Volume 14, Issue 26 ~ June 29 - July 5, 2006


A Sweet Summer of Books

Every year at this time, Bay Weekly brings you one of our most popular issues, the Summer Reading Companion.

We’ve had people come up to us months later to say that they hung on to our book guide long after the weather turned chilly. We’ve had people plan not only their reading but their book clubs around past recommendations.

That’s okay: This issue has no expiration date. You won’t be getting phone calls with a computer voice from the library saying you owe a late fee.

But you might well end up with overdue charges if you check out some of the books recommended in these pages by the Bay Weekly family. If so, it should be worth it.

Why read a book? We wonder that ourselves sometimes with information cascading down on us like the torrential rain of late. Our newspapers are piling up. Television and radio are jabbering at us. And the computer on the desk is ready to bust loose with more tidbits and disconnected factoids than we can could digest in 12 lifetimes.

To that, we say, turn it off and grab a book.

Books bring sanity to this crazy world.

Books change your outlook and perhaps your life. How else are we to explain the confession of curmudgeon columnist Bill Burton herein that he wishes after reading Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth that he might have voted differently in the 2000 presidential election.

Why are books so powerful? Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who wrote a few of them himself, once observed that books require more sensory involvement than, say, television, which works the same way even if you’re a rutabaga on the couch. (He also coined the phrase global village and warned us that the electronic media have the power to breed totalitarianism. Another reason to read books!)

On another level, a good book offers comfort and satisfaction, desirable commodities for any season.

We would add to that adventure, which is what we thought about when we saw Steve Carr’s recommendation to read 1421: The Year China Discovered America. It was written by Gavin Menzies, an ex-submarine captain who tracked the mysterious travels of Ming Dynasty sailors, who traveled the world in a giant armada of several thousand vessels in the 15th century.

You can bet, too, that many of us will be acting on Mick Blackistone’s tip about modern-day heroine Diane Wilson in the book An Unreasonable Woman, A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas.

We’ll probably also listen to Sonia Linebaugh’s recommendation to pick up The Color of Water, by James McBride, seeing as how we’re confused about how Chesapeake Bay seems to change color in front of our eyes.

We don’t normally go in for blockbusters. But as Ben Miller explains that John Grisham’s The Testament takes us into the lush Pantanal region of Brazil, we might change our tune.

We’re also drawn to Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer’s choice of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, the urban crusader who died in April.

We could go on and on, but we’ve got errands to run: We’re headed to the library, on the way to the book store.

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