Hey everyone! Summer is here, and with the vast expanse of free time that brings (or at least the slight increase in free time), I feel there is no better time to pass along some prime book recommendations along with my friend—and fellow unconventional teen—Jackson. You can find my list here, and Jackson’s over at his blog Think Only Today. Because not every book is perfect for every person, I’ve divided them up into some broad sections.
I’ll admit it; I don’t read NEARLY as much fiction as I used to/want to. It can just be so hard to find the right book that tells a story well. Luckily, I know some really great works of fiction that I would highly recommend
- Dog On It, by Spencer Quinn
In addition to being written by an alum of my alma mater, Williams College, Dog On It is probably one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Told from the perspective of Chet, a well meaning police academy flunky, it’s the fast paced tale of a kidnapped girl. Despite his prowess at solving crimes, Chet is haunted by the fact that he never made the K9 squad. That’s right, Chet’s a dog. His general failure to be truly helpful to his owner, private investigator Bernie Little, combined with excellent writing and a soupçon of tomato (you’ll get that joke later) make this book a riot to read and enjoy.
- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
This is a strange book, but also hilarious. Ignatius J. Reilly is a morbidly obese denizen of New Orleans… who views himself as a paragon of Western civilization in the jaws of sin. Every action he takes is drenched in a completely unjustified sense of superiority. Trust me, you’ll be laughing until you can’t breathe.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This book is different from the others on this list. It’s not funny at all—it’s actually pretty depressing. A father and his son try to survive in a post-apocalyptic United States, where the government has completely collapsed and people have returned to hunter-gatherer lives. The religious imagery and writing is breathtaking, and the story is well told. Not an easy read, but definitely worth the effort.
In this section, I’m going to try to recommend books that would make sense to someone who doesn’t have a science background but is still interested. These books are easy to read and actually make great beach companions!
- Letters to a Young Scientist by E. O. Wilson
I personally think this book should be required reading for anyone considering a degree in science. E. O. Wilson, one of the elder statesmen of biology and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, outlines the value of science, the practice of science, and what it takes to be a scientist. Rather than coming of as preachy or demeaning, Wilson takes on the role of an older advisor, well versed in the mechanics of the scientific engine and happy to share his knowledge.
- Stiff, Spook, Bonk, Packing for Mars, and Gulp, all by Mary Roach
Mary Roach is one of the best science writers out there. She’s funny, smart, and quite strange. Her books will leave you laughing and thinking, not to mention loaded up with strange facts and bizarre stories. She picks topics that generally require no knowledge of science whatsoever but are still interesting to those with a large knowledge base. The perfect summer books in my opinion.
- “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” by Richard P. Feynman
Richard Feynman was probably the funniest man to ever win the Nobel Prize. His exceptional wit and intelligence shine through in this book which, despite being about a physicist, doesn’t include much physics at all. Instead, it’s about the life of one of the funniest, smartest, and silliest men to ever walk the Earth. In the words of his mother, Lucille Phillips, “If Richard is the smartest man in the world, God help the world!”
I personally think that well written nonfiction can be a more exciting read than a novel in many cases. In the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson in the Cosmos series finale, “Our imagination is nothing compared with nature’s awesome reality.”
- The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs
I put this under other nonfiction rather than science writing because, while it is about nature, it isn’t meant to inform you factually about the lives of the animals it describes. Instead, Childs conveys the emotional narratives woven by his lifelong interactions with animals. Beautifully written and stunningly poignant, The Animal Dialogues is a wonderful look at the bond between humans and wild animals.
- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
What happens when an overweight American who has been living in the UK for twenty years returns home and decides to hike the Appalachian Trail? Hilarity, that’s what happens. Bryson describes in side-splitting detail all the misadventures, zany characters, and conspiracies of the wild that he and his friend Katz encounter on their quest north. A hilarious book that also paints a fascinating portrait of America.
Well, that’s my list for the summer. Any books I missed you think I should know about? Just let me know in the comments or on the contact page. Until then, pick up a good book and start wondering infinitely about the infinite wonder that is life.