Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I picked up this book again when a friend of mine undertook an up-and-down the Pacific coast motorcycle ride (actually, it was a Malibu to Bend, Oregon and back motorcycle ride). I read it back in high school and remembered many parts of it, but I wanted to read it again with him. As I read it, I remembered why I loved the book, and I remembered why I found much of it unintelligible or way beyond my philosophical educational baseline. I do appreciate the ruminating on the concept of quality and the concept of peace of mind. I found those pieces insightful, and along with the picture of a man trying to reconcile being a father, an employee, and a philosopher, insightful, but again, very challenging. I did like the book, and I enjoyed my conversation with my friend after re-reading it, but that will probably be the last time I re-read the book. Twice into the mind of Robert Pirsig is enough for me.

The Wolf Gift

This was a book that my wife Jill was reading for her book club near their Halloween meeting. Although I’m a fan of science fiction, I’m not much into the Werewolf/Vampire genre of books. I certainly appreciated Lupin the werewolf in the Harry Potter books, but this book focuses entirely on it. I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed the book and found it to be a great read. I particularly appreciated the idea that we as humans have dulled our senses to our environment, and we neither notice nor appreciate what the world feels like, smells like, and tastes like. We are in such a hurry that we ignore most of what is around us. It reminded me of The Power of Now. I’m probably reading too much into that, but it did cross my mind a few times while reading. Fun read.

Wired

A thoroughly enjoyable bio-tech thriller of a book. Gene therapy and the search for immortality all wrapped up in a who is the really bad guy thriller.

Winter of the World

If you liked the Fall of Giants (I did), then you will like this one too. The same families in the first book now witness the rise of the Third Reich, World War II, and all of the surrounding events of the 30s and 40s. A great page turner. I look forward to reading the last book in the trilogy soon.

Where the Crawdads Sing

I read this book after the How To Do Nothing book, and it actually fit in quite nicely. This is a beautiful story of a young woman who raises herself, without parents, siblings, or friends, on the Carolina coast. All she does is pay attention and appreciate everything that is around her. With the help of a few key people, she overcomes flagrant discrimination and hate aimed at her by educating herself, and ends up leading an incredibly fulfilling life. All that, plus an intriguing murder mystery, unfolds to make it a fantastic tale. Love it, love it, love it!

Stranger in a Strange Land

My dad recommended this book to me. It’s a combination of science fiction, sixties mentality and utopian society thinking that had me going back and forth between wanting to stop reading the book but also wanting to see the full evolution of the thinking of Mr. Heinlein. The hero, a Martian, tries to (1) adapt to our society and (2) get us to see why his society has advantages, changes lives and then frightens the whole world with his radical thinking.  There are some things we are just not ready for.

Slaughterhouse-Five

Continuing my “summer of satire.” This is a book on MBUSD reading lists that I had never read, but had always meant to. It is not the most uplifting of books. The hero is crazy, the aliens question our focus on linear time, and the insanity of war rips throughout the book.

Siddhartha

From rural living to the search for Buddhist meaning in India. If you have read the Power of Now and you liked it, you may find this book meaningful as well. Even if you do not find it meaningful, it does provide a window into Buddhist culture that most school books do not.

The Nickel Boys

I “read” this book via an audiobook. I love audiobooks when I am traveling, but for some reason, not while commuting. I listened to this one as I drove up and back from visiting my son up in Sacramento. It’s a historical fiction book, but it is based on research and in my mind, highly believable. If it did not happen exactly this way, it was close. It’s a story of a promising young African-American boy who is arrested in assigned to a reform school. This “school,” based on the Dozier School in Marianna, Florida, was really a prison full of torture, murder, profiteering, and flagrant law breaking, all right under the nose of the Florida state government. And they knew. This is a powerful book – it’s sad, shocking, and in spite of the small rays of humanity and hope that sometimes appear, it beats me up that this is our country, 100 years after the Civil War. 

News of the World

This was recommended to me by my father. It is a story of a 70+-year-old cowboy and war veteran whose main occupation was going around Texas and other western states reading citizens the news that they cannot get otherwise. It was a time when literacy was very low and news publications could not be accessed so his services were in demand. Along the way, he meets a man who has a girl who had been abducted by Native Americans and recently taken back from that tribe. He agrees, reluctantly, to return her to her family in Texas. This book is about that journey. This fascinating, tender, exciting, and a great combination of a western and a heartfelt story. I loved it all and highly recommend it.

Montana, 1948

This is another book on the Mira Costa reading list that I had not yet read. It deals with difficult family issues, coming of age, race and rural living. I can see so many ways to use the book in the classroom, and I know it is powerful enough to spark thinking.

Less: A Novel

This is a book my wife read with her book club. It’s not my typical read. It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner which means it’s pretty “literature-y” for my tastes. I know, not a very good thing to say. In spite of all that, I loved it. It’s an insightful tale of a middle-aged man in search of himself through an around-the-globe journey. First and foremost, the language is fantastic. I have to slow down when I read literature like this, because if I don’t, I miss so much of the beauty of the book, which is probably the main point. I enjoyed it, and enjoyed the reflections of Mr. Greer all the way through. It’s one of those books that make you realize that outstanding writing is truly hard work. You just know he labored over every word. Enjoyable, and it’s actually a book I will read again.

The Lincoln Lawyer

I know it’s summer when I’m reading a Michael Connelly novel. It’s not great literature, but it’s always fun. This is his first legal novel. By the way – Mick Haller – our lawyer hero – is not a “Lincoln lawyer” because he works in the traditions of our 16th president. He is called that because his office is the back seat of a Lincoln Continental. Classy. Good summer reading.

The Lacuna

I don’t get a chance to read much non-fiction, but when I do, there’s not much better than a Barbara Kingsolver novel. My wife read this one for her book club and I jumped on it once I heard it was Barbara Kingsolver. It’s a fantastic book set in the first half of the 20th century mostly in Mexico, but a little bit in the United States as well. As usual, she creates fantastic characters and vivid visuals. It’s a bit of a historical novel, involving eventually people like Trotsky and a few other famous men of the World War II era. She combines art and politics and adventure, and I was thoroughly entertained the entire read. I haven’t read of a book of hers yet that I did not love. And I recommend this one highly.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay

I just finished reading this three part series that young adults are crazy about. I can see why. It’s a bleak vision of our nation in the future, and it is a teenager who gives hope to the world. I loved it. Keep in mind, I do love the fantasy books like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, so this wasn’t a stretch. It’s a page-turner that actually raised my heartbeat as I read it. I finished all three quickly because I wanted to get them done.  They’re not well written, but the story is awesome. The movie comes out soon – I doubt I’ll see it, but at least I’ll know what everyone is talking about!

The Hobbit

My 25 year old son, who just graduated from law school, was my companion as we watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies come out during his time in high school.  Between the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, we read some really fun books and got to see some highly entertaining movies. One of my best memories is going to Walmart in Arkansas and purchasing the final Harry Potter book. We then went out on the lake to water ski and play. By the end of the day, both Ryan and I had finished the book. He read it in the early morning, and I read it after he was done, and we talked about it the rest of the day.

For my younger son, the Hobbit movie gave us the opportunity to re-read an old classic. I read it first in 9th grade as a part of a history class. I still don’t get why, but I loved the book. We then saw the movie. We saw it first in the 48 frames per second mode, and hated it. Then we saw it in normal mode, and thought it most excellent.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Kind of a Catch 22 for Science Fiction. This is a book I’ve heard much about, but I’ve never read. The author is crazy, and I thought it highly entertaining and though provoking. Earth being blown up is really not even a passing thought, and it goes haywire from there.

Golf in the Kingdom

I started playing golf when my older son was seven years old. He wanted to play so I started playing with him. He was beating me by the time he was 12, and we still love playing together. It’s a fantastic game that takes way too much time but I don’t know anything better for creating an amazing setting for father and son conversations. My younger son is now 14 and has finally decided to start playing as well. I look forward to many years of playing golf with my sons and getting beaten soundly by both of them.

This book is a great book about the mystery of golf. It’s a story about a mythical Scottish golfer named Shivas Irons who talks about the fact that our heads get in the way of us playing good golf most of the time. I know that to be a fact. Great book, great read, and a great reminder of what is wonderful about golf.

Girl at War

This is a book I read when our English department wanted to make it one of our summer reading options for juniors and seniors. Our English department takes very modern books that have been recently awarded with prizes for adolescent literature as its summer reading books, and since they are brand new, none of us have read them. I offer to help with that process and find the reading highly enjoyable and provide my input to our English department.

This book is about a 17-year-old in the Yugoslav civil war in the 1990’s.  There is clear reference to the atrocities of war. There are stories of relationships developed and relationships lost during the war. And in my opinion, it’s a book that I highly recommend for our 16-, 17- and 18-year-old students. There are some more mature themes, but I believe juniors and seniors are ready for those. I thought the book was beautiful, I thought it was instructive in terms of modern military conflicts and how real people are affected by that, and I thought it would be an excellent book for interested teenagers to read.

Fall of Giants

It’s been years since I read Pillars of the Earth, but I remember loving it. Follett has published two books recently: Fall of Giants, a WWI book, and Winter of the World, on WWII. Fall of Giants is historical fiction were characters from the US, Russia, Germany and UK. It was one of those books I reached for whenever I had a free moment and it was a great read. I’ll move quickly to the next book. I highly recommend it!

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

This book combines some classic underdog stories in the setting of a traditional Catholic school education. I was reminded several times of some of the stories from my own Catholic school education, and I loved all of the reminiscences. It’s a great tale of parenting, discrimination, and coming of age, and the author ties it all together beautifully. It was one of those books I just could not put down and I loved it all.

Ethan Frome

This year I shadowed one of our junior students at Mira Costa High School. Click here to read my blog entry. One of our big topics here is trying to improve the social emotional wellness of our students, and one of the ways we tried to gain more understanding was to shadow students for a day. As I was preparing to shadow my student, I learned that his class was reading Ethan Frome so I read the book so I would be able to at least know what they were talking about in the lesson. It is not the most uplifting book I’ve ever read. A story of love desired and love not achieved and it’s full of its share of sadness. Set that against a winter in New England and you’ve got a perfectly depressing book of classic literature. Reading books in English class reminds me of how Navin Johnson feels about the blues in The Jerk – “There’s something about those songs. They depress me.” Students in the class were studying different characters in the book, so I felt like I at least knew halfway what I was talking about as they were discussing it.

Ender’s Game

Somehow I missed this when it came out. I am a fan of this genre and this book was a true though provoker. I only climbed from under my rock when the movie came out. So my son and I read it, discussed it, and saw the movie.

Two main thoughts. First – The idea that an adolescent can save the world goes to Liz Wiseman’s Rookie Smarts. Second, they are trying to defeat the ultimate enemy, who in the end, may not have been an enemy at all.

Edge of Eternity

This is the last in the century trilogy by Ken Follett. I’ve already written about the other two, Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. I love a good historical novel.  This is a third book that follows the same four families during the 20th century: one family is from the United States, one from England, one from Germany, one from Russia. It traces their lives through the generations of the 20th century. These books are not short, but if you love historical novels, you will race through them and love it. There are new insights into some historical ideas, and it certainly reminds you of the amazing events of the 20th century. I recommend the entire series. It is great summer reading material. Enjoy!