2020 Summer Reading Roundup

The MVP of my summer of quarantine was my Kindle. 

Given the unusual circumstances of quarantine this summer, it was no surprise that I turned to reading to fill a lot of my time and to learn a lot as well. And since libraries have been closed for most of the pandemic, I turned to a device that a decade ago was labeled the next big thing — my Kindle.

I’ve had Kindles since I was in fifth grade, though most of my usage back then was concentrated in free, low-quality games. But in recent years, the device has, excuse the term, rekindled my interest for reading, providing much enhanced accessibility to an array of titles while also creating a sufficiently convincing illusion of reading a real, paper-and-ink book. 

I recently traded in my old Kindle Touch for a new Paperwhite, and I’ve really reaped the rewards lately. I read 19 books this summer. 18 were on my Kindle, 17 of those from coming free from the public library e-book collections of Illinois and Maryland. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it.

Well, that’s enough about Kindles — let’s get to the books themselves. Similar to my reading log from last summer, I filled my Goodreads profile with books from all over the genre spectrum. I didn’t quite hit my lofty 30-title mark from 2019, but I still finished the summer with a lot of great reads and plenty of recommendations. 

June Books: Golden Days: West’s Lakers, Steph’s Warriors, and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball by Jack McCallum (5); NFL Century: The One-Hundred-Year Rise of America’s Greatest Sports League by Joe Horrigan (4); Open by Andre Agassi (5); There is Life After College by Jeffrey J. Selingo (3); NFL Brawler: A Player-Turned-Agent’s Forty Years in the Bloody Trenches of the NFL by Ralph Cindrich (4); What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan (5); The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein (4); God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright (4); The Creative Writing Coursebook by Julia Bell (5)

My Thoughts: June was a pretty sports-centric month, which helped fill the void created by the postponement of professional sports. Golden Days, a book that paralleled Jerry West’s Lakers with Steph Curry’s Warriors, was my first read and an excellent one at that. Jack McCallum did justice to the poetry on the court that is these prolific offensive attacks and styles, plus shed light on the story of “The Logo” himself, Jerry West. Andre Agassi’s critically acclaimed autobiography was another beautiful read. I know a lot less about tennis than the major three American sports, but Agassi recounts his career in excruciating detail with vulnerability in a way that makes even an all-time great relatable. Kate Fagan’s look into the life of a high school distance running phenom was similarly jarring and spot-on, compassionate journalism. On the football side, NFL Brawler and NFL Century gave insight into two lesser-known sides of the game and taught me a good bit. Off the sports side, a couple titles caught my eye that were aligned closely with my interests: Texas (God Save Texas), writing (The Creative Writing Coursebook) and Star Wars (The World According to Star Wars).

Book of the Month: Golden Days, which best combined the joy of these teams’ styles with smart insight.

July Books: His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir by Dan Jenkins (2); The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived by Allan Lazar (4); The Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s Book by Howard Davidoff (4); The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan (4); The Godfather by Mario Puzo (5); The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle (5)

My Thoughts: Try to find a common thread amongst this set of books, because I sure can’t. The Arm was the lone true sports book in the pack, one that was boosted to a great four-star rating due to its chapter focusing on my favorite baseball player, Jon Lester. I also awarded high marks to a mob story, a Gladwell-esque book of case studies, a finance reference book, and a book I definitely judged on its cover — The 100 Most Influential People Who Never Lived. These books were consistently compelling despite their varied styles and genres. The Culture Code, the case study book, had diversity within itself, looking for success in places as disparate as web-based companies, Pixar and the San Antonio Spurs.

Book of the Month: The Godfather, which stood out not for its plot (the movie is already a top-five favorite) but for Puzo’s page-turning writing style and its brilliant development of the Vito Corleone character.

August Books: Camino Winds by John Grisham (4); Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance by Tony Dungy (4); Say My Name by Chanel Miller (5); The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (5)

My Thoughts: I took my foot off the gas pedal a little bit in August, but there were still a couple of really good reads in this month. I enjoyed Camino Winds and The Cutting Season, two southern thrillers by prominent authors and perfect breezy summer reads. Say My Name, a memoir from the Stanford sexual assault case, was a more sobering read, but one that was really enlightening in showing the perspective of the survivor. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy’s second book, Uncommon, rounded out the foursome with a lot of life wisdom and plenty of football stories. 

Book of the Month: The Cutting Season, which was perhaps my most recommendable book of the summer. The Louisiana plantation backdrop upped the creepiness quotient, and the novel had its fair share of exciting twists and turns.

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