I intended, last time we visited, to do my usual summer reading list, but spent the whole column talking about just one book. (Roger Penrose’s “Cycles of Time,” which is definitely not for the beach.) Let’s see if I can do a bit better and I’ll start with the most fun I’ve had since encountering Jack Reacher.
Lee Childs has written 16 books in the Reacher series. But I didn’t come across him right away, so I had the pleasure of blowing through a dozen or so before I caught up, a rare treat. Reacher’s a classic loner-good-guy who metes out rough justice, in a kind of Old Testament way, never mind the niceties of, oh, laws, courts and that sort of thing. Childs has kept the series at a very high level, consistently good, often great.
So imagine my delight in finding someone at least as good, also with scads of work out there. I’ve somehow missed out on Stephen Hunter, a writer I’ve certainly heard of, but hadn’t read. “Point of Impact” (made into a bad movie, “Shooter,” with Mark Wahlberg) is a pure adrenaline rush, so you might start with it, like I did. I’ve slammed through half a dozen more so far, all of which leave me wondering who’s tougher: Reacher or Earl and Bob Lee Swagger? Beats me. But you’re in for a good time finding out.
Now, on to a few more. Joshua Foer’s “Moonwalking With Einstein,” which depicts his inadvertent training for the USA Memory Championships, was a real treat. I’d long forgotten about “memory palaces,” an ancient mnemonic device, which allows even people with average memories to accomplish notable feats. Following along with him, I easily memorized a lengthy list of random items on his mentor’s party shopping list, including a skin-colored cat suit.
Just imagine a place that you know really well. That’s your “palace,” be it a walk down a beach, through your home, or whatever. Now, imagine depositing the items that you want to memorize in it, giving them graphic visual images to aid your recall. Sex and/or humor are highly recommended, as the more salacious the images are, the better they stick. You don’t need to know whom I imagined in the cat suit.
“Moonwalking” is funny, informative and helpful. What more could you ask for? Totally unlike Jamie Whyte’s “Crimes Against Logic,” the subtitle of which reads: “Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders.” The only crime is that this book was ever published, as it’s low-level logic, not to mention boring. If you should pick it up, drop it immediately.
So too with Greg Epstein’s “Good Without God,” a supposed treatise on living as a humanist. Geez, I didn’t know it included so much self-pitying whining. He goes to great lengths to tell the reader how hard it was to write the book, because he was afraid that he might not do just service to the topic, and he was at least right about that.
Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values” doesn’t determine much more than that he’s determined to reach one qualified conjecture after another. Virtually nothing is certain in the science of morality except Harris’ certainty that his own is correct – and that science may someday prove it.
I have more on my stack, but that does it for space, and you have a few treats to look up and dogs to avoid. And, speaking of dogs, weren’t the royal corgis and James Bond a total hoot at the opening ceremony? I do love the Olympics.