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Books to Bring Along on Your Summer Vacation 2024 Edition

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jun 27, 2024 4:15:00 AM

"Reading takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere." - Hazel Rochman


2024 books
For most of us, the upcoming holiday weekend marks the beginning of summer vacation season. Hopefully, you’ll find time away from your office – onsite or hybrid – and enjoy some downtime with family and friends. Time for resting, reflecting, and perhaps – reading.

My vacation companions always include a book. Or two. Or three. 

And usually a stop at a bookstore. Or two. Or three. It’s why I prefer to drive rather than fly. No extra luggage needed and no overweight fees. 

Here are a baker’s dozen of books you might consider packing in your bags. 

Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France   by Kermit Lynch. An enjoyable tour through the winemaking regions of France. If I had several months, and an unlimited income, this would be the vacation of a lifetime.

The Food and Wine of France: Eating and Drinking from Champagne to Provence by Edward Behr. (Yes, I love France and French wine). I wish this book wasn't out of print, as I would be ordering copies for my friends who love the cuisine and culture of France. This is almost like a tour, as the author crisscrosses the country, west to east and back, slowly heading south.

First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time by Emma Chapman. I'm always amazed at how much we have discovered about the beginnings of the universe. I hadn't given much thought to how the first stars ignited. Fortunately, Dr. Chapman has. I truly enjoyed that this book was written with the non-scientist reader in mind. Plus, Chapman's wry humor added levity throughout the book.

Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky. With a job like mine, of course I would read this book. Kurlansky traces the development of paper from its origins in China, how it spread through Asia, and its slow adoption in Europe. Along the way, he describes the beginning of writing and the other materials used to record thoughts. From there, technology developed to the paper production and printing methods we use today.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari. I'm a bit late to this book, which I would describe as one-third science, one-third history and one-third philosophy. Also, 100% thought provoking. Perfect for anyone who is open to reexamining their beliefs about our species.

The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher's Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient by William Irvine. I read this in preparation for a new course I was teaching. Irvine provides practical advice on how to live with a more stoic outlook. Plus, he includes some good referrals to more reading.

Touch Matters: Handshakes, Hugs, and the New Science on How Touch Can Enhance Your Well-Being by Michael Banissy. Being human means being tactile, and touching is an important part of our lives. It can help us stay healthy and stay connected. And it can spread germs and make us feel threatened. Touch must be appropriate and consensual. As we grow as a society, it may mean re-learning how touch is part of our lives.

Soldiers Don't Go Mad: A True Story of Friendship, Poetry, and Mental Illness During the First World War by Charles Glass. What an eye-opening book! I didn't realize that there were some British doctors back in WW1 who treated "shell shock" with compassion and knowledge. And I never would have expected that the poets among the wounded would be allowed to publish works that didn't glorify war, but revealed the horrors of combat. I’ll be looking up Sassoon and Owens in the library.

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue. I've always connected with my Irish heritage, so it's no surprise that this book touched me. O'Donoghue merges Celtic, Catholic and German philosophies into an approach to life based on the wonder around us - and inside us. The chapter on death and loss was especially touching. When poets write prose, magic happens.

So Far So Good: Final Poems: 2014-2018 by Ursula Le Guin. The author sent the manuscript for this book to the editors one week before she died. As I was reading this, I kept thinking, is this what Emily Dickenson would have written if she had lived into her 80s? Kindred souls separated by time.

Orchid Muse: A History of Obsession in Fifteen Flowers by Erica Hannickel. A simply gorgeous book - both illustrations and writing. I think it's mandatory that all lovers of flowers be romantics. That being said, this book contains a lot of interesting and useful information. The "orchid needs" at the end of each chapter will be very helpful for my plants.

The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year by Margaret Renkl. The perfect book for any nature lover trapped indoors due to winter weather. Or to read outside on a summer vacation. Part observation, part commentary, part poetry. Also, an inspiration to continue the transformation of our yard into a space that welcomes nature.

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. Reading Vonnegut is a balm for the inevitable anxiety when browsing today's headlines or social media posts. The players have changed, and the medium has changed, but the shortcomings of our leaders and the horrors of war are so similar, it can be dispiriting. But in his own way, Vonnegut always reminds us about the power of the human spirit.

Is there a book you would recommend I pack away for my vacation? Please let me know in the comments. 

Check out Mark's  Complete Reading List

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