Books for Idle Hours
Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the Rise of Summer Reading
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Drawing on publishing records, book reviews, readers' diaries, and popular novels of the period, Donna Harrington-Lueker explores the beginning of summer reading and the backlash against it. Countering fears about the dangers of leisurely reading—especially for young women—publishers framed summer reading not as a disreputable habit but as a respectable pastime and welcome respite. Books for Idle Hours sheds new light on an ongoing seasonal publishing tradition.
"Books for Idle Hours is especially interesting on the emergence of a new type of textual diversion: the American summer novel . . . it takes these books—and the culture that shaped them, and the culture they shaped—seriously, even while acknowledging how transitory they were."—The New Yorker
"Books for Idle Hours is a well-written, carefully researched work on the history of the summer novel and summer reading. This is an important topic in the history of reading in America that has received little scholarly attention."—Tom Glynn, author of Reading Publics: New York City's Public Libraries, 1754–1911
"This book's research is impressive, including summaries of popular literature, both by known and unknown authors; the economics of nineteenth-century publishing; discourses generated by the literary press and marketing strategies; and the exploration of space and reading practices."—Ardis Cameron, author of Unbuttoning America: A Biography of "Peyton Place"
"A summer read about summer reads."—The Public's Radio
"Harrington-Lueker traces the interplay between the growing ability and need of a (predominantly white) middle class to engage in leisure activities, the development of a veritable national tourism industry and a restructuring of the literary market."—Journal of Tourism History
"Through painstaking research and with a keen eye for interesting and thought-provoking detail, Harrington-Lueker has assembled a scholarly study of summer reading in the late nineteenth-century United States that historians of reading and print culture would do well to consult for its incisive commentary on the relationship between market forces and readers' tastes . . . [A]s enjoyable as it is informative."—Reception
"Books for Idle Hours is a fascinating study of a distinct but largely overlooked body of nineteenth-century American fiction and the authors, readers, publishers, and economic and social conditions that gave rise to it."—New England Quarterly
"[A] detailed, thoroughly researched overview of the development of summer reading as an American phenomenon . . . The book is of interest to anyone interested in the social and cultural history of reading in the United States. It fills a gap in the current literature on print culture in nineteenth-century America in regard to popular fiction."—Libraries
"[A]n excellent study of the summer reading experience and its effect on the social order and the print culture economy that remains largely unstudied by scholars."—H-Net Reviews
“Harrington-Lueker offers a rich and readable analysis of the intertwining efforts of publishers, booksellers, vacationers, hoteliers, and even architects to define and promote what summer reading is, who and what it is for, and where and on what terms it can (or should) be done . . . From a wider scope, this book makes a valuable contribution to the history of reading and the publishing of fiction in the industrial era.”—SHARP News