Books You've Got To Read
By Brian Thomas, Founder, A Child's Book.com
Your bags are packed and you're ready to go. What do you take with you on a family outing to the beach, mountains, cabin, car, or plane? I always pack three books (or more) because I have to keep more than one book going at a time just to get me started, like one of those plate spinners from The Ed Sullivan Show; I know that something (anything, really) wonderful may attract my interest and keep things humming in my brain.
Where to start? Of course, the new Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix may keep the kids (and a host of adults) reading through the middle of summer. Yet, did you know that other books are serialized, too? Some of the pre- and post-adolescent types I know told me that starting another book series is what they will be up to this summer, like Philip Pullman's Dark Material books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). If you can excuse some of the religious allusions (and who can't these days), then you are in for three starkly beautiful books. And for something completely different, I thoroughly enjoyed this past months' book club selection Girl Coming in for a Landing, especially if you have forgotten that great writing can come poetry flavored, too. In addition to poetic verse, Sandra Cisneros's prose in House on Mango Street still inspires and surprises me. I find myself writing "And some more…" on the subject line of a great many of the e-mails that I send out because her stories episodically reveals the heart of a person in their own core of discovery. I love how Mango Street can render me breathless with images and subjects that more children deal with on a day-to-day basis even if you didn't grow up on Chicago's Southside, as I did.
For adults, I'll be reading and recommending Coleman Barks's The Essential Rumi, which a friend gave me the other day, showing the 13th Century Persian poet as a person filled with passion, humor, longing, and much more. Kind of like Cisneros but much older. (Maybe I'll even crib a few lines from Rumi and send them to my wife.) I'll also be catching up with ZZ Packer, a young short story writer whose collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere demonstrates that the art of storytelling is not lost on the new generation of writers. Along with young short story writers like Junot Diaz, Marisa Silver, Jhumpa Lahira, and Bernard Cooper, Packer's work inspires and excites. Last, but certainly not least, I'll be reading two books that seemingly have very little in common with each other, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead and Father Al Holtz's Downtown Monks. Swofford, an ex-marine now teaching writing on the West Coast, captures of the vibrant reality that was the first Persian Gulf War while "Father Al" writes about seeing God's grace all around him as he and his Benedictine brothers revive an urban school in Newark, New Jersey thirty years ago for mostly African American and Hispanic young men. However, both books do look at the different ways that boys become men, as well as chronicling the stories of the tellers in the midst of change.
Whatever you do this summer, I hope you will pick up a book, any book. Whether it's a best seller or a tome off the beaten path, just read!!
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