With all of the free time I expected to have this summer, I was determined to make the most of it and rekindle (no pun intended) a longtime interest- reading. I fondly remember working through all the summer reading programs as a kid, but with the hustle and bustle of school and sports taking over, reading fell off the priority last over the last couple years. This summer, I aimed to read across an eclectic set of genres, difficulty levels and authors, and in doing so I learned a lot and challenged myself. Here are the 30 titles I pored through this summer, along with my ratings and thoughts on each.
June Books: Hollywood Godfather by Gianni Russo (4), Furious George by George Karl (3), How to College: What to Know Before You Go (4), What the Best College Students Do by Ken Bain (3), Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down by Dave Barry (3), Calico Joe by John Grisham (4), Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan (5), Land of Fun by Chris Lindsley (3)
My Thoughts: Most of these books fit nicely into a niche: the prepare-for-college books (How to College, What the Best College Students Do), the humor books (Dave Barry), and the sports books (Basketball: A Love Story, Calico Joe, Furious George). The one that came the closest to transcending its specific genre was Basketball: A Love Story, an oral history of interviews from some of the top NBA, WNBA and NCAA coaches and players that told the history of modern basketball. I also read Land of Fun, a book chronicling the rise of regional landmark Funland, and the autobiography of gangster/Godfather actor Gianni Russo. The latter fully engaged me and really opened me up to the idea of exploring new genres.
Book of the Month: Hollywood Godfather, by far the most entertaining read, even while viewed through the lens of skepticism
July Books: Quarterback: Inside the Most Important Position in the National Football League by John Feinstein (4), 11/22/63 by Stephen King (5), How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (5), A Time to Kill by John Grisham (5), The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant (3), A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (4), The Runaway Jury by John Grisham (5), The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi (5), Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson (4), The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton (5), The Firm by John Grisham (5)
My Thoughts: The breadth and depth of the July list is unrivaled by the other months on this list. It had my favorite book of the summer, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, a historical fiction novel about a time traveler who aims to stop the Kennedy assassination. I also found myself thundering through some of John Grisham’s best legal thrillers (three classics in one month). The Red Bandanna, about one 9/11 hero’s life and impact, and The Sun Does Shine, the autobiography of a wrongly convicted inmate who keeps his positivity, were moving reads that depicted poise in the face of adversity. Of course, there were two sports books, along with the outdoorsy Walk in the Woods. On a more educational note, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles provided a compelling look at where space exploration stands today. And I found Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to be an invaluable resource.
Book of the Month: 11/22/63, for keeping me thoroughly entertained and emotionally connected through 849 pages
August Books: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (4), So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (4), The Power of Broke by Daymond John (3), Smart Baseball by Keith Law (4), Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich (5), Camino Island by John Grisham (4), Lord of the Flies by William Golding (4)
My Thoughts: With only one five-star rating, there was a bit of a lag in quality reading in the dog days of summer, but there were still some interesting books nonetheless. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed caught my eye simply with its title and gave a nuanced look at the impact of social media shaming. Non-fiction titles The Power of Broke, Smart Baseball and David and Goliath made interesting points, though as books they weren’t as complete as others on the list. There was the obligatory John Grisham title for the entertainment, plus literary darling Lord of the Flies for the literary themes. But the five-star rating went to The NFL in Dangerous Times. Written by a political reporter/Patriots fan who decided to cover the NFL for a couple years, this book was surprisingly insightful and fun to read.
Book of the Month: The NFL in Dangerous Times, for its unique outsider-turned-insider perspective and witty writing
September Books: My Conference Can Beat Your Conference by Paul Finebaum (4), Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (5), Educated by Tara Westover (5), The System by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (5)
My Thoughts: Two highly lauded pieces of literature, one classic and the other contemporary, bookended (no pun intended) by dives into the college football world. The 1958 classic Things Fall Apart, a book about an African village leader during the start of colonialism, was a quick read but had themes that were thought-provoking and an ending that smacked. Educated, which has spent the past 81 weeks on the New York Times-bestselling list, was a memoir about a girl growing up in rural Idaho to a family that didn’t permit her to be educated and her rise to the Ivy Leagues. The reflective, emotional book was worth the 1,000-person wait on my library’s ebook queue, and was the one book I could never put down. As for the college football books, My Conference Can Beat Your Conference was rah-rah sports talk in written form, while The System was a thorough, investigative look at the world of college sports, both on and off the field.
Book of the Month: Educated, for its captivating story and flawless execution