I’ve never compiled a true summer reading list. I always have a backlog of books and magazine articles I’m trying to get through, and no matter how much reading I get done, there’s always more, regardless of the season. I do try to polish off at least one substantial book during vacation, however. This year, I think my vacation book will be Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. I’ve already downloaded it to my iPad and taken a peek at the introduction.
Also on the list for this summer: The Man Who Tried to Save the World by Scott Anderson. It’s the story of Texas-born relief worker Fred Cuny, who disappeared in Chechnya in 1995. The book was recommended to me by a colleague after the Boston Marathon bombings for its explanation of political divides in the region.
If you’ve read The Man Who Thought Like a Ship, (yes, that’s a shameless plug for my own book), you know that I spent some time as a child playing in a Crusader castle in Cyprus. That sparked a lifelong fascination with the Crusades, and I typically read at least one book a year related to them. I have three awaiting my attention: Thomas Beckett: Warrior, Priest, Rebel by John Guy; Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for the Apocalypse by Jay Rubenstein; and Eleanor of Acquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England by Ralph V. Turner. I’m not sure which one I’ll pick yet, although I’m leaning toward the Beckett book.
I also have a couple of unfinished reads that I hope to wrap up this summer. The first is Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans. Written by Charles Moore and Cassandra Phillips, it’s the story of a sailor returning from Hawaii who stumbles upon an “oceanic desert” that has become the world’s largest garbage dump. He’s determined to find out why so much discarded plastic and garbage has collected there and what can be done about it. This book was recommended to me by a conservationist in the Houston area, and I read half of it on a plane last fall but never finished it.
The second “partial” that I hope to finish by the end of summer is the latest installment in Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson biography, The Passage to Power. I’ve read the previous three volumes, and I’ve learned that I enjoy Caro’s work best when I read it in segments, more like a serial than a single book. I’ve been picking away at this one for a while, and with any luck, I’ll be done with it by September.
Finally, I’ll need a few novels to mix in with the nonfiction. I had hoped to be enthralled with T.C. Boyle’s San Miguel, but it was surprisingly less engaging than his previous works. Boyle is one of my favorite novelists, so I may go back and read one of his earlier works, such as Water Music or World’s End.
After reading an excerpt from Philipp Meyer’s The Son in the latest issue of Texas Monthly, I’ve added that to my list as well.
Of course, I probably won’t make it through all these in the next three months, but the last thing I’d want is to have a list that too short and find myself in mid-August with nothing to read.
What ‘s on your reading list for the summer?