Essay: SUMMER READING: Risks, Rules & Rewards

"DORIS?" says a character in Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus. "She's the one who's always reading War and Peace. That's how I know it's summer, when Doris is reading War and Peace." Whether or not Doris ever suffers through all 365 chapters of Tolstoy's masterpiece, she is plainly a member in good standing of the summer self-improvement league, that earnest, ever growing army of readers who would sooner put a cherry in a martini than leave for vacation without at least one Great Book.

As a result, the Unread Classic has become as much a...

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