Published on July 31st, 2013 | by Greg0
Summer Reading: Fiction, Non-Fiction, And Arts
There’s still some time left this summer to pick up a good book and relax for a bit. August might be back-to-school month for most places, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoiding learning, or just enjoying a good beach read. Sure, there’s a new Dan Brown novel out, and a few other paperbacks suitable for airplane rides. But if you want something a little more meaty or a little more beautiful- or much smarter- we have a few picks for you.
Let’s start with fiction- specifically, a sort of post-apocalyptic science fiction mystery that is a genre-defying mashup. The sequel to The Last Policeman, one of our suggested reads last June, author Ben Winters has expanded the mystery a bit while still continuing to explore the world and characters that he has created. Countdown City is the second book in the trilogy, and reads like you might expect, with a bit less setup, trying to navigate the pitfalls of a middle book. It’s not always successful- we were disappointed to not learn much more about the conspiracy that might just save the world- but the core continues to burn brightly thanks to a strong lead in Hank Palace. Sure, it’s the end of the world- the clock is ticking down and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do. And against that backdrop, there still manages to be interesting crimes to unravel and pieces to put together. While not the rip-cracking yarn the first managed to be, it’s still recommended for anyone tired of traditional detective novels. Available now, in paperback from Quirk Books, for around $13.
But maybe you’d prefer some history rather than a glimpse at a possible future. We’ve been enjoying a pair of non-fiction titles that explore Ancient Egypt and the American Civil War. Very different, but both remarkably good, offering a unique and coherent update on what you already know. It turns out that there is still plenty about the Boy King that continues to inspire and surprise the world, and The Shadow King lives up to the subtitle: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut’s Mummy. Not only has he played a role in peace with Israel and even the Black Power movement, the book also explores the ongoing debate over DNA. Available from Da Capo Press in hardcover for around $20, it’s well worth a read for anyone who’s interest in the Pharaohs.
A Disease In The Public Mind, by Thomas Fleming, is a new take of the origins and background of the Civil War by one of the pre-eminent scholars and writers on the era. Not every punch lands, and not every side story needed to be told, but there are plenty of anecdotes in here to surprise you regardless of your stance or political leanings. Exploring the events that led to a national catastrophe, it’s actually a fairly fast read and almost never dry. Heed the deeds of the past, the author nearly shouts, as he points clearly out the dangers of extremism of any stripe. Also from Da Capo, it’s under $20, and is sure to spark conversation.
Finally, maybe you don’t want to read much, but would love a gift for the artist in your life- or the perfect addition to your coffee table. Several of us here are New York-based photographers and urban explorers, and loved the recently published title States of Decay. It’s everything you could want from a book like this, with gorgeous pictures of formerly busy spots that are now abandoned. Even in the Big Apple, there is emptiness to find, and despite sky-high real estate prices and the incredible growth of the area, you’ll wonder at the former asylums and schools and even factories that are now nearly archaeological sites. Granted, the narrative presented is a little biased, and the pictures can feel a bit staged, but authors Daniel Barter and Daniel Marbaix should be commended for a their presentation and commitment to this haunting project. Published by Carpet Bombing Culture, available for approximately $25.