A shared lunch with a literary companion can be a delightful momentary pause from the real world of career and family. What we choose to read is up to each of us. But I contend those who have a passion for books share common traits. We read primarily for enjoyment. But we also read a wide range of selections to keep at bay any internal narratives that reduce us to narrow-minded ideologues. Those who read a wide range of selections are uncomfortable residing within a colony of parrots.
As my husband and I embark on a holiday to the east coast there will be a literary companion at my side. I tend to read a serious selection and follow through with a more frivolous book. This pattern of reading assures that my personality will not devolve to that of either a depressed atheist or a useful idiot. So what do I recommend from my bookshelf?
The most recent selection of reading has been on the serious side of the street. It is worth purchasing and passing along. Spies for Hire (The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing) by Tim Shorrock meets my standard for diligent research and fact-based reporting. It is surprisingly refreshing because of an almost total lack of an insertion of editorial bias. My own bias is beginning to show. Perhaps the more apt name for this book is ‘Intelligence Profiteering’. Please consider this selection.
The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster is a thinking man’s book. The author’s words reflect how his childhood with a distant and aloof father has affected his own ability and grasp for nurturing his own child. The mood is dark but the thoughts expressed extend to us a vulnerable hope. Hug your kids today. Tell them you love them.
If you have not read Justinian’s Flea by William Rosen, check it out. The complexities of “plague, empire and the birth of Europe” are explored in a scholarly and highly readable fashion.
Orhan Pamuk? What can I say? I love his writing. My most recent choice, Snow was well chosen. His plots are within highly compressed time frames with three-dimensional characters, which spring to life on the page. There is dominant use of internal narratives for his characters, so if you are not fond of this style of writing, take a pass on this author.
For a few days of great reading, I recommend what is better known as The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz. I have all three books. But the triology can now be purchased as one volume. The novels weave a generational tale of the life of a family in Cairao during the British occupation.
Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum has a favoured status on my shelf. It was given to me by a dear friend. He penned these words to accompany the selection: “When women love chocolate as much as you do, she really ought to know more about it.” I have attached quite a bit of sentiment to this book. The author of Chocolate also wrote a book titled Olives. Pass the box of chocolates and throw in a martini!
If you are brave, read The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux. This book is also a gift from a friend. The three stories all spring from the same psychological mooring. Were I to rename this selection it would be titled ‘Sexual desire shakes hands with psychosis’. I much preferred The Old Patagonian Express, which is one of Mr Theroux’s many non-fiction works.
All who have ever experienced a bit of intellectual theft and the pressure to embrace the concept of a creative commons will do well to invest in Mark Helprin’s book, Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto. Are you an individual? Or are you part of a swampland otherwise known as a think tank? Yes, I am barking now, the solo-flight junkyard dog that I am. (And I just ended a sentence with a linking verb, too! Smile.) But this is a great book to remind us to stand our ground and perform as sentinels regarding our intellectual property.
The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age is an excellent book for those who are not scientifically inclined. Nathan Wolfe does a great job of breaking down the information into easy to digest bits of information.
If you are in the mood for lofty thoughts and succinct theology please read “The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr (Selected Essays and Addresses). The book contains a hidden treasure. Reinhold Neibuhr was a beacon for ethical religio-political thought in the 20th century. I love his essay on “The Assurance of Grace”. My life is always viewed through the lens of the grace of God. It keeps bitterness from bubbling in my veins.
Two selections on my shelf will be more attractive to the female frame. Sattareh Farman Farmaian penned her remarkable memoir with the assistance of Dona Munker. Daughter of Persia is an absolutely delightful look at Persian society in both transition and collision with a modern world. Apparently, the latter remains the order of the day.
The second selection is Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. I hesitated a bit to include this title because the most frequent rant into my email against Americans has to do with our history of slavery. Toss in the mistreatment of the American Indians. But this is a carefully woven story of a poor white family and the family of black sharecroppers who struggle to survive in the remote and harsh land where they toil for daily subsistence. There are gut-wrenching scenes intermingled with a story of human redemption.
What am I taking to read on holiday? It is a selection offered up by a friend. Bright Lights, No City by Max Alexander will be a great addition to my personal library. I spent three weeks in Ghana as a naval officer and member of Fleet Hospital Dallas. What a gracious host nation! What a beautiful people!
Pick up a book today. Acquaint yourself with the world!
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org