There’s always something special about summer reading. Of course I read during the school year, but with everything I have to do for my teaching and coursework there isn’t as much time to read for pleasure as I’d like.
Normally, I read a lot of fiction, mainly historical fiction (surprised, right?), but this summer I was bitten by the Hamilton An American Musical bug like so many of you. Not only have I listened to the soundtrack more times than I can count (I’m pretty sure at this point I could perform all the roles in the show), but more than loving the rhythmic music and the eloquent lyrics, listening to Hamilton reminds me of the days when I taught U.S. History. I remember glossing over Alexander Hamilton in the American Revolution lessons saying, “Oh yeah, that’s the guy who was shot and killed by Aaron Burr” and not thinking much more of him than that. Man, was I wrong about Hamilton. He was one interesting dude. My interest in Hamilton the musical reignited my interest in early American history, so most of my reading this summer has been biography driven.
Here’s my reading list this summer so far:
In keeping with my American Revolution theme, I’ve read the Alexander Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow as well as Chernow’s biography Washington: A Life. Here’s the interesting thing: George Washington, the first president, the father of his country, was not the most endearing person in the world, at least not to me. He was a great man, Washington, and the fact that we even have a United States is due in large part to Washington’s leadership. Still, Alexander Hamilton, even with his fiery temperament (or because of his fiery temperament) is the more interesting man. But I’m still glad I read the Washington biography. Chernow made me rethink everything I thought I knew about George Washington, which is a good thing. Too often we just accept the stories we hear about our leaders without taking the time to read for ourselves and form our own judgments. Another biography I’ve read this summer is Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. I have to say I’m kind of digging on Benjamin Franklin right now. He wasn’t perfect—no one is—but I have to say he’s my favorite founding father. If all he ever did was make his discoveries about electricity, that alone would be enough for us to know his name. He was stubborn, determined, gregarious, but most of all he was damn funny, which scores points with me every time.
I haven’t been reading much fiction this summer, which is unusual for me, but the one novel I have read is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I had read Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane last year and really enjoyed the story’s magical realism, and I’m so glad I tried Neverwhere. You can call Neverwhere a Harry Potter for adults with the invisible underground stations and parallel lives in different dimensions, but that would be too simplistic to explain this quirky dark fairy tale. I already have Gaiman’s American Gods downloaded onto my Kindle.
I’ve also read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I never thought of myself as a hoarder (at least not by TV standards), but even so I could relate to the idea of keeping only the things that bring you joy and donating the rest. I’ve downsized considerably since reading Kondo’s book, and it’s true—you really do feel lighter because of it. And also, because I’m about that age (I’ll be 47 next month), I’m currently reading Goddesses Never Age by Dr. Christiane Northrup. The book is a positive look at aging as it talks about staying active, being healthy, and not believing that your body has to break down just because you pass a certain birthday. The older I get, the more I appreciate that message.
I still have a few more weeks of summer so I can fit in a few more books. What have you been reading this summer? I’m always up for recommendations!