I have also experienced much summer reading joy sinking into the epic lives of real people. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx gave me one of the greatest, most immersive summer reading experiences of my life. This summer I hope to read Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by J. Anthony Lukas, which gives us Boston in the '60s and '70s, with all its racial and political turmoil. I say "hope" because all reading now, pathological or otherwise, is dependent on my two children giving me time to do it. Epics begin to look daunting when you're measuring your time in teaspoons. For this reason, among many others, I do not sniff at true crime, which you can read even while your children are talking to you. And the grandfather of that genre, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, is still, to me, the finest.

My name is Zadie Smith, and I am a 38-year-old pathological reader. I would like to say in my defense that I don't really get the appeal of YOLO. I live many times over. Hypothetical, subterranean lives that run beneath the relative tedium of my own and have the power to occasionally penetrate or even derail it. I find it hard to name the one book that was so damn delightful it changed my life. The truth is, they have all changed my life, every single one of them—even the ones I hated. Books are my version of "experiences." I'm made of them. But every summer I hope to take a book to a beach and pretend that it's only an occasional thing, a seasonal indulgence, which will be put down come September, as I return, like any civilian, to real life.

Zadie Smith is the author of White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and the essay collection Changing My Mind.


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