Summer Reading: My Summer Reading Plan Inspired by my Father

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My father was a Lutheran pastor, and a pastor’s life is a busy one. It’s filled with sermon preparations, visits to church members at home and at work, and meetings of all kinds. My father was a voracious reader. Even with his demanding schedule, he normally read two or three books a week. Some reading was related to his work as a pastor. He also loved history and biography. His escape reading was mysteries, lots of them.

When summer came, things slowed down. My parents sent my sister and me away to camp in July. That left them with the house and all of New York City as their playground.

August was the month for our family vacation. We’d rent a car for the month and stuff it full of everything we thought we might need. I remember sitting in the back seat with my sister, surrounded by all the things that wouldn’t fit into the trunk. We drove several hours to a cabin near where several of my parents’ friends vacationed. Before we left, my father put together his “reading plan” for the summer.

He knew that his vacation month would be filled with naps and pinochle games. He knew that he would read, much as he always did. He also knew that summer was the time for him to read some different things. That’s what a lot of us do in the summer. Here’s how he chose what to read.

Read Something You’ve Always Wanted to Read

There was always one book that my father had wanted to read and not gotten around to. Sometimes, it was a “big thinking” kind of book. Usually, he practically inhaled books, but he approached a big thinking book differently. He often read it a little bit at a time so that he also had time to reflect on what he had read before moving on.

Sometimes the “always wanted to read” book was on a subject he knew well. One summer he read the collected sermons of the Scottish theologian, Peter Taylor Forsyth. Some summers he read a particularly intriguing novel. For your summer reading, choose one book you’ve always wanted to read and take the time to read it.

Choose Something to Read for Fun

My father’s reading for fun often meant reading several books by the same author. Most of the time those collections were fiction, like the year he chose James Michener. Choose something that’s fun to read this summer.

Choose a Pump-Priming Book

My father tried to read a book every summer that was outside his usual range of reading. He got ideas about what that might be from asking people what great books they had read recently. One summer, he read a book on post-war German church architecture. Another year, he read about the painter Paul Gauguin. The topics were all over the map, but the one thing they had in common was that they were not the kinds of books my dad usually read. He felt that reading one good “pump-priming” book every year or so helped you stay fresh and creative. Choose a book on something you never read about.

How I’m Using what I Learned from Dad

I learned a lot from my father, including how to pick books for summer reading. But, I can’t leave well enough alone, and so, I’ve added a fourth choice to his three. Every year, I want to reread a great book that I’ve read in the past.

My Summer Reading

Here are my picks for what I’m going to read this summer. You may use them as starting points for your own choices.

The book I’m going to read this summer that I’ve always wanted to read is Murray Gell-Mann’s The Quark and The Jaguar: Adventures in The Simple and The Complex. I’ve picked up this book a couple of times, read a ways, enjoying and stimulated by the process. Then life intervened, and I put it down. This summer I’m going to finish it.

It’s easy picking a book to read for fun this summer. I love great historical novels. Earlier this year, I read my friend, Wayne Turmel’s Acre’s Bastard, and was reminded of why I love historical fiction. A quick Amazon search on historical fiction showed me that there were books by Edward Rutherfurd that I haven’t read yet. I read two of his novels, London: The Novel and Sarum: The Novel of England, a few years back. This summer, I am going to dive into Paris: The Novel. Who knows? I might even read his historical novel about New York City as well.

The pump-priming book that I’m going to read this summer is The Best American Magazine Writing 2017. It’s a collection of 15 marvelous pieces on a wide range of topics.

You can’t go wrong rereading Peter Drucker. This summer, I’m going to read the companion book to his amazing The Effective Executive. The title I’m going to read is Managing for Results.

That’s my plan for this summer. What will you be reading? What do you think I should be reading?

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Will Ross   |   06 Jun 2018   |   Reply

If you haven’t read Robert Massie’s “Dreadnought”, I’d put that on your list. The story of the arms race that led to the Great War. Starting with Trafalgar. Each chapter is the story of one of the key players, going back two or three generations. For example, the parents of Wilhelm the 2nd, who died before Bismark had fully prepared the young Kaiser for his grand scheme.

It’s a number of personal tragedies woven into the greater tragedy. He brings out the forces that drove the continent to war, while showing how individual crises could be, and were managed successfully.

It’s moving and magisterial. And very relevant.

Wally Bock   |   06 Jun 2018   |   Reply

Wow. Thanks. I’ve read his Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great and loved both.

Michael McKinney   |   19 Jun 2018   |   Reply

Wally, I love good historical fiction too. I book I read years ago and my son just finished is “The Walking Drum” by Louis L’Amour. You learn a little history, word origins, and some good common sense that is woven throughout all of L’Amour’s novels.

Wally Bock   |   20 Jun 2018   |   Reply

I loved Louis L’Amour! I loved the westerns, but I also studied him early in my writing career to identify the craft he used to get me and others to keep turning the pages. I rarely read through his novels in more than one sitting.

Let me suggest two other authors to you and Mark. One is Tony Hillerman who wrote the Joe Leaphorn series of mysteries. A Navajo detective with lots of detail about Navajo and Hopi culture. Another novelist that’s one of my all-time favorites. If you like well-researched novels about the American West, you won’t do better than anything by Terry C. Johnston.