Fun and books may be around any corner, if you pay attention. Or if you just follow someone into a strange place.

A Little Lady Enters an Odd Little Lobby

I often think about how Alice had it right and we should always follow a strange rabbit down a hole toward adventure, metaphorically of course. But who has the time? We’re always rushing from one place to another, never taking the time to notice those potential rabbits with their clocks.

My daughter and I had just finished dinner at a restaurant in one of the towns near our house and were rushing back to the car when she stopped at an entrance to a building. She peered through the window into the lobby and made a comment. I’d already walked on, eager to get home. Before I realized it, she’d disappeared behind two glass doors. With an annoyed huff, I followed.

20170625_193510Generally, lobbies are boring. If you’re going to follow your daughter down a metaphorical rabbit hole, typically you don’t think you’ll find anything in a lobby. Maybe it will have a painting or two and some chairs, not much more.

At first I thought my daughter must have seen a puppy. It was the only reason I could think would draw her into some boring lobby. I started to tell her to hurry up. I wanted to get back to the car.

But, turns out, following your daughter can lead to some really interesting places.

There was no puppy. Instead, my daughter wandered into a place where the walls were covered in bold, colorful geometric shapes and blue and white tags dangled from hooks. A bright, happy sign told us this boring lobby had been transformed into an interactive, summer art installation.

Its goal: encourage people to share their experiences and read about others in the community. It could have been lame. It could have been boring. It could have been terrible…

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Fun with Tags

Fifteen minutes later, we’d fallen far down our rabbit hole. We flipped over tags and called out “Look at this one!” or “Oh read this!” to each other. We devoured information about strangers, people who we didn’t even know their names.

We read the places where people got their worst sunburns. Some people interpreted this as a location in the world, writing beach locations and 20170625_193346other tropical destinations. Others interpreted it as the place on their body, which lead to some funny responses.

We read tags about summer bucket lists. (My favorite tag: Dancing in Jamaica.) We read about favorite places to go in the summer, which got customary “beach” responses, but also other interesting comments such as “Sunflower farm.” We read about favorite summer picnic foods and epic summer adventures, including scuba diving with sharks, camping and cross country trips.

For a writer like me, this was a great mental game. One piece of information and I’d start building an entire person in my mind.

Battle of the Summer Activities

At the far end of the installation there was a section called “This or That” and a bunch of jars filled with white balls attached to the wall. Of course, we had to go investigate this curiosity.

Here we had to choose between between two summer activities. Battle topics included camping vs glamping, ocean vs pool, sunrise vs sunset. (I voted: glamping, ocean, and sunset.) Most of the jars were evenly split. There was no overwhelming winner. Except one. One that I couldn’t believe.

Outrage burned inside of me. It had to be rigged. What was this battle that spurred such heated anger inside me?

Ice cream vs fro-yo. And fro-yo won!

How could this be? Ice cream is clearly superior to fro-yo! I wanted the names of every person who voted for fro-yo so I could confront them and force them to eat ice cream and then fro-yo and tell me to my face fro-yo was superior.

Distracted by Books

Of course, the voting was anonymous. It was just a bunch of little white balls and so I couldn’t confront anyone. My rage also dissipated quickly because I spotted something much more interesting. Another question. My favorite question. A question about books.

“What’s a great book for the beach?” it read. I left my rage over fro-yo behind and skipped over to the beach read board.

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As I read the responses, I realized this would make for one of the most unique summer reading lists I’d ever seen! This wasn’t just one person compiling a list of his or her favorite books to read for the summer. It was a list from many different people. It was a community list. And it was obviously a community of interesting readers. The board of tags had YA, classics, kids books, picture books and even books I’d never heard of before.

I quickly jotted down book titles to document the list so I could share it with all.

Drum roll please….And here it is, 11 of the books from my trip down a rabbit hole. Or 11 books from an art installation. Or, beach book recommendations from a community of eclectic people. It’s all these things. Enjoy!

11 Summer Reading Recommendations from an Art Installation

11. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious “U. N. Owen.”

10. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

20170625_193459Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under.

9. A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

There are shelves of memoirs about overcoming the death of a parent, childhood abuse, rape, drug addiction, miscarriage, alcoholism, hustling, gangbanging, near-death injuries, drug dealing, prostitution, or homelessness. Cupcake Brown survived all these things before she’d even turned twenty. And that’s when things got interesting…

8. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

With unmistakable characters and signature rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved favorite has cemented its place as a children’s classic. In this most famous of cumulative tales, the list of places to enjoy green eggs and ham, and friends to enjoy them with, gets longer and longer.

7. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami 

In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect.

6. Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Malcolm X—once called the most dangerous man in America—challenged the world to listen and learn the truth as he experienced it. And his enduring message is as relevant today as when he first delivered it. In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement to veteran writer and journalist Alex Haley.

5. Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

20170625_193720Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home. But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries.

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

3. Paper Towns by John Green

20170625_194146Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificent Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. When their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Margo has disappeared. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Embarking on an exhilarating adventure to find her, the closer Q gets, the less he sees the girl he thought he knew.

2. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind.

1. Iliad by Homer

Dating to the ninth century B.C., Homer’s timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to the wrenching, tragic conclusion of the Trojan War.

Make sure to follow your rabbits this summer!!

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