I realize that the official start of summer isn't for another couple of weeks. Maybe I'm just getting antsy because of the five plus inches of rain I've been drowning in over the past week (with more expected overnight!) Whatever the reason, here are a couple of books I've recently read and recommend:
1. The Giver by Lois Lowry - This was a great, quick read. It's set in the future where everything in society is closley monitored and the lives of its citizens are predestined and controlled to the extreme. Of course, since this is the only life these people know the majority follow the status quo. However, there is one citizen who is destined to receive all the memories of the past including those from a past before such control. The person chosen to fill this role is revered as the most important member of the society for his knowledge and wisdom. However, the trade off is that the keeper of the memories also is completely isolated because the information he has is seen as dangerous. I won't say anything else so as not to give too much away. Suffice it to say that it brings up a lot of things to think about (similiar to 1984 by Orwell), but is original in its premise. It reminded me of being back in high school in that it was a book with substance and I could just hear the study questions forming in my head :)
2. A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle - This book is phenomenal!! Five stars. Another novel set in the future and, as expected, it's a very bleak scenario. The earth has been ravaged by global warming, pollution, the extinction of most wildlife, etc. There isn't much of an environment left really and yet humans have somehow evolved to live an average of over 100 years. (I guess that's what we get for ruining the Earth - longer time to live in our mess.) The story centers around a man in his seventies named Ty who in the 90's was an "environmental terrorist" who sabotaged construction equipment slated to tear down forests, participated in a protest that got him arrested and his daughter placed in social services and in 2025 he is the caretaker of some of the few animals left on Earth. Ty is definitely a character who it would be easy to hate, but his passion - as misguided as it often is - and his love of his daughter make it impossible for us to feel anything but sympathy. He makes a lot of BAD decisions. His temper and stubborness is unbelievable and often leads to him making his own trouble while blaming everyone else around him. This book brings a lot of things to the surface. The most obvious being that if we continue the destructive environmental path we are currently on could we live in a world like Ty's? And is someone like Ty justified in his actions to try and get people's attention and save the Earth? And what about the actions of a parent? Should we sacrifice our ideals or modify our actions in order to protect our children? Is it OK to get thrown in prison for a cause even though he has a daughter, whose mother has died, at home to care for? I can't say enough about this book. The writing is spectacular - Boyle's descriptions of the environment are incredible (I can feel the cold rain falling on my face), his depiction of Ty as a complicated character with tunnel vision is amazing and the plot itself brings the reader on an exciting and emotional ride. I will definitely be checking out some of Boyle's other writing this summer because of this one. (Thank you, Shannon!)
3. The Portable Emerson edited by Carl Bode & Malcolm Cowley - Ralph Waldo Emerson that is. Another suggestion by a friend, I have just finished "Nature" and I am amazed again at how wonderful this man was. He was truly one of our greatest American writers. His ability to draw parallels between the natural and spiritual worlds really helps to connect us to our environment and I think if we are to turn this ship around and start treating Mother Earth as we should that's exactly what we need right now. If we can find "God," whoever that may be to you or me, in nature then we will revere her and treat her with respect and a kind hand. And as we all know the Earth's future is that of our own, our children and our grandchildren. Emerson offers a little bit for everyone with his views on writing, religion, self-reliance, slavery and his portraits of other authors/philosophers like Thoreau and Plato. Not the easiest of reading, but that's what I really like about it. You can get so deeply immersed in him that the rest of the world falls away and your mind feels reinvigorated upon finishing any given passage.
"Standing on the bare ground - my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space - all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing! I see all . . ."
4. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz - I've said enough about this one. But I can't recommend it enough. Read it! It will change the way you live your life, as well as the way you see others.
5. Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks - This book is hilarious. It's a travel book of sorts about a guy who accepts a bet to hitchhike around Ireland, coast to coast, with a small, dorm size fridge in tow. I haven't read this one in years, but as I scanned my bookshelf for suggestions this one definitely stands out. The stories are so IRISH! A great, light, humorous summer read.
I'm going to be rereading Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer this summer. Those are two books I haven't touched since high school and I'm looking forward to seeing what I discover now that my perspective is completely different from the last time I read them.
But I'd like some suggestions from all of you. What are you reading? What can you recommend? I'm up for just about anything - so type away! And not just for me. Share with all of us your recommendations so that we can have a great summer filled with reading!!
P.S. Check out the new link I've posted under "Websites I Like" - Astronomy Picture of the Day. I stumbled upon it and the images are some of the most incredible I've ever seen!! My boys were mesmerized and so was I ... Check it out.