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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Registration is requested
Members: Free | Visitors: Free with admission ($10)

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

Donna Harrington-Lueker

Join us for the final installment of our Summer Reading Series! Donna Harrington-Lueker's Books for Idle Hours traces the roots of the publishing phenomenon of summer reading itself--and the surprising backlash against this incredibly popular and now familiar genre.

As an expanding middle class embraced summer leisure as a marker of social status and flocked to Saratoga, Newport, Nantucket, Long Island, and the Maine Coast when temperatures began to rise, book publishers searched for new market opportunities, authors discovered a growing readership, and more readers indulged in lighter fare, which was often set in vacation destinations. While summer reading is a distinctive part of the literary marketplace and the summer experience itself in the present day, Harrington-Lueker proves that publishers of the nineteenth century had to contend with fears about the dangers of leisurely reading—especially for young women—framing summer reading not as a disreputable habit but as a respectable pastime and welcome respite. Drawing on publishing archives, circulation records (including those housed at the Boston Athenæum), book reviews, readers’ diaries, and popular novels of the period, Harrington-Lueker sheds new light on an ongoing seasonal publishing tradition.


Donna Harrington-Lueker is a professor in the Department of English and Communications at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. A former magazine writer and editor, her research interests include nineteenth-century print culture, women’s magazines, and the alternative and radical press. Her academic work has appeared in the Keats-Shelley Journal, Journalism History, and Nineteenth Century Studies. Her study of popular summer reading, Books for Idle Hours: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the Rise of Summer Reading (University of Massachusetts Press 2019), draws upon letters, diaries, archival materials, and an array of 19th-century popular novels set at summer resorts to explore how the practice of summer reading takes shape in nineteenth century alongside the rise of travel and tourism, the proliferation of the cheap paperback, and a new acceptance of light leisure reading. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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