All posts tagged: Summer Reading Lists

The Power of Words

Former President Obama’s recent summer reading list reminded me of how much I pick up fresh insights from seeing what books others recommend.  When I finish several months’ worth of reading, I’ll pass along my takes on those works to anyone who cares to listen, simply because I believe in the power of the written word.  Writer Cheryl Strayed said she was seven years old when she understood that, as Margaret Atwood wrote in her poem Spelling,  “a word after a word after a word is power.” According to Strayed, the power of those words she read at age seven, “wasn’t the sort of power we associate with politics or world affairs . . . It wasn’t the kind of power we talk about when we talk about destruction or physical force. It wasn’t about defeat or domination or control. It was about a deeper, older, truer sort of power, one that calls upon the original meaning of the word, which is derived from the Latin posse.  It means, quite simply, to be able. It’s …

Not Your Summer Reading List

Summer reading lists can be fun. I’ve enjoyed compiling my annual list since I started this blog ten years ago. I also enjoy reading lists developed by others, as you often get insights into both great new books and the thoughts of the individual who passes along recommendations. My criteria for good summer reading lists include:  they must be focused on a short period of time when the compiler is away (e.g., for an August vacation), and the reading can’t be too heavy, as there are 10 other months to read tomes about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. What follows is not a summer reading list. I’ve fallen so far behind in updating readers about the books I’ve found interesting, challenging, refreshing, and—yes—troublesome that I’ve decided to take a Twitter-like approach and provide two-four sentence summaries of everything I’ve read between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year.  Since I can’t remember the order in which I read them, I’m listing them in alphabetical order (by author).  Let me know …

Observations from the Road: The Vacation Reading Edition

I’ve now been back from vacation for two weeks, and have finally decided that I am not going to find the time to write lengthy posts on each book I checked off my summer reading list.  So I’m resorting to my trusty “Observations from the Road” formula, to give you short takes on the four books I read over those two weeks. Hallelujah Anyway:  Rediscovering Mercy — Shortly before leaving on vacation, I picked up this book by the popular author Anne Lamott after seeing several short quotes attributed to her work.  Candice’s reaction was, “You’re reading Anne Lamott?” and I understand that sentiment. Yes, she is crafty and crotchety, and she has a “perfectly calibrated NPR appeal” which can grate on some. But yes, I am.  She’s funny and a bit snarky, both traits I enjoy (when I agree) and she’s a very good writer.  She’s also brief (a quality I’m enjoying more as I plow through 500+ page works). This is a book about mercy.  She wanders a bit in getting there, but …

For the Son of a Librarian, the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

I love seeing lists of books recommended by people from all walks of life.  As the son of a children’s librarian and the husband of a children’s reading specialist, books have always been a part of my life. This enthusiasm was brought home to me again when I recently saw a list of recommended readings from President Obama (or, as Inc.com called him, the “Bookworm-in-Chief.”)  It seemed appropriate – the day before the election – to recall all the good things President Obama has brought our way, including an intellectual curiosity about the world. Writer Rebecca Solnit has said, “I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods.”  I know that feeling.  A couple of years ago, in thinking about a lifetime (so far) of reading, I put together my own list of twelve books (plus some bonus reads) that had influenced me. If you click through, you’ll see that the initial one on my list is the first I remember from my childhood. I suspect …

Think before you speak. Read before you think.

Author Fran Lebowitz once wrote, “Think before you speak.  Read before you think.” I’ve been thinking about reading recently, because I will be out of the office as I complete the final two weeks of my sabbatical and link that with some personal days off. I have the opinion that summer reading lists should be light, but that may simply be an excuse to read another baseball book.  Since this time is tied to my sabbatical, I’m going a bit more serious this August and I thought I’d share a few of the books which will be on night stand. (Regular readers can expect “mini reviews” in the coming weeks.) Bending the Future:  50 Ideas for the Next 50 Years of Historic Preservation in the United States (Edited by Max Page and Marla R. Miller) – This brand new work from the University of Massachusetts Press contains a wonderful introductory essay and then 50 short contributions from practitioners, academicians, journalists, community activists and more. I’m looking forward to digging into this work as one more …

Summer Reading 2015

This has been a busy summer, full of travel, family changes, work, and good food!  During the past three months, I’ve also had a chance to read a few books – a couple just okay, one interesting, and one terrific.  So here’s a short summary, from mediocre to recommended. The Language of Houses: How Buildings Speak to Us, by Alison Lurie.  I picked up this 2014 book – with its promise to highlight how buildings speak to us in ways simple and complex, formal and informal – with great anticipation.  Written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, I expected great – or at least good – writing that would pull me along.  Unfortunately, I found it a simplistic and rather bland work that I had trouble finishing.  This is a topic that holds a great deal of promise.  Unfortunately, Lurie’s work doesn’t deliver. The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors:  A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship by Henry Petroski.  I bought  this quirky work in Seattle while on my cross-country trip with Claire in 2014.  …

Summer Reading 2013, Continued: The Unwinding

American journalist, novelist, and playwright George Packer wrote one of the most insightful works about America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq in his 2005 book The Assassins’ Gate:  America in Iraq. So when I heard that Packer had a new work out on the demise of the American social contract, I quickly picked it up and added it to my summer reading pile. The Unwinding:  An Inner History of the New America is a very important work by a gifted observer and interpreter of American life.  It is not light summer reading.  Packer’s work can be hard to read – not because it is dense (it is anything but).  The Unwinding is difficult because almost any reader of this work is likely to find someone captured on its pages who represents his or her way of thinking and his or her life, and realizes the sad place we all find ourselves in today. Packer’s work follows about ten individuals – most not well-known – over the course of the last 30 years, during the time …