Summer reading list

My review of a few books I’ve read recently.

Travels with Charley: In Search of America - John Steinbeck


I think I’m one of the few that didn’t read this in highschool. Better late than never I guess. I’m not sure there’s much use in doling praise on a classic of American literature, but regardless I really enjoyed reading this. There is some controversy about the degree to which the book is autobiographical. Even taken as a work of fiction, it’s a compelling story of a journey through America during the 1960s - a time of unprecedented change. Steinbeck searches for a unifying thread of American culture that ties together regions so different they may as well be separate countries. I think he succeeds, but also stumbles upon some difficult truths regarding consumerism, race, and loneliness that seem unique to the “American experience”.

The Dharma Bums - Jack Kerouac


I think Kerouac holds a special place in the heart of anyone afflicted with any degree of wanderlust. He was the first of the Beat Generation, the proto-hippies that turned out to be right about many things in my humble opinion.

The book is almost certainly autobiographical to some extent, with the main character Ray Smith modeled after Kerouac and the intrepid Buddhist/mountaineer named Japhy modeled after Gary Snyder. The Dharma Bums feels contemporary, despite being set in the 1950s. I think the desire to live simply, put your belongings on your back, and hit the trail resonate as well in 2018 as they did when Kerouac wrote this book.

Dying: A Memoir - Cory Taylor


Taylor explores one of the most uncomfortable topics in this memoir, written after she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She writes with vulnerability about her childhood, her weakening body, and her own mortality. Taylor is stunningly blunt about dying and death, avoiding flowery language and metaphor. She has since passed away but this book will remain a lasting tribute that may help its readers through difficult times.

Written by David Friedman on 03 September 2018