Summertime, and the Reading Was Easy

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Like most folks who could afford or are able to do so, I have spent most of this summer inside, much of it reading books. Recovering from shoulder surgery provided an excellent — and legitimate — excuse to curl up with a book while listening to music through my hearing aids, which are Bluetooth enabled.

This slightly annoyed my Beautiful Mystery Companion, who would be talking to me without receiving a reply, because I could not hear her. She has a hard time comprehending how I can read, or write, with music blaring in my ears. I chalk it up to my decades spent knocking out stories, columns, and editorials in a newsroom, which is not a quiet workplace. There was always plenty of banter among the crew, the police scanner was constantly chattering, and distractions were plentiful.

With the trifecta of our wedding anniversary, Father’s Day and my birthday all occurring with a few months of each other, I received a nice selection of books at my request. These added to the pile of unread books already staring balefully at me. I had to start a second pile of to-be-read books. I am going on a book-buying hiatus until the two piles are whittled down.

Taking two graduate courses at UNT last spring reduced my recreational reading time, so the summer — where I received three hours’ academic credit for working from home in the LeTourneau archives — provided a chance to devour some delicious books, both fiction and non-fiction. Here is a sampling of my summer reads in case any of these catch your fancy.

  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, a novel that is a 21st century version of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction last year and is truly a gem, a story of an orphan boy in Appalachia, a region that Kingsolver both knows well from living there and describes beautifully in this coming-of-age novel. If you read only one novel in the (thankfully) waning weeks of summer, make it this one.
  • Unthinkable by Jamie Raskin. This was a Father’s Day gift from oldest daughter Kasey. Raskin is a congressman from Maryland. His brilliant but troubled son, Tommie, a Harvard law student, committed suicide just six days before the insurrection and riot at the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6, 2021. (And yes, it was an insurrection.) Raskin toggles between the horrific tragedy faced by him and his family and the indeed unthinkable actions on January 6. Raskin later served as the manager for the second impeachment of the former president. It is a heartbreaking story that raises my estimation of Raskin even higher than before. He is a true patriot.
  • War Fever: Boston, Baseball, and America in the Shadow of the Great War, by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith. In the fall of 1918, the United States was still enmeshed in what was then called the Great War (now called World War I). At the same time, Babe Ruth was a stellar pitcher and batter for the Boston Red Sox, who would go on to win the World Series. Conductor Karl Muck led the Boston Symphony amidst growing suspicions he was a spy for his native Germany. And Harvard law graduate Charles Whittlesey would become an unlikely hero for the Allied forces in Europe. The authors weave their stories together in fine fashion. Ruth would lead the Red Sox to their last World Series championship for the next 86 years, after being traded to the Yankees when the season ended. Muck was sent to an internment camp, while Whittlesey, despite his Brahmin roots, showed incredible courage on the battlefield. I found this gem at Recycled Books, one of my favorite bookstores, located on the Denton square.
  • The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel. Stéphane Breitwieser, along with his girlfriend, stole more than 300 works of art from museums and churches across Europe — an estimated $2 billion worth. Breitwieser did not steal in order to sell the stolen goods, but to have them for himself and his girlfriend, who lived like paupers in his mother’s attic bedroom, surrounded by priceless art. Eventually, it all came crashing down, thanks to his mother. This is a true page-turner and worth reading.

There are several other books that kept me company indoors this summer. You can check the complete list on my Goodreads page (goodreads.com).


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