I love summer. I even love the 98-degree days…well, maybe I’m not head over heels with the 98 degrees part. But humidity notwithstanding, there is SO much to love about a Carolina summer. Flip flops, for example. I wear them every day in the summer. Every single day. But of all the things I love about summer, the beach is what I love the very most. (Sorry, watermelon…you are undoubtedly second.)

I adore the beach for a multitude of reasons: the salty air, the sand between my toes, the roar of the waves, the magical sunsets. But I particularly love the beach because I get to read amidst all that aforementioned glorious beachy stuff. I am the nerdiest of beach book nerds, diving not into the waves but into the pages of a good book.

In fact, in February, I start making a list of books I’ll read on our July beach vacation. And while I admit that this is a bit weird (um…perhaps it’s really weird) and only fellow bibliophiles will understand, I enjoy smelling each new book I’m about to read more than I fancy the smell of the oceany air. I put the book right up to my face, open to the middle, and inhale as deeply as I can.

Books and I go a long way back—I loved them even before I learned the alphabet. (I didn’t start smelling them until I was an adult though.) Instead of a teddy bear, as a toddler I carried around Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs & Ham.” I still carry around books as a grown woman, only now it’s three or four at a time in a tote that’s inscribed with “Books Are My Happy Place.”

The words on my bag are fitting, because for me, a book isn’t just a bundle of paper that smells heavenly, it is indeed a “place”—a magical one. And reading it is like having a passport to a safe haven where I am bound to get lost in the story and characters. In fact, I can get so drawn into a book that I not only feel like I know the characters in person, I consider them to be among my best friends. Being that emotionally connected, I often have a dialogue with them as I’m reading, rooting them on, laughing with them, and inevitably shedding a few tears with them, too. When I’m finished with the book, I actually experience some emotional trauma, wondering what I’ll do with my life now that my friends have moved on and my passport has expired.

Uh oh…I believe I have digressed a bit. This was supposed to be a letter to you about summer. But see? Books distract me! I hope Summer 2024 is your best one yet. Get out and enjoy the Carolina blue skies, or better yet, meet me at the beach…I’ll be the one with my nose in a book (literally) and seemingly talking to myself. Don’t call the paddy wagon though—I’m having the time of my life!