Summer Reading List 2017

Powell’s Books, Portland.

On last year’s summer reading list, I admitted to not having read every book cover-to-cover (yet). I ended up regretting that strategy because I never finished the book Thinking Fast and Slow. Still haven’t. It got boring and repetitive after a while. Felt like I shouldn’t be writing quips about books I hadn’t finished.

So turning a new leaf, a new summer, another celebration of reading, each of the following books I read in full:

Teacher Man: An intimate look into the life of a teacher. This book was written by Frank McCourt, an Irish immigrant who spent 30 years in the public school system of New York City starting in the 1950’s. I super recommend this book to any teacher or anyone interested in education. McCourt captures the thoughts and feelings of a teacher’s daily grind with a sharp, tender sense of humor. I found myself laughing out loud at times during the book.

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: A collection of graduation speeches delivered by Kurt Vonnegut, the author of many novels including one of my favorites, Cat’s Cradle. He calls himself a humanist. Time magazine has called Vonnegut “a zany but moral mad scientist.” The speeches take on basically the same themes, so the collection is a bit repetitive, but the message was worth hammering home: The world is totally screwed up, but nothing’s stopping you from being kind to each other. The title comes from an anecdote Vonnegut repeats in every speech, about his uncle who insisted on appreciating random pleasant moments with verbal recognition. For example, right now I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the early morning, comfy chair, still cool outside with the sun starting to stream across the floor. If this isn’t nice, what is?

How to Write Short: This book is about writing. The subtitle is Word Craft for Fast Times. As the title indicates, it’s about writing in the digital age. I enjoyed reading this book, not only for the writing tips but for the examples of good short writing. Most of all, this book caused me to become a more critical reader of short writing. It’s everywhere. Advertisement jingles. Bumper stickers. Tweets. Food label descriptions. Word craft is all around us, and it’s kind of fun to pay attention to it.

Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four: I picked up this book at Goodwill for $3. It’s by John Feinstein, an acclaimed sports author. The book slowed down for me at times, but overall Feinstein provides a solid, in-depth look into the college basketball championship tournament. The Last Dance describes the tournament from multiple perspectives — from coaches and players, to the referees and team selection committee. It also dives into the history of the tournament, which, as always in American sports, is tied to the growth of television contracts. This book was part of my basketball summer study, which included watching several hoops related 30 for 30 documentaries on ESPN, and researching the careers of Jordan and LeBron for a blog post.

1776: By David McCullough, 1776 is a historical dive into a decisive year in American history, the opening of the Revolutionary War. I don’t generally seek out war history, but this book was fascinating. American patriots in an underdog struggle. Commander George Washington being indecisive and making crucial errors of judgement, getting second guessed by his right-hand man, but eventually delivering courageous position victories. American soldiers marching dozens of miles in the frigid Boston winter, no shoes, in the middle of the night. British parliament debating the merits of fighting the Americans. Letters written back and forth, revealing the disruption of normal life in the 18th century. A change in weather possibly making the difference between defeat and victory. Human nature put to the test under fire, both sides well-aware of the historical ramifications. Fascinating.

What have you been reading lately? Drop me a line if you have any recommendations.

Long Live Books!