By Betty Mills
There was a time when you could tell by watching someone what they were doing when they were reading a book. That’s what they were doing – they were reading a book. Now all the accessories may be there – easy chair, foot stool, light shining over the left shoulder, and something in the hands which is being avidly perused.
Is it a book? Is it the latest pictures of the adored grandchild? Is it a late breaking communication from the office? Is it a game? Maybe it’s a book.
But what if? What if I suggest a reading list if only to linger for awhile in those dear old days when a book might be fat, skinny, paperback, hardcover, tattered and coffee spattered, but it was recognizably at all times as a book. And you could be reasonably safe in presuming that whoever had it open before them was reading.
Call it nostalgia, the good old days, or maybe one more for the read.
Let’s start with Blowout, Senator Byron Dorgan’s latest book , this time co-authored by David Hagberg. Dorgan’s previous books have been non-fiction – the economy and government and how to fix them – and, of course, laced with Dorgan’s signature humor. Blowout is set in the North Dakota badlands, and it’s packed with action and dead bodies in a plot to de-rail an experimental process to burn coal without the carbon emissions. Guaranteed to keep you up past your bedtime.
There have been a string of recent books about the World War II experiences of individuals as diffuse as a U. S. pilot shot down over Belgium and rescued by the French underground (The Girl In The Blue Beret by Bobbi Ann Mason) based on the experiences of the author’s father-in-law, to (Citizens of London by Lynne Olson) which describes the vital role played by three American men in London during World War II: Edward R. Murrow, the famous CBS news correspondent, Averell Harriman, head of Lend Lease in London, and John Gilbert Winant, U. S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Politics is, of course, front and center in this an election year. And a dismal affair it has been so far. Several authors have taken a stab at explaining the path we’ve stumbled along to reach the dismaying political atmosphere that is currently our American way of politics.
Hot off the proverbial press is Our Divided Political Heart by E. J. Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and professor at Georgetown University. In a nice turn of the summing up phrase, he says we can’t decide who we are because we don’t agree on who we’ve been. He closes the book stating that “our history is one in which populists of various stripes have always challenged elites, in which private wealth has always been seen as carrying a social mortgage, and in which public action has always been subject to accountability and searching criticism.”
For me a more laborious read had a different take on what ails us—it’s mostly in our genes or at least buried so deep inside we are often unaware of why we support some causes and not others, vote for some political parties and not others.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt is not hammock reading, but worth the time.
And then so as not to become too attached to those summer naps, there’s a new book by Bob Reiss entitled The Eskimo and The Oil Man, subtitled The Battle At The Top Of the World For America’s Future. The struggle for power and influence in the Artic is told in this book through the eyes of two men, one an Inupiat Eskimo leader and the other the head of Shell Oil’s Alaskan operation.
Ah, but summer is waiting around the corner and that means escape literature can be wallowed in without guilt. My family was very taken with the books of John D. MacDonald, partly because they took place in Florida, a place we often went to fish. So after his death, we searched for a suitable replacement, and Randy Wayne White’s books are often better than John D. since they are not as encrusted with MacDonald’s chauvinism.
My current candidate, however, is a series by Christine Kling. Her protagonist is a young woman with lots of boat savvy who inherits her father’s tugboat and salvage business, operating in southern Florida. Surface Tension is the first of these books, and it frequently crackles with enough plot tension to prevent one of those accidental summer naps.
Then for the pure joy of reading a whole book by an outsider who grew to love North Dakota, read How Fargo Of You by Marc de Celle which is filled with stories which illustrate, as he puts it, “What is special about the northern prairie that people who haven’t been here will never believe!”
All of these books are, of course, available on whatever electronic version hangs out at your house, demonstrating maybe that it is possible to live happily in more than one world.