of years:a category we have not discussed yet. This is the Cottage Collection, sometimes called the Cabin Collection or even the Summer Reading Library.
This should not be confused with other types of Summer Reading: light, airy novels for quick consumption, though these can be included. The problem is that with a genuine Cottage Collection, these light, airy novels were light and airy two generations ago, and have gone sadly stale in the intervening years.
A Cottage Collection comprises those books which have been stored in “the cottage”, that summer place you use from time to time on a regular basis. A person doesn’t have to be rich to have a Cottage Collection: I know some people who have a cottage because their great-grandparents bought it and passed it along. It may be no more than three rooms with a shower and toilet tacked on later as the family turned decadent and modern. It can also be a three-story cottage with outbuildings and a private dock.
What does not seem to vary are the books, which have been carried out to the cottage for reading in case of rain and just left behind because no one found them interesting enough to bother taking back into town. These books gather in the attic or the basement or the barn or the cupboard under the stairs, and survive decades of “We’ve got to go through those some day.”
Some day eventually comes (in this case, it was clear that some of the books have resided in the cottage since the late Victorian era.) Trashy novels, books of sermons, very improving stories for children, books in languages the owner was PLANNING to learn, assigned outside reading the owner PLANNED to finish before the fall semester…they all come to the Newberry, slightly touched by damp, thoroughly touched by dust, and always, always with some flowers or leaves pressed inside. There are nature books galore (with signs of having been dropped in the water), books on fishing (ditto), books on gardening (often the cleanest and newest of the collection, though these included one book with two large bites out of the cover) and plenty of cookbooks, particularly dealing with outdoor cooking. (Do you folks REALLY wrap the fish in aluminum foil, bury it with hot coals, and then come back later? I’d never remember where I’d buried it, unless I stepped on the spot in my bare feet. And I won’t eat scorched sole.)
I never know whether it’s kind or cruel to bring these books out of their cloisters and throw them on the mercy of the market again. My fantasy is that they are picked up by people who say, “I’ve always wanted to read this. I’ll read it when I have time. This summer. At the cottage.” 

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