SUMMERTIME! -- when the living is easy, and so is the reading. But just because school lets out, it doesn't mean your verbal imagination should go on vacation. Now is the time for parents, teachers, and students to sit down and plan a summer reading program -- before the lazy, hazy days of the season scatter like sea breezes the finest of scholarly intentions. The best way to appreciate how much you have learned, while continuing to learn, is to read and enjoy a number of books you have selected. Decide right now that your list will include 10 books. Commit yourself to reading one a week until the first of September. Choose the books you've wanted to read but couldn't find time to; books that are part of your game plan for college preparation; books that just dare you to pick them up and share a thought-adventure. Great lives For starters, give serious consideration to biographies and autobiographies. The lives of great people ennoble our own. To ignore the best people we can know is to ignore our own potential for greatness.
Here is small list to start you thinking about the harvest of great lives to choose from:
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Ballantine), by Edmund Morris, traces the energetic life of America's 26th President from birth to his first term of office. Of special interest is the unique schooling provided by his father.
The Life and Times of Albert Einstein (Avon), by Ronald Clark, is a thorough and very readable account of Einstein's life and thinking. The book, designed for laymen, is out in a new illustrated edition whose photos make Einstein come alive.
Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years & the War Years (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), by Carl Sandburg. No one appreciated a good book more than our 16th President. Sandburg shows us the heart and soul of the man who crafted the Gettysburg Address.
Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery (Christian Science Publishing Society), by Robert Peel, is the first volume of a trilogy about the New England woman who discovered and founded Christian Science as well as this newspaper.
My Early Life: A Roving Commission (Scribners), by Winston Churchill. This autobiography is still the best way to get to know the man whose words, for a time, were the only thing keeping England from despair in the face of the Nazi war machine. His difficulties with early schooling will hearten any who have never made the honor roll.
Night (Dell), by Elie Wiesel, is the autobiographical account of a young Jewish boy's ordeal in Nazi concentration camps and his greater struggle for spiritual survival.
The Life of Sam Houston (Books for Library Press, Freeport, N.Y.), by Charles Edward Lester. A fine biography of the man who was governor, president, general -- and archetype -- of the Lone Star State.
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railway (Archway), by Ann Petry, shows how courage and freedom are synonymous with the life of this black woman -- a slave who ``lets her people go.'' No matter how humble one's origins, great deeds can be accomplished.
Wilma Rudolph: Run for Glory (EMC Controls Inc.), by Linda Jacobs, is about transcending limitations. Rudolph, the 17th of 19 children, overcame an early childhood paralysis to became the fastest woman alive. If you thought you wanted to take up jogging after seeing the movie ``Chariots of Fire,'' this book about a three-time Olympic gold medalist will make you want to sprint.
American Caesar (Dell), by William Manchester, does much to qualify the aura of tragic greatness that surrounds what, for many, is the most unusual personality in American military history, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
The First Elizabeth (Summit), by Carolly Erickson, offers a lively, penetrating look at one of England's most fascinating and complex monarchs. The author's vivid style brings fresh life to the dry pages of history, making Elizabethan court intrigue as fascinating beach reading as you're likely to find. It rivals ``Dallas'' and ``Dynasty'' for sheer drama. The environment
Two seminal books of the environmental movement are Walden (Bantam), by Henry David Thoreau, and A Sand County Almanac (Ballantine), by Aldo Leopold. The former is an American classic and can be read on many levels, not the least of which is as a philosophical blueprint for what is truly conservable. The latter is by a man of science on the exquisite joys that accompany close observation of nature. Other cultures
Eight years of teaching high school English (8th through 12th grade) in both a reform school in Albany, N.Y., and a public school in Bozeman, Mont., prompt the following selections. Each was a favorite of many students. The common denominators are the author's ability to translate an unfamiliar culture, or a potentially tragic situation, or the life of a very ordinary person into terms that help adolescents make sense of their own lives.
Each is also just plain fun to read, and it will (a) impress your principal; (b) raise your SAT scores; (c) get you elected class president.
The Good Earth (John Roy Books), by Pearl Buck, is an account of peasant life in pre-revolutionary China, a true classic.
I Heard the Owl Call My Name (Dell), by Margaret Craven, depicts the emotional transformation that occurs in the life of a Protestant minister as he meets the spiritual needs of a small band of Indians on the northwest coast of British Columbia. Their struggle for survival becomes his.
A Man Called Intrepid (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), by William Stevenson. World War II will never be the same, once you see the role played by British Intelligence.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Putnam), by John le Carr'e, is a classic spy thriller about double agents. With the Berlin Wall as a backdrop, le Carr'e probes the inner walls that can divide us from ourselves.
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (Harcourt Brace Javonivich), by C. S. Lewis, is a little-known treasure that explores the world of the heart through the eyes of a woman so ugly she decides to wear a veil.
Frankenstein (Signet Classics), by Mary Shelley, is called ``gothic fiction,'' but it is arguably the first science-fiction book ever written (1818). The philosophical questions raised as life emerges from the test tube are not new to the 1980s. After reading this you can see how Hollywood co-opted a single dimension of this horror-flick archetype.
Gulliver's Travels (Bantam), by Jonathan Swift, is ideal for presenting the distinction between the universal and particular, the relative and the lasting. Read it with a grandparent. See how it nourishes the adult and child in both of you.
Moby Dick (Bantam), by Herman Melville. If there is such a thing as the great American novel, this is it. Its treatment of the themes of good and evil intertwine with the heart of America's maritime heritage.
The Bear (Modern Library), by William Faulkner, is a story of a young man's coming of age and the hunt for an old bear in the Mississippi woods.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Bantam), by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, is a largely autobiographical novel about one man's triumph over life in a communist labor camp in Siberia.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Doubleday), by Philip K. Dick, probes the mental vestibule where the inanimate crosses over to the animate. The movie ``Bladerunner,'' a decidedly more violent rendition, was based on this sci-fi masterpiece.
My Anton'ia (Bantam), by Willa Cather, chronicles a young boy growing to manhood and the profound effect a neighbor girl -- Anton'ia, daughter of a Bohemian immigrant farmer -- has on his life. Set in the plains of Nebraska, it is a moving account of Western farming life in general and immigrant life in particular. This quiet story will stay with you long after you read the final page. Shakespeare and other poets
A summer spent with Shakespeare's sonnets will simultaneously purify and deepen the romantic heartache blaring forth from boom-boxes (radios) at the beach.
And one can always select a single poet and read as much of his or her early, middle, and later poetry as possible. Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson are wonderful candidates. What others are reading
In case you want to know what books most high school students who go on to college say they have read, a scientific sampling of 1,138 college freshmen conducted by the Siena Research Institute, a division of Siena College, came up with the following top 10:
The works of Shakespeare
The Scarlet Letter
The Declaration of Independence
A Tale of Two Cities
Poems of Robert Frost
Poems of Emily Dickinson
The Canterbury Tales
The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Jim Bencivenga is the Monitor's education editor.