view counter

Travels with a Good Book

Bay Weekly’s Summer Reading Guide

A good book can take us farther than an airplane, keep us otherwise occupied longer than a week away from home and cost far less than any vacation. True, I’d rather be reading my book on a sandy beach with an ocean breeze. But even on my own back deck, lolling my cushy birthday chaise, a good book, a summer’s day and a cool drink make a vacation.
    In that spirit, the Bay Weekly family of readers offers its annual summer reading special.

–Sandra Olivetti Martin

Advice

Salt, Sugar, Fat
by Michael Moss: 2013
    Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat might well make you feel guilty about what you eat. But unlike fat, the guilt melts away swiftly when you learn how major food companies manipulate us into eating so much processed food.
    Moss is a New York Times investigative reporter known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning disclosures about “pink slime” and  hamburger impurities. Now he takes us into the food giants’ laboratories and strategy sanctums to show what happens before folks go shopping.
    Neuroscientists conduct MRIs on test subjects to determine precisely when the bells in our brains sound with the arrival of sugars and fats. Soda purveyors spend lavishly to determine our “bliss points,” the level of sugar that we find most pleasing. Sugar ends up in much of our processed food, the reason Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons every day.
    Moss opens with a secret meeting in which company CEOs gather to reckon with the epidemic of obesity. They go home after a fine meal and absolving themselves of blame.
    You may conclude that knowing what Big Food is doing to us, and how, makes swallowing Moss’ findings worth your while.

–Bill Lambrecht

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible
by Charles Eisenstein: 2013
     Humanity is in transition from the Story of Separation to the Story of Interbeing. Both are ways of constructing our reality. Separation says we are all discrete entities acting out of our own self-interest, leading to often-unarticulated pain. Interbeing says we are all related, that what any one of us does affects everyone.
    “Distanced from the dying forests, the destitute workers, the hungry children, we do not know the source of our pain, but make no mistake — just because we don’t know the source doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pain,” the self-described “de-growth activist” writes.
    Curing our discontent calls for deep attention to matters of spirit. So, for example, activists who focus on “the cause” while neglecting simple human gestures, such as taking care of an elder relative or a friend’s child, are still living as if separate.
    We are living in the space between these states. But we can begin to “write” the “story of interbeing” more fully by, say, giving thanks for the loving star that warms our planet and taking stock of what we want to do with our time here. Do we decide to leave an unfulfilling but financially secure position? Do we make changes to an unsatisfying relationship at the risk of going unpartnered?
    Expect to gather hope and strength from this book.

–Leigh Glenn

Tiny Beautiful Things
by Cheryl Strayed: 2012
    You might not expect to be transported by what could be considered a simple advice column. But this is far more than a random grouping of questions and answers. It is a narrative of grief, healing and learning after loss.
    In a simple, honest style that feels akin to sitting at the kitchen table with cups of coffee, Strayed allows the seekers into her own narrative and experiences. She implicates herself in nearly every response in a mixture of allegory and empathy because, as she says to a young man dealing with his wife’s grief, “Compassion isn’t about solutions. It’s about giving all the love you’ve got.”
    This book feels like companionship. Strayed writing as Dear Sugar wants us to be okay with the fact that we are human, we are flawed and our beauty lies in these flaws. The human spirit is resilient.

–Jen Fitzgerald

Culture and Lore

Chesapeake Women: Their ­Stories, Their Memories
by Don Parks: 2014
    Chesapeake Women: Their Stories, Their Memories is a collection of tales recounted by 11 women whose lives were shaped by living near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
    After Parks retired from a career as an educator, he spent time roaming the Eastern Shore and talking with the people who live there.
    From living with no electricity or indoor plumbing in the first part of the 20th century to battling storms on the water, these Eastern Shore women have amazing stories to share. A deep devotion to the Bay binds them, and they are all concerned about the future health of this great body of water.
    Each chapter features a different storyteller, so the book may be enjoyed one bite at a time — or read in one sitting. Whichever way you take it, it is an eye-opening read.

–Diane Burt

Harvesting the Chesapeake, Tools & Traditions
by Larry S. Chowning: second edition, 2014
    If you’ve wondered what’s happening on those long sleek Chesapeake Bay workboats that still grace our waters, this is the book to read. It’s well written, memorable and informative and a virtual reference work on the lives, tools and traditions of Bay watermen.
    Chesapeake Bay watermen began their trade in the 1600s, flourished until the mid-1900s and now continue to diminish along with the populations of fish and shellfish on which they depend. For all the many changes of four hundred years, the ways of the watermen have remained virtually the same. They’ve used similar tools, fished the same techniques and lived almost the same lives. They are destined to be gone within the next generation or two. In the meantime, this is the book to read to acquaint yourself with their lives and livelihoods.

–Dennis Doyle

Fiction

Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel: 2015
    Books that transport us to post-apocalyptic worlds start with nuclear blasts, hordes of ravenous zombies or alien invasions. But Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven begins with the on-stage death of an actor. Arthur Leander, starring as King Lear, suffers a heart attack. Yet news of his death commands little notice as a devastating flu wipes out 99 percent of the human race.
    The novel backtracks to tell about Leander, his three wives, his best friend and the medic who tried to save him.  
    But the main character is Kirsten Raymond, who as an eight-year-old appeared as one of Lear’s daughters in a preface to the Bard’s story. Twenty years after the pandemic, she is a member of The Traveling Symphony, bringing culture to survivors. Along the way, she collects articles about Leander and searches for a rare comic book.
    A finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, Station Eleven demands an all-nighter.

–Marilyn Recknor