Summer Reading (or Summer Read)

I know that it is now officially Fall, but it has been a while since I updated my reading list so I thought I would share a list of the books I read this summer. As with all other such post lists, some of these books I intensely enjoyed and others, well, I probably will not read again.

Non-Fiction

52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander. As a bread baker I was intrigued with the title of this book and was entertained from beginning to end with the author’s near obsessive interest in baking the perfect loaf of peasant bread. This was certainly no “how to” book, yet I learned much more about the art of bread baking including yeasts, flour, and a good oven.

A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams, Michael Pollan. I read this during my sabbatical leave it coincidently complimented by visual journey it Rome. Part memoir and part journalistic, Pollan reflects on the purpose and aesthetics of a shelter.

The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen. This is a classic piece of modern nature writing first written in the 1970s. It is the interior reflection of one man’s journey – sojourn? – in the foot of the Himalayas for the snow leopard as well as the search for the self.

Iron John, by Robert Bly. Minnesotan poet Robert Bly wrote this insightful text which literally fueled a “men’s movement” in the 1990s. I first read this book twenty years ago and picked it up again this summer. What a difference it is to read something through the eyes of an older man. Filled with Jungian typology, it is still a relevant classic in the area of masculinity.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. One of my sons was assigned the Pulitzer Prize winner and I decided to read it along with him. It is more than a study of world history; it is thoroughgoing exploration of how and why some societies evolved according to geography, climate, and plant/animal domestication. 

Shop class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, by Michael B. Crawford. The author holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago and has chosen to repair motorcycles “for a living.” It was a wonderful read on, as the subtitle implies, the value of work (and by implication how many have little value for what they “do”).

God and the Art of Seeing, by Richard Kidd and Graham Sparkes. The authors selected several paintings from six artists and compiled essays reflecting on art’s contribution to the journey of faith. While the essays tended to be redundant and some of the observations seemed to be a bit forced, it was an overall good treatment of the nature of faith and art.

Fiction

Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence. This book has been around about one hundred years and was at one time banned for obscenity, which by today’s standard is “PG” rating at best. Beautifully written, which is part of the reason of its classic status, it is also a bit tiresome in its character development and elongated plots.

The Violent Bear it Away, by Flannery O’Conner. What can I say? I love Flannery O’Conner because her fiction can be read on several levels: theological, philosophical, or just well-written fiction that is entertaining. This is one of only two completed novels that O’Conner published before her death at the age of 39. The rest of her work are short-stories that carry equal weight in the literary world.

Poetry

Morning Poems, by Robert Bly. Bly is the author of the well-known book Iron John, a book I read and thoroughly enjoyed first in 1989 and again this year. He is first and foremost, however, a poet. His free verse style is laced with Jungian themes and images, which can make for some wearisome reading at times. Nonetheless there were lines beautiful and simple and in many places quite profound.

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