The sun is glistening off the glass of skyscrapers, New Yorkers dash from one air conditioned spot to another, and the sides of iced beverages sweat as much as those desperately sipping from those selfsame drinks. Whether you are heading to Coney Island, lounging in a precious spot of shade in the park, or hiding inside and enjoying the A/C, you are probably aware that summer has come to our fair city bringing with it a rise in temperature that feels anything but fair.
Nevertheless, take heart, at least it isn’t 1896. Yes, 1896, a time before air conditioning, refrigerators, and ice cream trucks. It was also a time when a deadly heat wave hovered over New York City, which was then densely packed with overcrowded tenement houses. Ten days of high temperatures and 90 percent humidity (and you thought it was humid today!) devastated the city, filling hospitals with those overcome by the heat. In 1936, the New York Times reported that a similar heatwave would not have had as calamitous results were it to befall the city again. Summer might have been more manageable in 1936 than it was in 1896, but 2011 is more comfortable still, even if it’s still scorching out!
It may be hot outside (or inside for that matter) but that just makes it the perfect time to kick back with a cold beverage and something good to read. Whether reading a book about heat will make you feel lucky to live in the age of air conditioning or reading about the arctic will give you icy relief, The New York Public Library has what you need to keep you cool — and entertained — this summer!
Great "summer" and "vacation" reads:
Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers by Brent Runyon
Luke’s coming of age is captured over the course of four summers at his family’s cottage. How much can change in four summers? Quite a lot.
Vacations from Hell, short stories by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski
Five of today’s most popular YA writers contributed short stories to this excellent collection. From humorous to horrific, Vacations from Hell will be an excellent companion to your — hopelessly less hellish — summer.
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Frankie convinces her friend Anna that summer in California will be the perfect time for Anna to get her first kiss. But little does Frankie know that Anna has already had her first kiss, and the revelation of who it was with may threaten their very friendship.
A cold read to beat the heat:
Trapped by Michael Northrop
When a freak blizzard hits a New England town, seven high schoolers find themselves trapped inside their school. The situation is far from ideal, and that’s before the power goes out, the pipes freeze, and survival becomes a real question.
Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan
In 1914, arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton set sail aboard his ship Endurance for the Antarctic continent. His goal: to be the first to cross the continent. Yet storms and ice trapped and sunk his ship, stranding Shackleton and his crew, and yet... they all survived. In this work of fiction, McKernan tells Shacklton’s tale through the eyes of an imagined stowaway aboard the Endurance.
Summer in New York:
Coney Island: Lost and Found by Charles Denson
From the Cyclone to the Thunderbolt, from the boardwalk to the Parachute Jump, Coney Island is an icon of the summers of yesterday. In this book — filled with fantastic photos of Coney Island in its heyday — Denson tells the history of the playground of the world whilst remembering his own youthful days at Coney Island.
Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward P. Kohn
In 1896 a heat wave oppressed New York in the midst of a tense presidential election, and in the background a young police commissioner — by the name of Theodore Roosevelt — sought to mitigate the threat of the heat. The tale of an oft forgotten incident in New York City history and the ways in which it influenced political history. (See the author speak about the book with the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.)