The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 28, 2002


Summer reading suggestions

Now that schools are out and summer vacations are about to begin, it's the time when most of us can plan on having more free time for recreational reading. With this in mind, the Mosquito has asked Mosquito Forum writers to help us compile a summer reading list. Here are their suggestions. They and we here at the Mosquito wish you many happy hours of reading throughout the summer months ahead. Turn off the television, ignore the Internet and don't answer your cell phone. Just pick up a thick book and enjoy some good summer reading.

Rick Blum recommends:

Tepper Isn't Going Out by Calvin Trillin.

As a long-time Carlisle resident, I derived great pleasure reading about Tepper, a Manhattanite who willingly spends an inordinate amount of time parking his car just for the fun of it - or so it seems. This curious little tale is imbued with Calvin Trillin's trademark humor and wit, which alone is worth twice the price of admission.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.

If you're as tired as I am of substance-abusing, wise-cracking, fan-snubbing athletes, then you will enjoy this biography of a sports hero who was also a true gentleman . . . uh, gentlehorse. Acutally, Seabiscuit was pretty ornery, but he was also an overachieving underdog whose journey from county fair grounds to national acclaim is just what the (horse) doctor ordered to raise your spirits.

Michael Fitzgerald recommends:

Theodore Rex by: Edmund Morris

In this sequel to his earlier best seller The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Morris details the White House years of the youngest man ever to become President. The book begins with the then Vice President Roosevelt learning about the shooting of President McKinley in Buffalo, and his horse and buggy ride from a remote cabin in the Adirondack Mountains to be by the side of the dying president. TR's hell-be-damned approach to traversing down the treacherous mountain paths foreshadows the very adventurous agenda of his presidency. Morris details the programs and issues associated with TR's presidency which included improving race relations, acquiring and preserving large parcels of public land, busting up the monopolistic trusts established by J. D. Rockefeller and his contemporaries who controlled business markets, and the construction of the Panama Canal. Morris provides the reader with a wonderful insight into a very important time in our country's history as well as the mind-set of the last progressive Republican president of the 20th century.

Nickel and Dimed — On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

The subtitle On (Not) Getting By in America summarizes the author's purpose in writing Nickel and Dimed; she wanted to experience and describe what it is like to try to live on a minimum wage salary. Cleverly written, this is the recounting of the author's experience working in three minimum wage jobs; as a waitress, a maid for a cleaning company, and as a retail worker at Wal-Mart. The reader is shamelessly presented with characters and the lifestyle that comes with working at these minimum wage jobs. Although the situation is contrived for the author, she is able to realistically describe the people and the situations in which they live. Reading this book is not a literary experience, but certainly provides a glimpse into a way of life foreign to most of us.

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71 - Regional School Districts, Sections 14A — 20A by The Great and General Court as approved by the Governor of the Commonwealth

The authors detail this very topical subject concerning the organization and requirements of regional school districts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In particular, Section 16B provides the reader with an insightful look at the budgeting process and the implications behind member communities disagreeing on the district budget. A good summer read.

David Freedman recommends:

Noodling for Flatheads by Burkhard Bilger.

This is a collection of eight essays about sub-cultures in the American South, from cockfighting to moonshining. The title essay is about catching catfish by poking around in murky waters until one's arm is deep inside a catfish, which then bites down on the arm and in catching the catcher is caught. Reading these essays is like visiting an exotic land or going to a dangerous place you'd never have the nerve or opportunity to get to on your own. The dust jacket blurb aptly concludes: Noodling for Flatheads is evocative, intelligent, and wonderfully weirda splendid antidote to the sameness of today's popular culture.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins

A lot of serious poetry people view Billy Collins' appointment as Poet Laureate of the United States as further evidence of America's intellectual decline. Maybe they don't like how accessible his poetry is — not ivory-towerish enough. But that's his appeal; Collins is a serious poet with a sense of humor and a knack for expressing his quirky take on things in clear, lyrical language that doesn't feel like Poetry with a capital P. For example: "Victoria's Secret," musings on what the lingerie models are thinking as he flips the pages of the catalog. But Collins can also link the mundane to the personal and eternal, as in "The Iron Bridge," wherein he stands on an old bridge built in 1902 and imagines his mother as an infant, born that year too, then sees a cormorant diving and pictures his mother who had recently passed away also disappearing deep into the water.

Mark Green recommends:

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington.

This is heavy going, and for that reason is not classic summer reading-list- fare of the beach-bag variety. But it is as insightful a diagnosis of the forces driving world events as anything I've seen in recent months. Its vision is made all the more impressive when you consider that it was written more than five years before September 11.

Witness for the Dead by Michael Fredrickson.

A well-written "mystery" loosely based on events involving Whitey Bulger familiar to all who have read the Boston Globe or Black Mass. But the true story is just the jumping-off point for an imaginative "just might be" variation of the story still to come.

The Thrill of the Grill by Chris Schlessinger and John Willoughby.

OK, so it's a cook book. But summer is first and foremost about cooking outdoors, and this book shows that grilled food need not be burnt, unimaginative or flavorless. It carries an attitude that is equal parts knowledgable, upbeat, casual and irreverent.

Parkman Howe recommends:

What Do We Know by Mary Oliver. Oliver is our best poet of nature and the personal world. Here are forty new poems by the Cape Cod resident.

The Painted Bed by Donald Hall. Harsh and moving poems about the death of the poet's wife, Jane Kenyon. The poem "Her Garden" is one of Hall's best compositions.

Jo Rita Jordan recommends:

The Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian

These historical novels of the English naval efforts during the Napoleonic wars are a perennial summer suggestion. There are 18 novels in the series; I am just beginning the fifth, Desolation Island. You don't put these books down easily; historical detail blends with dashing adventure, laugh-out-loud comedy, and natural science. You learn how life was led in the early 19

Following the Sun by John Hanson Mitchell

Nominally a story of a trip taken by bike, car, and train from southern Spain to the Hebrides one spring, the book wanders in typical Mitchell fashion from vineyard to bullfights. It is a tribute to what Mitchell contends is the true and original God: the sun. He departs on the spring equinox and arrives on the solstice, along the way praising the sun's contribution to everything that lives and moves on earth. Mitchell, the editor of Mass. Audubon's Sanctuary magazine, is our region's best writer by far, and this is his newest book. Enchanting, especially if read in the sun, if you like to be led in convoluted paths through many sun-related paths.

Ellen Miller recommends:

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.

I find myself recommending this book to everyone, and my battered copy is constantly out on loan. Kingsolver's considerable talent lies in interweaving the natural and spiritual world with the lives of her characters. Prodigal Summer has three separate stories set in the Appalachians, involving coyotes, the American chestnut, and moths and butterflies, and the humans who interact with them. Her characters are well-drawn, people you care about and whose multi-faceted worlds you regret leaving at the end of the novel.

Becoming Mona Lisa by Donald Sassoon.

This is a quirky but well-documented and engagingly written account of the world's most famous painting. Next year, the Louvre will move the 500-year-old Mona Lisa to its own private room, a controversial move among art historians who would prefer that the painting remain among its contemporaries. Sassoon, a history professor at the University of London, traces the journey of the "eyebrowless lady with the strange smile" by da Vinci to the pinnacle of icon success. Along the way, he reveals the identity of Mona Lisa, recounts her popular success in the 19

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

This is a powerful book. Set in post-apartheid South Africa, its protagonist is an unpleasant fiftyish college English professor who is forced to resign from the university. He leaves on an extended visit with his daughter who is farming in the hinterlands. There he faces challenges that force him to rethink his life, his concept of morality, love, and his relationships with humans (both black and white) and animals. Coetzee, who won the Booker Prize for Disgrace, is a consummate writer whose prose is disarming in its simplicity, but half-way through the slender novel a tidal wave of themes floods the readerfamily interactions, animal rights, the powerful and the powerless, changing politics in South Africa, a man finally attempting to find meaning in his life, and his daughter fighting for her emotional survival. The end of the book is nearly unbearable.

This is not a beach book, but one for contemplative rainy days. You will never forget it.

Forum editor Bob Rothenberg takes his shoes off, climbs into a hammock and opens his book for a few hours of undisturbed summer reading. (Photo by Ellen Huber)
Bob Rothenberg recommends:

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman

Surely you must think I'm crazy to recommend a book by a Nobel-prize-winning physicist as summer reading. No, I'm not a physicist, and yes, this book can be read, understood and enjoyed by anyone. In fact, you'll laugh your way through it. Feynman, a colleague of Oppenheimer and other renowned Manhattan Project scientists, satisfies his curiosity about everyday things (such as why dogs have such a good sense of smell) in uproariously funny ways. You'll be fascinated by the stories this brilliant eccentric spins.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

If you're one of the few people on the planet who have not yet read this true story of murder, high society and the search for justice in Savannah, make this the summer to do it. Its offbeat characters, fascinating settings and plot twists and turns will leave you yearning for a visit to Savannah. In fact, that's just what my wife and I did after reading this book during a winter snowstorm in North Carolina. We saw many of the actual settings, such as Mercer House and Boniventure Cemetery, and met Emma Kelly, "The Lady of Six Thousand Songs," who was still singing them in her eighties.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito