Full disclosure: I did not read all of these books cover-to-cover this summer. Some of them I did. Others, healthy chunks. Of late, my reading of books happens in bits and spurts, interrupted by online articles and social media. Back in my flip-phone days, even during the school year as a teacher, I would be reading a few books at a time, usually finishing a book every couple weeks.
So it goes. My goal is to reclaim the habit. Here are the books I read enough to comment on:
Breaks of the Game: A fascinating read by award-winning sports journalist David Halberstam. It describes the season of the 1979-80 Portland Trailblazers, also narrating the radical changes happening in the NBA during that time. TV contracts and salaries were expanding, race relations were tense, drug use was rampant, and egos through the roof. And head coach Dr. Jack Ramsay, doing it for the love of the game, was struggling to keep his soul in a jaded league.
Awareness: A re-read, but always moving and relevant. I love the subtitle: “the perils and opportunities of reality.” It’s a spiritual book by psychologist and Jesuit priest Anthony deMello. A mystic urging us toward Awareness. Any further description by me will blaspheme a book I revere.
Tattoos on the Heart: Another re-read, this time on audio-tape by the author, Jesuit priest Greg Boyle. His tenderness working with gang members in Los Angeles speaks to the core of our humanity. And to the multitude of social problems which persist. An especially good read in the tumultuous summer of ’16.
Make Something Up: A collection of short stories. I wanted to escape the real world for a while, and Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favorites for that. The author of Fight Club never disappoints, even when he crosses all boundaries of human decency. Other great novels for those over 18 are Choke and Survivor.
Why Faith?: A book written by a good friend, former colleague and roommate Matt Emerson. I lived with Matt for two years, and witnessed firsthand his pursuit of truth. He reflects deeply and takes his faith seriously. The book combines intellectual integrity and the question of God, appropriate for anyone interested in religiosity.
The Rational Optimist: Another refreshing read for a dreary summer of news. A gift from my father, the book argues that the flourishing of our species happened not because of language or frontal lobes, but a penchant for free-trade. Exchanging goods and services has enabled the rapid advancement human beings, in our material well-being and protection from danger. We are better off now than ever before, and can expect to be even better off in the future, barring some unforeseen catastrophe.
A Brief History of Phoenix: My first read in an attempt to know Phoenix better. The author Jon Talton, a former journalist in Phoenix, so far provides an interesting take on the origin and development of the sixth largest city in America. In the Wild West a metropolis sprouts in the desert, supported from the get-go by the federal government.
Thinking Fast and Slow: A best-selling psychology book by Daniel Kahneman. More of a cognitive approach made usable for the common folk. Basically, we have two systems of thought– intuitive and effortful. These systems activate at different times for different reasons. It’s wise to distinguish between the two and be aware of how they operate. They often reach different conclusions.
Still on the Wish List:
Looking for Alaska: John Green has a bunch of YouTube videos about history. They are excellent. I respect his analysis and he makes history fun. This novel is a coming of age story set in a high school. I’ve read good reviews.
That’s the list for the summer. A few of these I still need to finish, but when I do I will be looking for the next read. Feel free to add recommendations in the comments section.
Long Live Books!