For Your Reading Pleasure: Summer Book Picks
Age of Bronze, by Eric Shanower (2001-). This series of graphic novels (three of a projected seven) collects all of the stories related to the Trojan War into a single narrative. Furthermore, it incorporates the latest findings from Mycenaean and Hittite archaeology into its images--from the clothing and armor worn by the characters to the look of Troy and other cities. Shanower pulls this off without undermining the dramatic elements.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons (1932, Penguin 1994). Set in the 1920s in England, this parody of rural novels tells the story of sophisticated Flora, orphaned at 19, who solicits a place to stay among her many relatives. The replies are not very welcoming but she decides to join a family living at the gloomy Cold Comfort Farm. The various family members are not allowed to leave the farm and are held under the sway of Aunt Ada Doom Starkadder, who controls the purse strings and has tantrums preceded by her saying, “I saw something nasty in the woodshed.” The reader never finds out what the nasty something was but we do see Flora transform the lives of everyone on the farm including Aunt Ada. As Flora says, “Nature is all very well in her place but she must not be allowed to make things untidy.”
The conventional wisdom is says that summer reading should be light with a splash of trashy on the side, but this year I’m going for three square meals. One will nourish the worker in me, one, the mother and the third, my humanity.
Since I’m on the Business Research Team and started the Bartley Business Bestseller Collection, I like to keep up with the books I’m choosing for the collection. When Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely, arrives for the collection, I’ll be the first to check it out. This book by a behavioral economist sets out to explain the reasons behind human irrationality. If I can’t benefit from the self help component of this book, I’m sure to be tickled by the social science used to understand everyday human conundrums.
I’m in the throes of reading Prince Caspian, the second title in the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, with my children and we expect to continue reading the series through the summer. My children are too young to view the movies, but reading the books allows them entrance to the playground banter about the stories and we’re all enjoying the fantastical tall tales.
For myself, I’ve chosen The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story, by Diane Ackerman. This account of how the Warsaw zookeepers, members of the Polish Resistance during World War II, managed to preserve the lives and humanity of many Jews after the German invasion promises to be touching and inspiring.
In a World Made by Hand: a Novel, by James Howard Kunstler, a series of disasters have transformed the modern world into a slower, yet more comfortable place. Using characters who still remember the long-lost days of instantaneous communication provided by a world-wide internet and abundant oil, Kunstler looks at how the survivors will live, what crafts they will need to master to survive and when things might get better.
Meanwhile in the new non-fiction work, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, published by National Geographic, Mark Lynas conveys the latest climatic predictions and the social, political and economic impacts that the predicted six-degree rise in global temperatures will have upon us. From famine and plague to increased war and desertification, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse thunderously ride in this work of horror-made-manifest. This can be considered especially chilling, considering that the six-degree rise in temperatures is considered conservative by many.
These two works make great beach reading this summer, as future years with rising water levels will see many of the world's beaches disappear.
March, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Geraldine Brooks, has proven to be a book that has stayed with me after reading. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women portrays the lives of the women in the March family while their father, a pacificist, serves as a Union chaplain during the Civil War. Brooks takes us to another dimension of that crucial year in those characters’ lives, from the perspective of the absent father, based on Alcott's famous father, Bronson Alcott. The novel, a lyrical and deftly written work, provides illuminating portrayals of relationships, threatened ideals, war’s nightmares and asks how much truth those separated by war can and should share.