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The Summer Reading List

by on June 05, 2014 6:15 AM

As an adult I love to read, but as a young kid that was not always the case.

In school I read because I had to get a good grade. There was no passion for the works I was assigned to read.

That changed somewhere in Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" as Frederic and Catherine rowed across a lake to Switzerland.

I suddenly realized I was not reading because I had to but because I wanted to. I was with them in that boat willing them into Switzerland so they could flee the war.

I found a writer and voice that had drawn me in. As I read through the tension and passions in another Hemingway classic "The Sun Also Rises" I found myself hoping the book would never end. 

A Hemmingway contemporary, F. Scott Fitzgerald, became a logical next reading addiction, but my desire to read was not limited to the authors of that period.

I enjoy literature from centuries ago like Shakespeare, as well as Tolstoy and Twain and newer authors like David Guterson and Jhumpa Lahiri.

I am always looking for new authors and voices. Once while reading a newspaper story about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor I saw that she enjoyed Wallace Stegner's works. I'd never heard of the Pulitzer Prize winner, so I read his stuff and now love his books.

With Memorial Day now past people talk about their summer reading plans. I'm not sure why summer is the season of reading -- maybe because the days are longer, or that many people read at the beach to rejuvenate their minds and souls.

Whatever the reason I'm throwing out ten books that I've enjoyed and would make great summer reading.


Books that look back at a life well lived:

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

This is a moving story of close friends sharing love that is as strong as family. Wallace Stegner is one of the most underrated writers in American history.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Perfect for the father/fly-fisherman in your life, but this is more. A story of an American family, their love for one another that holds across distance and time.

The Teammates by David Halberstam

Whether you like baseball or not this is the true story of four great teammates who become friends brought together by their Boston Red Sox playing careers in the middle of the 20th century — Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr.


Books That will take you on an Adventure:

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

The amazing story of the Corps of Discovery, led by Lewis and Clark, reads like a fiction novel not a history book. I couldn't put it down.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

What better time to celebrate one man's never-ending road trip than summer? His descriptions of riding in the back of a truck looking up at the countless stars or nights in San Francisco or New Orleans come across vividly on the pages of this book.

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Even if you've seen the movie, read this book. It's an amazing page-turner with suspense and thrills that make you feel like you are right there in the saddle crossing the Rio Grande. This guy writes great dialogue.

City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

If you loved Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil by Berendt you will love City of Falling Angels. Set in Venice, Italy his book is dripping in centuries-old history giving the reader a tremendous sense of place.


Books That Have a Connection to our Town

Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

The Pottsville native's papers and a re-creation of his study are here at Penn State. This is a great look at the relationships and clashes between people and the intrigue of small-town life in America.

Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell (State College resident)

If you have never read Tawni's work this is a great introduction. The book is set in rural western Pennsylvania where she has her roots. She has another novel due out later this summer so this is a good warm-up.

The Bonfire of The Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Yes the movie was awful but this book is a masterpiece. While set in New York City, there is a symbolic relationship to our town's history. This is a study of human nature demonstrating what happens when the media turns their attention to a news story. People in public office or public positions react to the opportunity grabbing their day in the media spotlight to advance their agenda or career. The truth becomes a casualty.

Try one, or all, or none of these books. It is simply one man's offering on summer reading. Regardless of how often you do read there is something about allowing your own mind to imagine the images and the characters as you see them. That just cannot be duplicated.

Even all these years later I can still feel the strain of rowing across a lake I've never been to and hoping that Frederic and Catherine make it ...

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State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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