Summer is the time for lazy days on the lake, or by the pool, or enjoying the sun on the beach. It’s the time for camping and cooking outdoors. For catching up on family, books we’ve been wanting to read and outdoor games. For state fairs and amusement parks.
I never really liked amusement parks—even as a kid. One of my earliest memories was being at the top of a Ferris wheel, with one of my brothers, in the dark, with what I thought was a cricket crawling around on the floor of the cage where we sat. I seem to remember having screamed. Later experiences told me the bug was more likely a roach! Anyway, I didn't like spinning on the fast rides and being rather limited as to what we could spend on fair food that was probably a good thing. Moreover, I thought there was something scary about some of the people working in the parks, which ties in with the two books I’m recommending today. One is an author new to me—although he shouldn’t have been—and the other is by a long time favorite. I chose these two because of the setting in their old and somewhat scary amusement parks.
The first book is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). I’ve, of course, heard of it, but never had an interest in reading it, imagining it to be along the line of a comic book; I had no interest in comic books after Archie and Veronica. This author’s work is so extensive and in so many genres one would think it was hard having missed reading anything he wrote, but I did. His novels include mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. In addition, he wrote for the big screen and TV, with such films as Moby Dick with John Huston and The Twilight Zone with Rod Serling. His seminal work—Farenheit 451—depicting a futuristic society where books are banned and destroyed, could have been a portent of life today. Many authors credit Bradbury as an inspiration for their own work.
In Something Wicked This Way Comes, a traveling carnival comes to a small town in the dead of night, every year just before Halloween. Two young boys are caught up in trying to discover how or why this happens and who is running the show. It’s the stark contrast of good and evil and what it does to friendship.
Recently I read that Stephen King’s favorite of all his novels was Joyland (2013). So this is my second recommendation. I had given up reading King some time back, as I thought that while his books were enjoyable, his themes were repetitive—young kids, often accompanied in the story by an elderly man who serves as a guide for whatever mystery the kids are trying to solve. There are some elements of this in Joyland, but it was a good read and it made me willing to go back and read some of King’s later works.
In Joyland, a young man takes a summer job at an amusement park set in a seaside town, in order to earn money for college. He is by himself in this new town, but he soon makes an interesting set of friends, both at the boarding house where he’s living and at the park. He learns the park is also hiding secrets, particularly in the tunnel of love, and he sets out to discover those secrets.
Enjoy! You can’t go wrong adding these two books to your summer reading.