My summer reading has been all over the place thus far. I guess that happens quite naturally when one is retired. I’m not complaining… it’s a delightful ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns. My rule is that I agree to read the first thirty pages of a book, and if it doesn’t make my heart go “pitter patter,” I drop it like a bad boyfriend. That’s a really good rule to live by! I’m not creating a class syllabus, I’m reading for pure, unadulterated pleasure.
My non-fiction reading is focused on the Paleo diet and research on limiting processed foods and complex carbohydrates. It’s only interesting because this food plan seems to work for me. The writing is not notable, but the content is. This batch includes The Blood Sugar Solution (Mark Hyman), Well Fed (Melissa Joulwan), and It Starts with Food (Hartwig) All encourage clean, lean protein, lots of non-starchy veggies, healthy fats and determination. The results are less craziness about food and a very stable blood sugar level. I’ve learned a lot from each of these texts and think I’ve done enough reading about this topic; now I need to rediscover my elliptical. If I could read on the elliptical, I bet I’d exercise more often…maybe it’s time for audio books on my iPod.
Also, in the non-fiction category, there is something completely different for me: a book about the early phases of the war in Iraq. My reading about war is usually focused on newspapers or fiction written about war, until the latest title on my list. My childhood friend, Andrew Lubin, wrote Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq. This book makes me feel like I’m on the battlefield along with Andy’s son and his unit of young Marines. It has given me a newly found appreciation of the training, sacrifice and courage these young men muster in the midst of chaos and the unknown. They rely on their extraordinary training and their strong sense of community with their fellow Marines to endure whatever comes their way. I could not put the book down; it not only gives a bird’s eye view of the frontlines but also loved ones back home coping and trying to figure out what is really happening while watching the news. I also learned, again, how inaccurate and incomplete much of the media account about war is. This book shows the exemplary relationship between father and son—it’s based on love and respect and is so admirable. Go buy this book.
My book group has a tradition of reading classic children’s novels for our July and August meetings. This provided an opportunity to re-read two old favorites: The Wind in the Willows (Grahame) and The Secret Garden (Burnett). Yes, of course, I loved them both—although I am the only member who liked The Wind in the Willows. Those who unknowingly read the abridged version were most unhappy with what was omitted. I was absorbed in the delightful camaraderie as well as observing how important decisions are made within this crew of characters. When to stay and when to go are two crucial life issues dealt with quite nicely. Oh, how I wanted to find a kid to read it to or to just read it aloud and hear the words. I enjoyed The Wind in the Willows and am thinking of moles, water rats, badgers and frogs differently than before I picked up this text. All good stuff! Next month it’s on to The Secret Garden.
This brings me back to the children’s books that we read our daughters years ago. I recently stumbled upon several huge boxes of their favorite titles that were neatly packed away in the attic. When I mentioned the book stash to the girls, they made it clear that these books need to be moved to the cape house and saved forever, maybe longer. Of course, I sat down and read through several while I was supposed to be packing. I got lost in these fun kids books and my memories: Good Night Moon. A Fly Went By, Angelina Ballerina, Where the Wild Things Are, anything by Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky, and Gregory The Terrible Eater. That’s just a few of the early books; the chapter books will have to wait for another day or the packing will never get done.
Top on my list of self-selected reading is an advanced copy of In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin. The book will be published this October, and I really appreciate getting a galley copy. Helprin’s writing mesmerizes me and keeps me in his world for years. I first read Winter’s Tale years ago and still think about his main character, Peter Lake, and wonder what he’s doing now that the book is finished. Oh, wait, he’s a fictional character. Helprin’s characters live forever in my head, and I love it. I’m about 100 pages into this book and am already fretting that the end will come too soon… but the message is clear…this is another winner and you should read it.
My other choices in fiction are patiently waiting on the shelf for me. They include Tree of Codes (Foer), Great House (Krauss), and Swamplandia (Russell) Since we got rid of the television, there’s even more time for reading and thinking. Wish we did it sooner.
Several books about the state of college education are in my pile as well. At one point, I thought I’d write my own book about teaching college to this generation of students and what specific demands and issues are in play. Who knows if I’ll write the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing what other authors have to say and how they say it. These titles are Academically Adrift (Arum/Reksa), We’re Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education (Keeling/Hersh) and Higher Education? (Hacker/Dreifus).
No, I won’t be reading Shades of Grey, not because I’m Puritanical, but because time is short and there are so many well written, creative, enlightening books waiting for me.
What are you reading now? Leave a comment!