How To Spend Your Summer

Posted on June 20, 2011

Not really a book review…

I’m giving you guys an assignment. This summer, you’re going to re-read your favorite book. Or, if you’ve done that recently, any book on your top 5 list. I have a great memory, but every time I reread a book (especially one that was a favorite) I’m always blown away by how much fun it is.

From things such as scenic descriptions, characters or turns of phrase, everything will seem new again. If you don’t fall in love all over again, then maybe you need to rethink your #1.

My favorite? “A History of Tom Jones, A Foundling,” by Henry Fielding. I’ll get to the plot, but first a bit of history. This book was first published in 1749. Yes, it was written when America was but a twinkle in Ben Franklin’s eye. In fact, it is easily one of the first novels ever written.

The first novel (in English) was a work called ‘Pamela.’ I won’t go into details, but it is a book that extolls a woman who maintains her virtue. Enter Fielding, a play-write who was shut down by the censors of his time. He went on to write ‘Shamela’, a satirical novel making fun of its predecessor. Unfortunately, he lost his wife, whom he reincarnated as Sophia Western, one of the main female characters. This personality, combined with a healthy sense of moral ambiguity and the picaresque inspiration of ‘Don Quixote’ gives us one of the greatest achievements in the English language.

At the center is Tom Jones, “a thoughtless, giddy youth, with little sobriety in his manners.” He escapes from his benefactors and enjoys the English countryside, as a young man is wont to do. The plot is often described as labyrinthine, so that’s all you’re going to get.

I remember a novel that made me laugh out loud. I remember a novel that was, at the same time, modern and archaic. I remember meeting characters that were full and brilliant. I also remember a well crafted parable about hypocrisy and moral relativism.

I probably won’t get to it until late June/early August. But maybe this summer when you head to the beach, instead of picking up the newest thriller, you’ll travel back in time and have some fun.

I’m also going to actively encourage you to pick up a copy of Tom Jones. Not only is it my favorite, but it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. What it comes down to is the meditations of a man, who died at 47 of gout, on Human Nature.

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