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A new study shows that we’re choosing our summer reading . . . to look smarter.

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August 30, 2021, 11:33am

The last few summers have been labeled, variously and one after another, the summer of hot girls; white boys; hot vaccines; blob girls; tinned fish; and innumerable others. Summer trends come and go, but one summer concept has endured through magazine columns and Hudson Newses across the globe: the beach read. Regardless of whether it’s a hot girl or white boy or tinned fish summer, the logic goes, summer’s always the time to kick back and dig into a pulpy romance novel or a book with a movie poster as the cover. That’s why it’s surprising that according to a recent survey of 2,000 United States-based respondents conducted by OnePoll, almost three in five Americans read at least one “serious” book in the summer in the hopes of looking smarter.

Yes, it’s poser behavior. But at least for summer 2021 (delta variant summer?), it’s practical. Whether you’re sitting in the park or social distancing in a coffee shop, impressing from afar is one of the few non-risky ways to get a charge out of crowd interaction. Plus, you can look smart and have fun in the course of several months; 73% of male and 62% of female respondents admitted they also use the summer to read books they like without fear of judgment.

(Also surprising from the survey: 36% of respondents use the summer months to “brush up on their knowledge of history” through reading. Who are these people living their lives with purpose?)

Summer ends on September 22nd, so you still have a few weeks to squeeze in those performative (sorry, Judith Butler, I mean theatrical) subway rides and scholarly beach trips. I’m hoping for the 59%’s sake that next summer, heart-shaped books make a comeback, so the subtext of “I want to be loved” behind all their book choices is made overt.

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