my summer reading list

I certainly spent enough time this summer sitting on planes, lounging by the pool, and simply stayed in bed for an extra hour in the mornings to read plenty of books. Not to mention a couple of trashy magazines (and that included People magazine). Thought I'd write a few notes on those books, and give them my own stars. (From a scale of one to five.)

(I don't really remember the order I read them, so this list is not in order.)

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and the Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne

This is an incredible novel I happened to pick up at Albuquerque airport while waiting for my delayed flight, and once I began, I couldn't put this down. This was an extremely well researched and well-written book, told in a prose that feels like it’s by a newspaper reporter turned novelist. This book gives a detailed account of the southwest “frontier” and the first nations who lived there, starting with the story of Quanah Parker’s mother, Cynthia Parker who was kidnapped from her white family, and ended up marrying a Chief. The way Gwynne writes this, he took no sides between the natives and the white settlers, but explained the story as how it unfolded, with both sides of the story. Compelling and complicated – just the way this country is.

4 stars out of 5.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

Fresh off from the Empire book, I happened upon this book in a Target store in their “popular books” section. I thought it sounded interesting and quite curious, with the story chronicling a woman who joined a federal supported “Bride Program” to marry Indians from a tribe in South Dakota. This program was supposed to be an ‘assimilation’ program of some sorts, encouraging single white women to marry natives to educate them the “ways” of the civilization and so forth. I was curious because this came from the “Journals of May Dodd” but when ending the book, a bit incredulous about the turn of events, I came upon the author explaining that this is a work of fiction. I felt stumped and ridiculously disappointed. The only truth to this was that an Indian chief of a tribe in South Dakota came to Washington DC to speak to the Congress. In his speech, the Chief asked the U.S. Government to send brides to the tribe, so they would learn the ways of the “white man” and that their children would mix and learn the ways of the world. This was in the 1860s, and the government did not take to his request well.

2 stars out of 5.

Ready Player One by Ernst Cline

This one was an unexpected novel! Sis told me "I gotta read it" but she says that about every other book she reads, so out of the five or ten books she read I'd try one of her recommendations. Most of the time I'm pleased by what I read. This one was no exception. Admittedly the summary threw me off a bit - it sounded like a weird sci-fi for a hard core gamer but I ended up becoming totally engrossed into the book and finished it off on a long plane ride from Hong Kong to San Francisco. I loved the 80s and 90s references and it made me miss all the old games. This book is basically about a kid in the future who tries to find a "hidden nugget" (an Easter Egg) to inherit a deceased man's fortune. Then, upon arriving back to DC, I was astonished to discover a new bar opening on H Street called 'Atlas Arcade' with its theme of retro games. (Funnily enough, two years ago, I returned from a trip to Colombia only to find this very same bar opening as a 'Colombian-themed bar' – it was called Fruit Bat and served up exotic alcoholic smoothies. Obviously it didn’t work out, but I’m not complaining to find Pacman games in its stead.)

5 stars out of 5.

Passionate Minds by David Bodanis

I read this as a "research" book but thank god this research was entertaining - it's about the story of Emilie Du Chatelet and Voltaire, a rather doomed yet romantic love affair of two of the most enlightened minds of the 18th century France. Their story and their views on life made for such a fascinating read, especially that they were scientists at heart, but with a fondness for prose. (They were also French!) Definitely a nice change from my usual book choices.

5 stars out of 5.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I keep on hearing this book with the very same tagline: It's a baseball novel not about baseball. Well, it doesn't really make sense when it's about a baseball player but after reading it - it is really true what people are saying. This is a baseball novel not about baseball. This is a really incredible story, well written to the very detail. There's something about how Harbach writes, he's giving you fantastic characters, and so fantastic that you'll feel like you knew them at one time. A note here, it took Harbach ten years to finish this novel. Something like that is worthy of a read. 

5 stars out of 5.