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Books for Idle Hours: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the Rise of Summer Reading

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The publishing phenomenon of summer reading, often focused on novels set in vacation destinations, started in the nineteenth century, as both print culture and tourist culture expanded in the United States. As an emerging middle class increasingly embraced summer leisure as a marker of social status, book publishers sought new market opportunities, authors discovered a gro The publishing phenomenon of summer reading, often focused on novels set in vacation destinations, started in the nineteenth century, as both print culture and tourist culture expanded in the United States. As an emerging middle class increasingly embraced summer leisure as a marker of social status, book publishers sought new market opportunities, authors discovered a growing readership, and more readers indulged in lighter fare. Drawing on publishing records, book reviews, readers’ diaries, and popular novels of the period, Donna Harrington-Lueker explores the beginning of summer reading and the backlash against it. Countering fears about the dangers of leisurely reading—especially for young women—publishers framed summer reading not as a disreputable habit but as a respectable pastime and welcome respite. Books for Idle Hours sheds new light on an ongoing seasonal publishing tradition.  


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The publishing phenomenon of summer reading, often focused on novels set in vacation destinations, started in the nineteenth century, as both print culture and tourist culture expanded in the United States. As an emerging middle class increasingly embraced summer leisure as a marker of social status, book publishers sought new market opportunities, authors discovered a gro The publishing phenomenon of summer reading, often focused on novels set in vacation destinations, started in the nineteenth century, as both print culture and tourist culture expanded in the United States. As an emerging middle class increasingly embraced summer leisure as a marker of social status, book publishers sought new market opportunities, authors discovered a growing readership, and more readers indulged in lighter fare. Drawing on publishing records, book reviews, readers’ diaries, and popular novels of the period, Donna Harrington-Lueker explores the beginning of summer reading and the backlash against it. Countering fears about the dangers of leisurely reading—especially for young women—publishers framed summer reading not as a disreputable habit but as a respectable pastime and welcome respite. Books for Idle Hours sheds new light on an ongoing seasonal publishing tradition.  

35 review for Books for Idle Hours: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the Rise of Summer Reading

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cindie

    I heard an interview by the author on the radio, and felt compelled to borrow this book from the library. It was enjoyable, if a bit academic (not that I should have expected it not to be!), and touched upon a lot of different aspects of the rise of summer reading in the 1800s. Having just caught up on Mrs. Maisel, I am clearly an expert on season-long leisurely vacations, so it was nice to see that while some things changed quickly, summer leisure (for certain classes) didn't change much betwee I heard an interview by the author on the radio, and felt compelled to borrow this book from the library. It was enjoyable, if a bit academic (not that I should have expected it not to be!), and touched upon a lot of different aspects of the rise of summer reading in the 1800s. Having just caught up on Mrs. Maisel, I am clearly an expert on season-long leisurely vacations, so it was nice to see that while some things changed quickly, summer leisure (for certain classes) didn't change much between those two periods...I can't imagine spending a whole summer in a grand hotel in Saratoga or a private summer home in Maine, but it's nice to dream! Out of sheer curiosity, I think I'll try to find some of the books mentioned -- maybe for some summer reading next year?

  2. 5 out of 5

    a

    Read an early copy. Overall, I thought it was a good book, and did a good job fitting the narrative of the retail aspect of pushing summer reading and the social/cultural movements of the period together. There were a few times I wished statements/evidence from the period had been questioned further, and some topics I felt were covered too briefly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Interesting academic look at the rise of "summer"reading, highlighting books from the 19th century that were considered appropriate for "idle hours".

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Silverman

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily Mcclimon

  7. 5 out of 5

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    Nichole

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

  11. 5 out of 5

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  12. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ruthanne Marchetti

  15. 4 out of 5

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  16. 5 out of 5

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    Rene Singley

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    Carol Johnson

  19. 4 out of 5

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    Jody Nichole

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    Cathryn Davey

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    Sally Anne

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tiana Reid

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    Jay Gabler

  27. 4 out of 5

    Subashini

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  29. 4 out of 5

    PB

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lou

  31. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Hinkson - Goins

  32. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Gutman (happybooklovers)

  33. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  34. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  35. 4 out of 5

    Aspasia

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