August is one of two times during the year (the other being the stretch of time between Christmas and the new year) that I try to back away from email, social media, and work reading and try to catch up on reading for pleasure.
Reading for pleasure! Is there any greater luxury than being able to read a few books on various topics, just because you have the time? I don’t think there is.
August is ideal for this. It begins with a long weekend in Canada (civic day) and often we spend a week at a vacation rental in the Bruce Peninsula at some point in the month, and the reality of Fall term has yet to hit. Our kids’ sports are over. There’s time to relax a bit.
Past August Reads
Over the years, I’ve tackled many things, and found some books and authors that I have greatly enjoyed. So here’s some recommendations from past year. One year, about a decade ago, I grabbed a copy of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens that was at a rental cottage and was immediately taken with how entertaining it was and the strength of the characters. I couldn’t finish it in a week, though, and I did not want to take the book from the cottage, so I bought the book from Amazon when I got back. So glad I finished and that led to me quickly reading Great Expectations, Hard Times, and Bleak House. At some point, I hope to finish the rest of Dickens’s books.
I also got caught up in the excellent police procedurals by Peter Robinson (Inspector Banks series), again because I came across one at a rental home and was hooked. I’ve since worked my way though about 7 of these since then. Very well written crime books.
Other recommendations from summer reads: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, probably the best fictional depiction of a collapse in leadership I’ve ever read. Bonus: there’s the fanatic movie adaptation, and it turns out that my grandfather was a US Navy seaman on the same kind of ship (destroyer) in the same South Pacific typhoon in WW II that the played a heavy role in the book’s later half, which is a cool personal connection.
I read The Orenda by Joesph Boyden on the shores of Georgian Bay not far from where the action in the novel would have been set (this was before controversy over Boyden’s identity had reached mainstream). Last year I read Winter World by the incredible Bernd Heinrich. He is one of the very best science writers working today and I’ve read a few of his books, this was my favourite of the bunch.
There have been some forgettable books as well, nothing bad, but things that felt like just passing the time (some sea faring adventure books by Clive Cussler, a biography of John Adams, Pinker’s How the Mind Works).
On the Shelf This Month
So what I am reading now?
- I’m 1/2 way through the epic fantasy The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and it’s just fantastic. I expect to finish this soon and have lined up the following books next.
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’m not in a hurry, but my daughter got this for me last year and I looked at the first chapter, quite amazed at what an incredibly good writer Tyson is. It’s a quick read, but one that I think I’ll really enjoy.
- Other Minds by Peter Godfrey Smith, is a book about the nature of consciousness and an emphasis on cognition and intelligence in cephalopods. Nonhuman intelligence (primates, social insects, birds, cephalopods, machines) is a topic that I expect to occupy more of my time and thinking in the next few years. There have been mixed reviews of this, though, so I’m approaching it with caution. I have no problem quitting a book that starts to fall apart.
- Strange Affair by Peter Robinson. This will be the 8th novel I’ve read by Robinson. I’m reading this series in no particular order, I just found this in a used book store last week for 99¢ so could not pass it up.
I’m not sure I’ll get through these this month, but we’ll see. As I said, this is my month for reading for pleasure, not out of compulsion. There’s no better way to read, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the ideas, the words, the characters, and the concepts. If you’re also planning on some reading for the summer or have done some summer reading already, here’s hoping you found a new favourite book or author.