Ah, summertime reading. Set aside the e-mails, close down the computer and pick up some good books. Here are some worthy suggestions ala non-fiction:
1. Harper’s editor, Lewis H. Lapham, has written ‘Gag Rule — On the Supppression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy. ‘What a sharp, concise pen, he has. “Dissent is Democracy. Democracy is in Trouble.”
2. ‘God’s Politic’s, the bestseller by theologian Jim Wallis, believes in applying the prophetic religious traditions to social justice. He asks: “since when did believing in God and having moral values make you pro-war, pro-rich and pro-Republican?” Bono, Bill Moyers and Archbishop Tutu praise the book on the back cover.
3. Steve Brouwer, grandfather, has written this super-readable, soft cover titled, ‘Robbing Us Blind: The Return of the Bush Gagna and the Mugging of America’. Its large print layout, factual content and comparisons between haves and have-nots, punctuated by Matt Wuerker’s searing cartoons, make this a tract that motivated from pure outrage.
4. National Security Advisor to four Senators, Winslow T. Wheeler turns on the Congress with his book ‘The Wastrels of Defense.’ It is about the military budget and pork – pushed by the munitions industry marinating willing members of Congress with campaign money and wasteful projects that cost tens of billions out of your pockets.
5. My boyhood sports hero, Lou Gehrig, is the subject of ‘Luckiest Man’ — a fine biography of the Iron Man for the New York Yankees. Lou Gehrig’s disease, still without a cure, receives its best biographical treatment in this volume.
6. Another Iron Man, only in the area of citizen action and volunteerism, is Brian O’Connell. The nub of his new book is in his titleó’Fifty Years in Public Causes: Stories from a Road Less Traveled’ (Civil Society). If you bypass this book, you’re yawning at your own risk.
7. It is not a grisly book, but it is grave indeed. ‘Beasts of the Earth: Animals, Humans, and Disease’, provides the other side to Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Sixty percent of the microbes that cause disease in humans come from animals, sometimes from pets, but more often from ducks in China (the global influenza epidemic of 1919) and rodents who are carriers of the tiny beasts that mutate and mutate to escape their human pursuers. F. Fuller Torrey and Robert Yolken, both physicians, give you this gripping story over the centuries to make us alert to what is coming from bacteria and viruses.
8. Too busy to read books? Not this oneó’How to Be Idle’ by Tom Hodgkinsonóbilled as ìan antidote to our work-obsessed culture.î Erudite and whimsical, it argues for being happy doing nothing. Gives you a relaxed frame of reference for slowing down.
9. I’ve been re-reading ‘The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin’ written by probably the most inventive, institution-building, (libraries, fire departments, etc.), figure-it-out-yourself, self-educated man in American history. It is written in the 18th century language, but it will grow on you as you see how Ben himself grew and became a witty, productive, prophetic giant of those times.
There it is, a rich menu. In the meantime, support your local public library. Happy summer.