Do you have a summer reading list?
Maybe it is scraps of paper scribbled with the names of authors and their titles, scattered throughout the house in a way that may seem haphazard. It’s not, of course, and the intent is very serious: I am going to get that book and I am going to read it.
Or maybe your list consists of innumerable, patiently waiting books, stacks that totter precariously at the bedside, on the kitchen table, on that little stand in the bathroom or the one next to the chair, even in your vehicle. They could be library books, finds from Goodwill or NTCH, a must-have-my-own-copy from From My Shelf Books, or loaners.
It’s bad when those on-loan volumes find themselves captured in the midst of one of the piles, as their original owners may now be doubting the wisdom of lending to you (no worries, John Mark, I haven’t sold “Dark Money” on e-Bay and, yes, Bob Cox, I am still reading your ancestral biography—“James Cock: His Life and Times: 1630-1699”).
My summer fiction at the moment includes the latest from Alexander McCall Smith’s “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series. “The House of Unexpected Sisters” and “The Colors of All the Cattle” are 18 and 19, respectively, and are as charming as their predecessors.
The heroine, Precious Ramotswe, owns and operates the afore-mentioned detective agency in Botswana; losing yourself in her sometimes wry, but never unkind, observations of human nature, her generosity, her love of country and family, serves as a balm in this angry world.
You can read the McCall books in a day, especially if, like me, you find your reading pleasure is enhanced if you’re reading when you should be doing something else.
Other summer fiction recommendations would be “The Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver, “Rose” by Martin Cruz Smith and, of course, any Jack Reacher story you can get your hands on.
In the non-fiction section, I’m working on “Pioneer Girl,” which is the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder (edited by Pamela Smith Hill). As Louisa May Alcott fictionalized her own family for “Little Woman,” Laura Ingalls Wilder went that route for the “Little House” books.
In “Pioneer Girl,” however, are the “true stories of her pioneering life” as her family travelled throughout the Midwest during the late 1860s and the 1870s. There are pictures and maps and an abundance of documented, historical information, all of which serve to bring Wilder and her family to life in new ways.
“Pioneer Girl” is a big hard cover, so you might need a bag of some sort if you want to carry it to the beach.
However, despite its nearly 500 pages, you can stuff the paperback version of “The Mueller Report” into the pocket of your cargo shorts. The book is not hard to read, but you have to pay attention to the names, dates, places, meetings, and acronyms (Appendix B is a helpful glossary). It’s a little daunting, and a little dry, so sometimes I cheat a bit and employ the Donald Shimoda method to find some good parts.
Shimoda was the Reluctant Messiah in Richard Bach’s “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” (also a good summer read). He was caretaker of the “Messiah’s Handbook,” and he explains to Bach’s character that the book always opens to the page the reader needs to find guidance or answers. He says that it works with any text, not just the Handbook.
You might think he meant writings of an instructive or spiritual nature — the Bible or the Koran, maybe, or something by Thomas Jefferson — rather than, say, that titillating passage early on in “The Godfather.” You know, the one involving Sonny Corleone and a bridesmaid. But for some reason, the paperback copy of that book that my classmates and I passed around in 10th grade history class always seemed to open to that page.
Anyway, I’ve done the Shimoda thing a few times with “The Mueller Report,” and, when you get your copy and start reading, you can, too. There is something interesting on every page, believe me. Even the redactions are intriguing.