Summer Reading

(Sunday Paper, Volume II, Issue 34)

For some reason I hadn't done much reading at for about the past six months.

And then, this past month or so, I've been reading like crazy.

I was trying to make a concerted effort to read good writing for a while, then just fell off the pace.

But I'm glad I got back to it, because I feel strongly that good reading begets good writing.

So today we'll talk a little bit about what I've been reading this summer.

Before I get going, please share what you're reading and whether (or not) you think it's worth everyone else's time on the Facebook page, in the comments for this article's posting. Would love for this to be an interactive topic:

*Last year for my birthday Kathy got me Valiant Ambition, by Nathaniel Philbrick. It was a book I really wanted to read, I was excited to read it...but it sat on my nightstand for a year. Sometimes I have such high hopes for a book that I don't want to start it because I'm afraid I'll be disappointed that I finish it. I'm not sure if that's a common thing, or if it even makes sense, but that's my particular brand of crazy. But in those situations eventually I just have to pick up the book and dig in. So I finally did that with this book. I thought the book was only about Benedict Arnold and how he became a traitor to his country, but I was surprised to find out the book was mostly about his relationship with George Washington, and a lot about Washington's leadership in the war. A few quick takeaways:

  • This book paints one of the more unflattering portraits of Washington's military actions that I've ever read. I've heard this before - that Washington made bad decisions in the heat of the moment during battle - but this book was the first I've read to give multiple examples and really harp on that point.
  • There are tremendous characters in the story of Benedict Arnold - In addition to Arnold and Washington there are the likes of John Andre, Peggy Shippen, and Charles Lee - it's a really compelling story in part because of those personalities. But it was shocking to me, based on my preconceptions of the book going in, that Shippen wasn't introduced until halfway through the book, and really only a small fraction of the end of the book was devoted to the Arnold escape/Andre capture.
  • I'm endlessly fascinated by the American Revolution, so I really enjoyed this book. And Philbrick's a great writer - I loved his Bunker Hill book too. 

*I randomly came across Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. I saw something on line about it, found it in the library, and figured I'd give it a shot. It's not a book I guess I would normally seek out on my own - I don't often go for the dystopian type of book, but I was sucked into the world described in the book and the random connections between characters is always something I enjoy. Here's a part of the book that really got me intrigued. There's a group of perfectly fine characters sitting at the bar having a drink, and the chapter ends like this:

Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.

That's a pretty good couple of sentences, right? How could you not want to keep going after that?

*My daughter borrowed from the library Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier. She fell asleep one afternoon while reading it and I picked it up and read it while she was napping. I rarely read graphic novels, and this one was pretty great. I guess Telgemeier is pretty popular with the middle grade set - somehow her book Smile ended up in my classroom library, though I don't remember buying it or someone giving it to me, but it was always a popular title. If I was still in a classroom I'd definitely get Ghosts and recommend it to students.

*I'm currently reading an oral history about The Daily Show that I think my brother got for me last birthday as well - that's been sitting and collecting dust for a while for the same aforementioned reasons. And my daughter just read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe at my prodding, and she said she enjoyed it, and considering it's been decades since I read that I might re-read it soon. And then I'm finally going to sink my teeth into George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo, because I bought it with a birthday gift card this summer but haven't read it yet.

And you know what'll happen if I put that off any longer...


*Work has been steady through the summer and only interrupted by the fact that the girls are through with camp obligations. But I need to put out of my head that it's keeping me from doing work and enjoy the time they're home because in just a couple of weeks I know I'm really going to miss having them around.

*In case you missed it on Facebook earlier in the week, I got my hands on copies of some articles I had published at the beginning of the summer. If you're interested in reading something I wrote that isn't about me, this article is about the history of women in the military, and this link has 3 articles I wrote for a magazine called Family - one is about water safety, one is about fidget spinners, and one is about getting kids to wear sunscreen.


*August is a tough month for comedy. I've been getting out to see shows and to some open mics, and there have been booked shows here and there (had a fun time in York early in the month and another great time at Lincoln's in Portland last week), but things will probably pick up again over these next four months. I guess by next week I'll have the September dates up at the 'Comedy Shows' link. There are a couple of opportunities to see me before the end of August - one in Boston, one in Manchester, New Hampshire.

What I've Been Enjoying

*I know I spent this whole Sunday Paper pretty much writing about what I've been enjoying, but I'll add one more thing: last week Kathy and I saw 'The Big Sick'. It was a really good movie. I guess I don't have much to contribute to what you've probably already heard about it by now, but it is so worth your time. Side 'What I've Been Enjoying': Due to timing and other series of events, we saw the movie in Lexington. I had never been to that little theater before - it's really quite lovely. 


*One more note about Valiant Ambition - it just so happened that I read about the gunboat Philadelphia in this book right before my trip to Washington, D.C., so that added an extra layer of excitement to seeing the boat at the Smithsonian on that trip.

*Remember Kevin, from a couple of weeks ago? You may or may not remember he's a professor at the University of South Carolina. That's in Columbia...which just so happens to be a prime viewing location for the eclipse tomorrow. It's a big deal - people are traveling there from all over, hotels are completely booked, the university delayed move-in by a day, and public schools open on Tuesday instead of Monday. Also, the minor league game there (Mets affiliate!) will start in the afternoon and there will be a delay when the eclipse happens.

*We were actually thinking of doing outdoors-ish stuff on Monday...possibly the beach. I wonder if the beach will be packed with eclipse-seekers.

*Can't believe it's already August 20th. Giving me a little peace of mind, though, is the fact that we're all set with the back-to-school shopping (it just took two store stops...sometimes it takes three or more), and we have two cars that need new inspection stickers before the end of August...and this week we took care of both of them. That calms my brain more than you can imagine.

*Seriously, I want to know what you're reading this summer and whether it's worth reading - share it on the Facebook page.

*And if you don't already "Like" the Facebook page, please go do it. Thanks!