It’s the height of Summer here in New England and along with BBQ’s, beach days, and much needed time off work and school, that means Summer Reading lists. Schools, magazines, news organizations, heck even accounting firms put together lists of suggested books so I figured, why not jump on the pile too? But be warned, there will be nothing related to finance in this list. I think “Summer Reading” should be about recharging your batteries, not another excuse to read self help books that, in my opinion, do more to make me feel worse than feel better. So, sit back, relax and check out these five books we think you should read this summer.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
The most beach eligible book on this list, this comical memoire of Mayle’s first year living in Provence full time is a fun, quick, and eminently snackable read. The book has twelve chapters, each dedicated to a month of the year filled with stories and musings from the author. The book is often laugh out loud funny and both my wife and I found ourselves wanting to read particularly funny passages out loud to each other. If you’re looking for a breezy and comical read for your Summer, this book fits the bill in spades.
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
The first book in a science fiction series that recently saw its final installment, Leviathan Wakes is the best sci-fi book I’ve read in years. The book describes sweeping events in a very human scale, not getting bogged down in techno-babble or grand scale narration. You get to experience a plausible human future and what would be enormous events in human history through the eyes of everyday people trying to cope. The story is well paced and engaging and on several occasions, I found myself staying up later than I wanted so I could finish a chapter and find our what happens. With action, relationships, politics, and a dash of philosophy, Leviathan Wakes is the complete package if you want to leave the world behind and experience an adventure out in space.
Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire by Fred Anderson
The Seven Years’ War (The French and Indian War, as it’s more commonly known in the US) is an often-ignored part of American history despite its being the direct cause of the American Revolution a decade later. Fred Anderson seeks to correct this lack of attention with this comprehensive yet engaging history of this all-important conflict in the history of North America. While I know hefty history books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, consider making an exception for this one. Anderson describes the conflict in narrative rather than academic fashion and he fills that narrative with a host of colorful characters from the period. My wife is a fan of history, but dry academic tomes for her are a recipe for an early bedtime. By contrast, Crucible of War had her staying up late to see would happen next as the global drama unfolded. If you have even a passing interest in American history, or the histories of the Iroquois Confederacy or early Canada, this book deserves a place in your reading this summer.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Fantasy used to be my favorite genre as a kid, but I quickly got tired of it when it seemed every book was rehashing the same tired tropes and story arcs. Joe Abercrombie remedies that problem with The Blade Itself. The first book in a trilogy it stands well on its own and breaks out of the rut Fantasy often finds itself. This thoroughly adult take on a fantasy story arc leaves out the elves and unpronounceable names, instead giving you a profoundly human story about a country very much at a crossroads in its history. The writing style is more gritty than fantastical, but this is much less bloody and hard than the likes of George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. So, if you that series was a bit much, this is very much worth your consideration for a thrilling fantasy read.
Travels with Epicurus: Meditations from a Greek Island on Old Age by Daniel Klein
Don’t let the title fool you, this book looks at the question of how to live a good life while being frequently humorous and never getting lost in philosophical navel gazing. Klein uses his trip back to the Greek island of Hydra at age 72 as a framing device for thinking about how he wants to live in the last stretch of his life. He offers an interesting and personal critique of what he calls “forever young” culture peppered with anecdotes, jokes, quotes from philosophers, and his own personal musings. Relevant to everyone, not just those who are retirement aged, Travels with Epicurus looks at the question of how to live a good life in such an approachable and lighthearted way that it’d be a crime not to give this book a try.
There you have it, our inaugural summer reading list. Let me know if you give on of the books and try and what you think of it. Also let me know if articles like this are something you’d like to see on occasion. With that, stay well and enjoy the rest of your summer!