Read smarter, win bigger

Every year, the Allegheny County Library Association’s summer reading program takes up—and rightfully so—about 100 percent of my consciousness from June through the middle of August.

I read all the time. Books in the car, for when I’m stuck in traffic, or in case I get to an appointment early and have some time to kill. Books in pretty much every room of the house, ’cause you never know. What if you slip and fall in the kitchen? You’re going to want to have something to read while you’re waiting for the ambulance.

So when summer rolls around, I can actually be rewarded for something I love doing anyway.

I always like to maximize my chances. I live in Pleasant Hills and work a couple of shifts a week at their library. So I’m enrolled in their summer reading program, and I’m also taking part in Mt. Lebanon’s, which just kicked off last week.

The more you read, the more you (potentially) win. Stamps = raffle tickets, which = (the potential of) stuff.

The Mt. Lebanon version is more about straight-up reading: read books, write reviews, get tickets. They have four reading challenges, which consist of reading five books in each of four categories—history, travel, food and literature. Read five books, get 10 tickets. But one of the cool things about books is that they contain so much between their pages that they can touch on a range of subjects.

One of the books I’m reading now is David Grann’s The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder. In 1741 (history!), HMS Wager crashed into a bunch of rocks off the coast of Chile (travel!) and sailors discovered exotic food pairings such as seagull with algae scraped off of rocks (food!). One book, three stamps on the Reading Passport.

I’ve never felt the urge to read Eat, Pray, Love, but if it gets down to the wire and I’m coming up short on travel and food, I may revisit. Grapes of Wrath covers literature and travel, but, surprisingly, not food. All the way to California and not one damn grape. Even more disappointing than Catcher in the Rye. More economical is Dracula, which allows you to check off literature, travel and since Renfield started out eating flies but worked his way up to birds by the end, well, there you go.

So be on the lookout for ways to streamline your reading, get more tickets and win swell prizes. Summer reading goes on until August 3. It’s not too late to sign up. I’m still looking for a book that fits all four categories. Let me know if you have any suggestions.