Your Summer Reading List: The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Time for summer reading lists.


    One of my life pleasures is putting on classical music and opening a good book. When everything goes right, my mind is a still pool that I can gaze into clear to the bottom. A ripple happens, the adventure begins ...




    My favorite books tend to be written by polymaths - people with a deep understanding across a breadth of topics. Jared Diamond is a prime example. He began his career as a professor of physiology, established a second career as an ornithologist, and a third as an environmental historian.


    This ability to cast the mind far and deep and come up with novel ideas is a rare one. It is also the perfect antidote to specialists stuck inside their expert boxes. Jared Diamond also knows how to write. “Guns, Steel, and Ammunition” and “Collapse” are true eye-openers.

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    Two other polymaths who also know how to write: Robert Sapolsky - neuroscientist, behavioral biologist, and primatologist, author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”; Nassim Taleb - financier, statistician, and philosopher, author of “The Black Swan.”


    Then there are journalists, who come in many shapes and sizes. Their singular ability lies in noticing things everyone else has ignored, connecting the dots into a compelling narrative, and putting new conversations on the table.


    One shape involves those who drill so deep into a topic that they become experts in their own right. Michael Pollan is a case in point. His “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” started a movement.


    Then we have Malcolm Gladwell, the dilettante's dilettante.   Conventional wisdom has never been the same. Check out his latest: “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.”


    Then we have journalists with historian chops. No one did this better than the late David Halberstam. His last book, “The Coldest Winter,” about the Korean War, weighs in at nearly 700 pages. I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down.


    Conversely, we have historians with journalist chops, such as Doris Kearns Goodwin. My current favorite is anthropologist Jack Weatherford. You will never look at Genghis Khan the same way again after reading his take. Son of a gun - I didn’t realize he also wrote about the people who actually ran the Mongolian Empire - the women. I just clicked "Buy Now."


    As for fiction ...


    I am currently sampling James Joyce’s “The Dubliners,” one story at a time. I can read Vonnegut again and again and again. Same with Douglas Adams. And I have a lot more books in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series to look forward to.


    Guilty pleasure: JK Rowling. I started my first Harry Potter last summer. I inhaled the next three and forced myself to stop. I went outside for my first fresh air in days. Wouldn’t you know it? - there was Harry Potter number five just sitting on top of our row of mailboxes.


    Have you noticed?


    No bipolar books on the list. Let's give ourselves a break.


    Now it’s your turn ...


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    Question: Your reading favorites. Which authors do you look forward to reading? Which books are you happy to read again? Which books have changed how you think or look at the world?


    Extra credit: What summer reading list would you recommend for others?  

Published On: June 08, 2014