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Summer Book Bag 2014

Summer Book Bag

Al Gini

Quinlan School of Business

Loyola University Chicago

            It’s almost summer time!  And in summer, time seems to slow down a bit.  If we’re lucky, we get to take a vacation.  Or maybe, just sit on the front porch or in the back yard and relax, recharge, and read a good book.  Even if we can’t take exotic trips, books can take us away from our usual haunts and transport us to unusual and exciting places Places that are often populated with equally unusual and exciting people we might otherwise never meet.  So, let me offer you a few suggestions that might serve as your personal passport to escape from the pedestrian and mundane aspects of our everyday lives.  Enjoy!


1)         The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is absolutely the funniest book I’ve read in the last 10 years!  Ok, it’s a bit of a “geek” book.  It’s about a college science professor – who has a brain hardwired to view the world in terms of algorithms and logic equations.  Ever aspect of his life is mathematically routinized:  what he eats, when he eats, how long he sleeps, works out, showers, cleans the house, etc. etc.  He, Don Tillman, is at age 40, hyper organized, very successful, a virgin, lonely and boring as hell!  And then he decides to fall in love.  Her name is Rosie and he tries to woo and win her logically, rationally, as if she was an experiment in his lab.  Without giving anything away, his plots and plans will leave you laughing.  And along the way, you’ll come to like Don and Rosie a lot!


2)         The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent Wife is absolutely the scariest, most chilling, most cold-blooded novel I’ve read in the last 10 years!  This book makes Gillian Flynn’s books (Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects) read like fairy tales!  This is a truly powerful psychological thriller.  It’s a profile of two people who know themselves very well.  She is a psychologist – who tries to order, control, plan and handle every part of her life.  He is an architect who follows his passions, tastes, wants and desires.  She can put up with his little indiscretions and infidelities until he tries to leave her.  And then – calmly, slowly, carefully she takes her measured and murderous revenge. Caution: Do not read this book at night when there’s no one else around!


3)         The House of Bella Fontaine,  Lily Tuck

After a little  laughter and murder, let me now turn to some quiet, beautiful prose.  This little book is a carefully crafted series of gem-like short stories about nostalgia.  Stories about looking back on life.  Looking at one’s minor and major mistakes.  Looking back on  lives well and badly lived.  Looking back at loves lost and loves that keep on sustaining us.  This book is a reflection of the Socratic dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, and an example of a writer who has total control of her characters and her craft.


4)         Every Day For The Thief,       Teju Cole

This book is the Nigerian version of – You Can’t Go Home Again.  The main character returns to Nigeria fifteen years after leaving to live in the United States.  He returns to see his family and to reconnect with his African roots.  But he is saddened by what he finds.  His family greets him, remembers him – but he is really no longer a part of their life.  America is the land of milk and honey.  Nigeria is not!  While it claims to be the “richest economy” in Africa, every day is a struggle:  water, electricity, sanitation, the very basics – are all in short supply.

The longer he is there the more he comes to realize that what Nigeria lacks, and metaphorically what most of Africa lacks, is not just material necessities – but more importantly what it lacks is hope in the possibility of a better future.  Population, poverty, and political corruption threaten to bring down the state and its people.

This is a powerful book and a painful one.  It’s message is both political and philosophical.  Teju Cole is a gifted writer, his future is bright, even if the future he paints of Nigeria is not.


5)         The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism,     Doris Kearns Goodwin

This book is the one big history book to take along on vacation this year.  Weighing in at 908 pages, it’s  the only book you have to buy this summer!

In The Bully Pulpit, Goodwin leaves behind the tragedy of the Civil War to write about America’s “Coming of Age” under the tutelage of Teddy and Taft.  Until I read this book, I had no idea these two men were friends, colleagues and political partners.

Teddy Roosevelt, born a patrician, grew into the role of reformer as he advanced in his political career from New York House of Representatives to New York Police Commissioner, to Governor, to Vice President, to President.  Teddy, was in some sense, a traitor to his class.  He wanted reform, he wanted to raise up the life of workers, he wanted a better life for all.  And he did this by using his “Bully Pulpit” of the Presidency.  He also did this by encouraging “muckrackers” such as Sinclair Lewis (The Jungle) to expose the abuses of capitalism.  He also did this by mentoring and encouraging, Taft in his career, and hand selecting him to be his successor.

How this all occurs and how in the end Teddy and Taft end up not as friends, but opponents is a complicated and rich story.  And Dorris Kearns Goodwin does it with detail, flair, and in clearly readable prose.  This book, like her last, A Term of Rivals, reads more like a novel than a history text.  Although Kearns’ Lincoln book is a true classic, her Teddy and Taft book is a worthy successor in her career as a great writer and historian.

  • By Danielle on 5.15.2014 at 4:29 pm

    The Rosie Project sounds hilarious! I will definitely check it out. Great list, as usual!

  • By Fat Pitch on 7.7.2014 at 9:45 pm

    I have yet to read the Bully Pulpit. But I have heard so many good things about it…might have to browse the Audible library and see if its available.

    Now The Jungle, whewwwww what a book and its history! Wow so important to the city of Chicago and our Nation at that point of US history. Sinclair is one of the most brilliant expose writers of all time.

  • By Chuck on 11.5.2014 at 5:52 pm

    I saw you on WTTW recommending the summer reading books. I read books 1 & 2 listed above on this page and am going to start The House of Bella.
    Thank you for your recommendations. Did you make recommendation reading list in prior years? If you did, I would be most interested in the titles recommended.

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