Neely Young: Good Summer Reads
Hopefully most of you, our readers, are at the beach or in the mountains taking a hard-earned vacation. Be sure and bring a lot of sunscreen and an extra bottle of wine to sip while you are enjoying the sunsets. And you will need plenty of books to read. Here are a few recommendations.
Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe by George Friedman. Friedman heads Stratfor, the world’s leading international private intelligence company. This interesting book examines “flashpoints,” the unique geopolitical hot spots where tensions have erupted throughout history and where conflict might emerge again.
The Aviators by Winston Groom. In the early years of the 20th century, three Americans would push the outer limits of aviation. Their names were Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Charles Lindbergh. In this gripping book you will learn how Rickenbacker would become America’s No. 1 ace in World War I; how Lindbergh would electrify the world in 1927 when he flew nonstop across the Atlantic in what amounted to a large kite with an engine tacked onto the front; and about Doolittle’s Tokyo raid during World War II.
A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester. This Manchester masterpiece was first published in 1992 but has recently been rereleased. In this book, the author of The Last Lion, an epic three-part history of Winston Churchill, he takes readers on a grand journey into one of the most fascinating periods in the history of the Western world. The explosion of energy known as the Renaissance produced spectacular villains and worthy heroes like Michelangelo, King Henry the Eighth, Martin Luther, Magellan and Columbus, as well as Lucrezia Borgia, her brother, and her father, Pope Alexander. It’s a great read.
The Millionaire and the Bard by Andrea Mays. After 400 years, William Shakespeare is still the most famous writer in history. One of his rare First Folios – a collection of 36 plays and manuscripts published seven years after his death – recently sold at auction for $2.7 million. Mays’s book tells the true story of American industrialist Henry Folger’s lifelong obsessive hunt for a First Folio that led to the greatest collection of Shakespeare’s works in the world. (Folger and his wife Emily established the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., in 1932.) The book is also a tale of Elizabethan England and the Gilded Age of New York in the early half of the 20th century.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Now would be a good time to read or reread his most famous drama, while we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard. It is better than any mystery novel published today. We have a king murdered by his brother, who had previously seduced and has now married the queen; and the son of the king, Hamlet, aiming at revenge. Polonius’s advice to his son is worth the read: “Neither a borrower or lender be… .This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell. This is a book that will explain the 1960s youth culture of hippies, the Civil Rights struggles, feminism and other liberation movements. Existentialism is an idea that challenged the orthodoxies of the late 1940s and 1950s and brought in the turn-on, tune-in, dropout generation. The book explores the lives, loves and ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone De Beauvoir, Albert Camus and many others. It is a story of big ideas and larger-than-life characters who went on to influence much of the social rebellion we still see in the world in 2016.
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. This is a staggering tale of madness and the murder of President James Garfield in 1881. Garfield’s assassination deprived the nation of a gifted man who bore the seeds of greatness. His policy of raising tariffs on outside imports to protect U.S. farmers and manufacturers is reminiscent of Donald Trump’s political appeal today. But it is much more. It’s an achingly good, suspenseful read that also chillingly depicts his killer.