For the last several months, I’ve been reading mostly light and escapist fiction in my spare time. I came to realize the other day that mostly what I’ve been escaping from is using my brain. To counteract that, since I put a lot of time and student loan money into an education for said brain, I decided that I should make the effort to read at least one non-fiction book a month.
Then, Monday night, I listened to an NPR show about summer reading lists, particularly which books their three experts were recommending for people this summer, which covered quite a broad range. I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t have much of a summer break growing up (being both in the southern hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed from North American, and on a different school year schedule) but I don’t remember “summer reading lists” being much of a thing. I’m sure we had required reading over the breaks between terms at some point, but I don’t remember them being a very big deal. Then again, I was such a voracious reader that I was reading my brothers’ books two and more years above my grade level by the time I was in fifth and sixth grade, so I might have just not noticed.
At any rate, my new determination to engage my brain occasionally while reading clicked with this idea of a summer reading list and I thought, “I should do that!”
Since I’m not in school anymore, and don’t get a summer vacation, I decided to define my summer by the calendar rather than school being in or out of session. The calendar on the wall of my cube says that this Saturday is technically the first day of summer, even though the last three days have been over 90 (32 C). It also says September 23rd is the first day of fall, so I’ll count my summer as June 21st through September 23rd. The goal is, perhaps obviously, to have my reading list all checked off by then.
In the interest of following my inspiration to read more (hopefully brain stimulating) non-fiction, I decided to include three non-fiction books right off the top. The first is Trauma Red: The Making of a Surgeon in War and in America’s Cities by Dr. Peter Rhee (with Gordon Dillow) who is the trauma surgeon who headed the team who worked on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when she was shot three years ago. I encountered it on the “New Arrivals” table at Barnes & Noble during a quick stop last Sunday (on my way to get a smoothie at the mall food court, which was sadly closed by the time I disentangled myself from the enticing books.)
After some thought, I decided to add Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, the story of the Mann Gulch wildfire disaster in 1949, which resulted in the death of 13 Smokejumpers. I’ve thought it might be an interesting read for several years, but my interest was sharpened after I heard an interview on American Public Media’s “The Story” with the only remaining Mann Gulch survivor Bob Sallee in the aftermath of the Yarnell Hill tragedy in Arizona last year. I’ve just never gotten around to reading the book and I thought this would be a good opportunity.
For the third non-fiction, I’m going to count the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, which I’m already three chapters into at my counselor’s request. It may be cheating to start with two action-adventures and a “required reading” I’ve already begun, but knowing my tendency to set unrealistic goals, I thought easing into this one would be a good idea.
The next two books I added to my list are ones I’ve had for a long time, but never actually read. One, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, was given and recommended to me by my mother, I think. It’s a novel about friendship and humanity, betrayal and redemption, in pre-revolutionary Afghanistan. The second is Hinds’ Feet on High Places, the classic Christian allegory by Hannah Hurnard, which my sister-in-law left behind when she moved over a year ago.
And then, because in my head a summer reading list should have at least some light and fun in between the brain-stretching, I added a Robert Heinlein book I haven’t read in quite a while called The Door into Summer, about an inventor who is shanghaied into cryosleep and wakes up in the year 2000, determined to figure out a way to get back and avenge himself on his cheating business partner who did this to him (it was written in 1957, when 2000 seemed a long way off…) Besides, how perfect is that title for a summer reading list?
So, as it stands now, there are a half dozen books on my list (only four of which I own, but we’ve got a good county library system):
- Trauma Red
- Young Men and Fire
- The Kite Runner
- Hinds’ Feet on High Places
- The Door into Summer
What do you all think? I feel I have room to add three to five more books, depending on their size and density, and I’m leaning towards ones I haven’t read before. Do you have any recommendations for me? What are you currently reading? Do you have a “summer reading” list? Or just a general “read someday” list?
I can’t guarantee a review of every book, but I’ll try to keep you all informed of my progress and opinions – or lack thereof. Now bring on summer!