Recommended Reading


We are a household of readers and we read a lot of books. Here are some particular favorites, past and present. Our son is now 12…

Perhaps these are aimed too young, but they’re delightful reads…

Winnie The Pooh
The House At Pooh Corner

When We Were Very Young
Now We Are Six
Old Possums Practical Cats
Paddington
The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald
Alvins’ Secret Code
Emil and the Detectives
Rabbit Hill, The Long Winter
– Robert Lawson
Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan.

Age Appropriate & enjoyed by all of us:
Bone” graphic novel(s) Really, really, great art, characters, story, plot, you name it. Beautiful.

All Creatures Great and Small, etc, etc. “James Herriot”.
Really good story telling, and yes, though based on real people, this is fiction. Some drinking, smoking, a fair number of complicated deliveries for sheep and some other farm animals.
Based on the writer’s experience but a work of fiction. In the real world, “Helen” wasn’t the woman he married, for starters… All Creatures and the second book were re-read requests, I think we read the pair more than 3 times all the way through…

My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives – Gerald Durrell.

British expatriots in Corfu during the 1930s. No clue where theirmoney comes from or what happened tothe father- Gerald (Gerry) is a pre-teen and already a naturalist in training and the youngest of the 4 children. Oldest brother Lawrence is already becoming A Famous Writer, middle sister and brother are teenagers, nowhere near as interesting as the animals Gerrald collects or the locals he meets. “My Family and Other Animals” is my favorite, and we re-read it at least 2-3 times.

A Zoo In My Luggage – Gerald Durrell.

Durrell’s other books are accounts of his collecting expeditions to find animals for other people’s and finally his own zoo. He has great stories, and started the first zoo-as-refuge-for-endangered-species around 1960, on one of the
Channel Islands.

The Cockcoo’s Egg – Cliff Stoll.

True story of a Berkeley grad student who discovers someone breaking into the computers he’s supervising, ends up discovering a German who is hacking university and government computers for the KGB. Includes a goode chocolate chip cookie recipe

The Periodic Table – Primo Levi –

Levi trained as a chemist, growing up in Italy in the 1930s.When the war starts he ends up in the Reisistance, is captured and shipped off to Auchwitz. He survives (working in the I. G. Farbin facility) and returns to Italy after the war. He becomes a paint and varnish chemist. Each story/chapter uses an element as the anchor for an episode, telling his life story from youth to age. Two stories are fictional the one about lead and the one about carbon. He wrote them in a feverish burst along with his acclaimed “Survival In Auchwitz” in 1946. Its wonderful in translation, it must be even more fun in the original Italian.

The Survival of the Bark Canoe – John McPhee.

Profile of Henri Vallencourt, a young man who mastered Native American canoe building technology and built them to order in the 1970s. No pencils, no saws, just a hatchet and a “crooked knife”, bought from the Hudson’s Bay Company. They’re easier to use and maintain than the sharpend beaver tooth they replaced, which is why HBC still sells them. Second half of the book is a canoe trip consisting of McPhee, the canoe maker, and some friends, through the Maine woods that Henry Thourou traveled and wrote about 150 years ago. One half-page reference to Deliverance and jokes about banjo-playing rapists mean it can’t be “G” but “PG” is very fair.

The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings trilogy. You know these.

The Harry Potter books. You know these too.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle

All 1100 pages. out loud, twice. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I recomend it. Smoking, light drinking, cocaine use by Holmes when he’s bored. (Watson portrays this unsympatheticly…)

The Fallen Man – Tony Hillerman.

Set on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, Hillerman’s mysteries are solved by members of the Navajo Tribal Police. They’re deeply rooted in place and time, and the Navajo and dominant cultures. In this story, a skeleton discovered over 1000 feet up a pinacle which is both popular with climbers and a Navajo sacred place. It may be a rancher who disappeared on his honeymoon years before…

The Maltese Falcon – Dashiel Hammett.

A woman with a complex story visits the small detective agency of Sam Spade and Miles Archer. Archer agrees to watch over her case personally. He is found, shot dead, in the middle of that night, and Sam Spade has to figure out who killed him, and why, and do something about it. One character in a criminal association is gay, and Spade refers to him as a “fairy” in one scene. There are suggestions that another male member of the gang may be his lover, which are not treated as positive. Relatioinships outside of marriage, past and present are key parts of the plot. Archer’s is not the only death. None the less, this is Hammett’s finest and a terrific book about being an adult.

Animal, Vegitable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver.

A year of eating locally, and in low-impact, means raising their own food animals and growing crops, as well as preserving by canning and freezing, and seeking meals away from home which are also of locally produced food. Naturally, seasonal foods become staples, and much thought is given to what comes from far away and how commercial, agribusiness farming works, as opposed to small, organic,efforts. Many recipes, the majority of the text is by Kingsolver but her husband and one daughter contribute as well. A really delightful book. A more positive take on the same subject as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Hoot, Flush,

These are really terrific kids books- kid centered points of view, serious conflict without it becoming overwhelming, justice triumphs more or less. Unsympathetic characters get a comeuppance and wits and dairing are shown to match brute force and come out ahead. Very likable protagonists, not the same in each book. I was sorry when each ended. Also see “Scat“, about Florida panthers.

Fate Is The Hunter – Ernest K. Gann

Memior of an airline pilot, from the wild days of the 1920s through the Depression, the war and the post-war boom. Superb, humble and honest adventure stories where nobody succeeds without help and kindness from others. Much dry wit, and a steady roll of the names of friends, co-workers and legends who died when fate finally had their number. I read this in 6th grade and loved it. We read it with Benjamin a couple of years ago and he loved it too. Superb writing. When he tired of the airline business, Gann went to medical school and became a doctor- quite a guy.

The Silent World – Jacques Y. Cousteau

From the invention of the Aqualung, in occupied France, through setting up Calypso for expeditions and setting out to make a life with science and diving. Cousteau wrote all his books in English directly, for the world market I suppose.

The Living Sea, World Without Sun, Jacques Y. Cousteau

Further adventures, exploration and science in the 1950s and early 1960s. I remember reading about most of this in The National Geographic some in the latest issues, some in back issues…

Incredible Victory – Walter Lord

The battle of Midway, as told by hundreds of survivors to Mr. Lord, 20 years later. He manages to tell the central parts of the story using quotes from people who were there, on both sides, the very best kind of history. In mid-1942 the Japanese Navy sets out to destroy the remaining US Pacific fleet. By capturing Midway, only 1200 miles from Oahu, they expect to provoke the US fleet into a final battle and defeat them. They don’t know the US Navy is reading their radio codes. In a single day, and amid enormous cost in American lives from Midway and afloat, dive bombers from two US carriers sink all 4 Japanese carriers, though the Japanese manage to sink one American carrier and an accompanying destroyer. This is the beginning of the why Admiral Nimitz got a freeway named after him… This and “A Night To Remember” are Lord’s most famous books, It helps that the good guys win, but the waste and savagery of war are not glossed over.

A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking

This is such a great book- it starts with a good cosmological joke, and contains only one equation. Its both a story of what is and how we know it, and what we don’t know yet. We saw Hawking on his last visit to the Bay Area and he’s inspiring. Robert Heinlein once wrote that any scientist who can’t explain what they’re doing, to a child, in 10 minutes, is a fraud. Hawking is not a fraud.

Benjamin read a number of Charlie Bone books to himself, and we read one as bedtime reading. Not my first choice, but he liked them a lot. He’s also current in the Maximum Ride and Levin Thumps series’, and looking forward to the next one in each case.

More fiction:

Holes
Around the World In 80 Days, Jules Verne
A Wrinkle In Time – L’Engle (?)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Bach
Summerland
Owls In The Family
– F. Mowat

More natural history:

A Fish Caught In Time –
Waiting For Aphrodite – Sue Hubbell
The Ancient Engineers
– L. Sprague de Camp
Wonderful Life – Stephen J Gould
Life (the first 4 billion years) – Richard Fortey
Trilobite Eyewitness to Evolution – Richard Fortey
The Decypherment of Linear “B”
The Periodic Kingdom
Giant Squid – Ellis
Platypus

The Wisdom of Bones – Walker & Shipman – Benjamin loved this and after this we read The Hominid Gang, by Delta Willis, which he liked even more. Willis has a different view of some of the same people and places that are the foundation for Walker and Shipman’s book. Willis was writing while the Nariokatome aka Turkana Boy, the oldest and so-far best preserved Homo Erectus, was being un-earthed and pieced together.

Books we read pieces of but stopped before the end or didn’t want to read all the way through start to finish:

Little Women – Louisa May Allcott – stopped before Amy died.

Read some, then stopped:
Little House In The Woods
Little House On the Praire
Anne of Green Gables
The Yearling

Read here and there, but not the whole thing. Enjoyed in small pieces. Favorites of mine :^)
Rising from the Plain – John McPhee
Assembling California – John McPhee
Looking for a Ship – John McPhee
Taking Wing – Pat Shipman and
Synapsida – McLaughlin
The Man Who Walked Through Time – Colin Fletcher
Carrying The Fire – Michael Collins

In theory good ideas but not yet actually read by/to Benjamin, yet:

Broadsides From The Other Orders – Sue Hubbell
A Country Year – Sue Hubbell
Life on the Missippi,
Mark Twain

A Distant Mirror – Werthimer
Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn
– Mark Twain
Endurance – Lansing (a powerfully written account of Shackleton’s last Antarctic expedition.)
House of Seven Gables
The Red Badge Of Courage – S. Crane

I, Juan De. Pareja

Historical fiction, story of a Moor who is enslaved and owned by the painter Velasquez… De Pareja eventually becomes a paint himself and provokes controversy by painting a black Jesus and Mary Mother and Child picture.

Pride and Prejudice – J. Austin
Sense and Sensability – J. Austin
Emma – J. Austin
Persuasion – J. Austin
Northanger Abbey – J. Austin
Is Paris Burning?
Beyond the 100th Meridian – W. Stiegner
Wuthering Hieghts
Last and First Men, Starmaker – Olaf Stapleton
A House In Space – Henry F. S. Cooper
(More) Tony Hillerman…
Diary of a Young Girl – Ann Frank

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2 responses to “Recommended Reading

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Kate

    http://educationonline-101.com

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for reading, and even more for commenting! If you have titles to recomend I’d be interested in your suggestions. I’m not trying to re-create
      The Great Books Canon, just noting titles that might not be on a canon list but ought to be considered by the thoughtful, contemporary, reader.

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