Summer Reading: Part One

Following is a list of books I have in play this summer. Some I’ve read through; many others are either partly read or waiting for their time to be picked up. When I wrapped up my management job at UMass Lowell, one of my goals was to re-engage as a book-reader. I read constantly, but in the past many years I’ve typically favored articles from magazines and newspapers with a smattering of books in between. That changed this spring. I haven’t read so intently in years, decades, really. I had excuses for avoiding books. Mostly, I couldn’t quiet my mind down enough to settle into books the way I used to in my twenties and thirties. It’s as if I was reading to keep up with the local and wider world, reading for a practical purpose. When I was writing “Mill Power” about the national park and Lowell renaissance, I did a lot of research reading to fortify my writing and analysis. I wasn’t reading for pure pleasure or discovery. I had to be sure I knew what I was talking about when telling the Lowell story.

Liberated by the completion of that history project and released from professional development-type reading due to my retirement as a public administrator, I started looking around again for good things to read. I may not read all of these books by the fall, but it’s good for your reach to exceed your grasp as somebody said. I’m overdoing it, but so what. My experience has also been that periods of intensive reading are helpful for me as a writer. The more I read, the stronger my writing impulse. I have a couple of projects in mind for the coming months, and some of the stacked books were selected in anticipation of writing to come later. It’s a little bit like working out the muscles used for composition. I’m getting ready for something big. On the other hand, lots of the books on my list are there for no reason other than I am curious or maybe want to get back to a title I started long ago or feel like rereading a favorite. Some of the books caught my eye in a store or online. A few are gifts from last Christmas and winter birthday. I do better as a reader when I have large blocks of time, two or three hours, to sit with a book. I don’t do well reading five or ten minutes at the end of the day or in between other activities. I can’t read while eating lunch. Reading has to be the designated activity for me to enter the story or text in the best way. When people heard I was retiring from the university, many of them asked what I was going to do. Reading was in the game plan all along. I’ll let you know how it goes.—-PM

Summer Reading List, 2016 (in progress)

11/22/63 by Stephen King (novel)

Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey Into the Heart of Russia by David Greene (travel)

M Train by Patti Smith (memoir)

Zero K by Don DeLillo (novel)

Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky (politics/international relations)

Lit by Mary Karr (memoir)

Here by C. S. Giscombe (poetry)

Amsterdam Stories by Nescio (fiction)

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (memoir)

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire (poetry)

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (literature)

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris (memoir)

The Destroyer in the Glass by Noah Warren (poetry)

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz (memoir)

A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties by Suze Rotolo (memoir)

The Letters of John F. Kennedy edited by Martin W. Sandler (politics)

Space: A Memoir by Jesse Lee Kercheval (memoir)

Dinner with Buddha by Roland Merullo (novel)

Kerouac: Language, Poetics, & Territory by Hassan Melehy (literature)

The Maximus Poems by Charles Olson (poetry)

Paterson by William Carlos Williams (poetry)