12 Summer Vacation Book Ideas For AlterNet Readers
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7. Wishing You Were Even Farther Away
The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture by Steven Jones (CCC Publishing). For those of you who have not made the annual pilgrimage to the Black Rock desert or those of you who have, this looks like one of the more intriguing books that seeks to capture that multi-dimensional experience. Jones, a lifelong journalist and committed burner, traces how the gathering has grown and evolved in recent years and spread its influence into popular culture. He's less interested in the futuristic sculptures, buildings and machines than the tribes--the communities--that arise there. Be forewarned: if your trek to a favorite Hawaiian beach isn't working its magic, you may not want to be thinking about mysterious happenings in the Nevada desert.
8. Cookbook for the Few
It’s not just about tofu anymore. Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin (Harvard Commons Press) may be the vegetarian book for all ages. The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf is positively glowing about the book’s 150 recipes, saying the book heralds “a new generation in meatless cooking and vegetarian cookbooks. This is grown-up vegetarian food, visually stunning on the plate (as seen in more than 80 color photographs), intensely flavored in a way that will appeal to readers with a sophisticated and adventurous global palate, health-conscious in a natural manner, and above all, reflecting the author’s own prodigious originality and creativity in the kitchen—exactly the traits that have made his blog the go-to destination for new and tasty ideas in vegetarian eating. Natkin provides lots of advice on how to craft vegetarian meals that amply deliver nutrients, and the imaginative menus he presents deliver balanced and complementary flavors. The many dozens of vegan and gluten-free recipes are clearly noted, too, and an introductory chapter lays out the simple steps to outfit a globally inspired pantry of seasonings and sauces that make meatless food come alive.” Hungry yet?
9. Cookbook for the Many
United States of Pie: Regional Favorites from East to West and North to South by Adrienne Kane (Ecco). I don’t eat much pie, but when I browsed through this work at a local bookstore, I was impressed at what a good cook can come up with. Some of the pies looked more than just appealing. Among my favorites: shoefly pie, green tomato pie, and I learned about a new one: chipmunk pie (with apple and nut filling). Publishers Weekly calls it a “colorful, varied collection by a blogger, recipe developer, and food writer (that) may well be the definitive resource on the all-American pie.” Kane culled recipes from all over the place and helps pie-makers pull it off with ease, in the view of Publishers Weekly. “For the new baker there’s plenty of guidance on blind baking and crust fluting. Masters of the craft will be lured in by new challenges—rendering one’s own lard, for example. In all, this is a sweet and helpful guide.”
10. Trash Talk
As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda by Gail Collins (Liveright). Have you noticed the word "hijacked" turning up in some current book banners, which just might tell you how some authors feel about the status quo? In this one, New York Times political columnist and unabashed liberal Gail Collins trashes America’s second-most populous state and many of its 26 million residents. She does so in four sections: contrasting true Texas heroes with some current politicians; telling where Texas has gone wrong (and she has plenty of examples); delving into the state’s economy; and looking to the Lone Star State’s future, as it careens toward the day when Hispanics are the majority population. Publishers Weekly says, "Collins's book is really an indictment of what she calls America's 'empty-places' creed — the rural conservative populism that favors small government, low taxes, and lax regulation — through a takedown of its colorful epicenter. Much like the late Texas dissident Molly Ivins, she slathers plenty of wry humor onto a critique that stings like a red-hot brand.”
11. For the Not Quite Tween
Capture the Flag by Kate Messner (Scholastic). They've read the Hunger Games books and the latest vampire thrillers and you're wondering, what's next? The Southern Independent Booksellers suggests this good (but wink, horrible) tale. The American flag that inspired the "Star Spangled Banner" has been stolen and it’s up to three intrepid children (Anna, Joe, and Henry, three strangers brought together during a snow-delay at a DC airport) to save this piece of history and capture the culprits. One reviewer wrote that Messner “did a bang-up job writing a book for kids that reminded me a lot of the film National Treasure, in that it makes history and its artifacts interesting.” Any adventure story bringing kids together, highlights a mission and new friendships sounds good to me.
12. Personal Favorite
Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley (HarperCollins Publishers). I decided to make this tome part of my summer reading list. The CBS newsman has been one of my personal heroes and role models. After all, he was referred to as the “most-trusted man in America.” It was painful enough shelling out $30 for the 667-page epic but even worse reading that Uncle Walter was not the principled pillar of journalism that I had thought. The Los Angeles Times review says Cronkite modeled himself not after the intensely driven purist Edward R. Murrow but on the more folksy style of radio broadcaster Lowell Thomas when Cronkite entered television in 1950. “That style suited Cronkite … when Cronkite did take a stand, as he did in his famous 1968 'Report From Vietnam,' he delivered a careful, qualified assessment that concluded, ‘it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out … will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could.’ This modest, ‘middling position,’ as Brinkley accurately describes it, was characteristic of Cronkite and the source of his enduring appeal. He was no crusader.” Sigh. And that’s the way it was.
Old Reliables—Some Classics Worth Considering
Perhaps you really want to get away, so reading the books above is too much like work, or reality. There’s always another option, reading or rereading great literature, some of it with a travel tone. In that regard, consider Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe if you plan an island vacation. Although it was first published in 1719, it’s still an interesting read today. And just hope you come back home safely.
Heading to Europe? Take along A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It just might be the best of times and the worst of times in one volume. Going to the waterfront or on a river cruise? Don’t forget The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. And if you are undertaking a road trip, you’ll enjoy the drive even more by reading Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck’s charming account of his 1960 travels with his pet pooch, even though he made the trip, likely knowing he was dying.
Enjoy yourself. You’ve earned a break and a good book. (And don't forget to add your suggestions to the comment pages.)