This summer is done. Summer, defined by me are the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It was an eventful season. My fourth child graduated from High School, my wife and I took our youngest (Fifth child, and the last!) to New York City for a long weekend. There were a couple of day trips around Florida. My oldest child and his wife came for a ten day visit from California. The summer flew by. My summer reading was not as fruitful as last year, but I did read some titles I enjoyed quite a bit. I thought it would be fun to share them, with a few thoughts on each, as I prepare my fall reading list, however, I will be honest, I never follow any list. Whim and fancy always get the best of me. So, it is more of a very loose outline. I digress, here are the titles of this hurried summer season:
City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York, By Tyler Anbinder
They say that those who don’t know their history… well, I don’t need to say it, but this is a timely read and a very good one. It is a vast and sweeping telling of immigration from the Danes original settlement in the 1626 marching through to the 1980’s-90’s. Each wave welcomed with suspicion and sectioned off, some by choice others social forces. The stories are voices form the past, many unknown, several well known. Some of the stories of life then is retched, some inspiring. A well researched story of the building of a great city and our nation of immigrants, built upon the backs of each successive phase of people throwing caution to the wind for a chance at a new life. It is the story of yesterday as much as it is today.
I’ve written a full review of this previously. It is a non fiction work. A self help. a Resource guide. It is a explaining of personality frameworks with a personal connection to them by the author that was very readable to me. I enjoy a book I learn something from. I learned a great deal from this one. In fact some of the information I gleaned about myself is the reason I started this blog this summer. Though I was part of the launch team for this book, given an advance reader copy in exchange for a review, it was nothing I thought it was going to be, and I really enjoyed all it had to offer. Because of this work by Anne Bogel. I will be doing a deeper dive into the subject matter and learn more about myself towards the goal of improving how I interact with the world and my close relationships.
Becoming Earth, by Eva Saulitis
This is a group of essays written in a memoir fashion. The author was a poet, scientist, and author. She lived in Alaska studying whales and teaching creative writing. She tells of her youth in Upstate Western New York and her relationship with her environment. She battles and beats Breast cancer in her forties and has a recurrence in her fifties. She shares her experience and tells of living with the knowledge of death on the horizon. If it sounds dark, I did not find it to be. I found it encouraging and full of emotion. She shares her thoughts on her world and the environment she witnesses that will keep right on going, even after she has gone… and become part of it. I loved this.
Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
This true story of the Osage murders in the 1920’s tells the story of a family, the Browns, murdered for greed, the beginning of what would become the FBI and of the racial bigotry endured by the Osage Indians. It is another sad chapter of or our history of mistreatment of a group of people because they do not meet what society deemed acceptable. They were different, and even worse, they were rich, due to being placed on land the government thought to be undesirable and worthless, until oil is discovered under the barren landscape. Sad. However, this nonfiction is well told. It is a fantastic history, mystery and true crime story.
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, By Monica Hesse
Yes, that old story… Yet this is a true story and recent one. The author tells of the Arsons on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It is not necessarily a who don’ it, as we learn nearly at the beginning who in fact did get charged with sixty-seven counts of Arson. However, the author, a Washington Post reporter, goes back and traces the origins of the story and the two who became lovers and arsonists. One a troubled, but likable, mechanic. The other bartender and waitress, with a difficult past, who thirsted for attention. Alone they may not have stooped to the depths they did. We learn of the place, its social and economic drivers, The people who make up this community, and the reality of a once rich and booming economy long past and nearly forgotten. I really enjoyed this one.
The Last Picture Show, By Larry McMutry
The story of a group of teenagers in a small Texas town in the early 1950’s. A sort of coming of aged story published in 1966 and became the much acclaimed film of the same name. It is gritty, and sexual overtones were a bit too vivid for this guy. I was a teenager once, I may have known a few folks like Duane, Sonny, and Jacey (Well, I think every teenage boy wishes he knew a Jacey) but I could not relate to them. The main characters do not as much come of age, as they seem to stumble in the dark toward what they think is adulthood. It sure is a story that moves briskly. The author is obviously talented based on the breadth of his work and success, I just did not feel it was for me. Yet, I couldn’t put it down. Overall, a very strange experience.
The Woman in White, By Wilkie Collins
Here is an Author and title I was not familiar with. I am now! This is the story as told by several persons in their, “own hand.” The novel was what, in the mid 1800’s, was called a “Sensation Novel;” what today we would call a detective story or mystery. I call it fantastic. Walter Heartright (No it is not a coincidence my Blog is of that name) is walking along a road towards London,England in the middle of the night when he is met, from out of nowhere, by a woman, dressed all in white. She is guarded and scarred. Heartright helps her find safe passage. Little did this young middle class teacher of painting know, his chance encounter would change the trajectory of his life, in ways unimaginable, and the life of several others as they intersect each other. The story weaves mystery upon mystery, until the truth of the woman in white is revealed. I will not give and hint of it, it is too wonderfully done, anything I tell may ruin the experience. In my humble opinion, The Woman in White may be my favorite read of 2017 at this years end.
There are others I read and enjoyed. Yet, it is too much to place in one spot, a retelling of each. So I list two more I loved, Anne of Green Gables, Loved. The Kite Runner, Loved. And two more – Mrs. Dalloway, Not so much. Telling Yourself the Truth – If I may be honest – I didn’t get much out of it.
What have your read this summer that stood out? I would love to hear some recommendations.