With Summer you always get reviews about what to read at the beach or the lake. Usually recommendations will be mostly about bestsellers, some topics will be light and easy, self-help books, novels, maybe some detective stories or a biography.

I find it difficult to read at the beach because the sea is more interesting than a book, any book. Walking on the beach is also for me therapeutic, so why sit down and read?

At the cottage or the lake, never did go much to the cottage as kids, I only remember 2 Summers at a rented cottage but we did mostly fishing and on rainy days some water colour painting, no reading.

Again what I read is a mish mash of authors and topics, whatever strikes my fancy. I usually hear about a book, go to Amazon.ca to have a look, read up about it and read the reviews, though they do not influence me much. I can also go to the bookstore and look around what they have. A nice hobby on how to spend a couple of hours browsing for books. I may buy or not buy something.

When on a trip I will take my kindle with me, easy to handle and light weight. You can take it everywhere with you.

The other day I was in my favourite coffee shop when I noticed a big hard cover book on the window ledge by my table, just sitting there, forgotten or abandoned, I picked it up to see that it was Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant. Will and Ariel Durant were about 35 years ago famous authors, historians and philosophers in the scholarly academic section of book writers. They wrote the 11 volume History of Civilization between 1935-1975. I think it was required reading in some universities. They were certainly celebrated as a couple. I was surprise to see the book and I had completely forgotten about them. Will Durant died in 1981 at the age of 96. Many said then that he and Ariel were historians who had changed our understanding of history.

I also picked up other books recently David Crystal, A little book of Language which is light fare in understanding how we think about languages in general from baby talk to slang, to meanings of words and expressions, to many other languages and how they are constructed and how cultures and people think differently and this is illustrated in their own language.

Another one I have read is Nigel Warburton, A little history of philosophy. He gives a short description of various philosophers and their own philosophy, how they came to develop their world view and he covers about 40 of them from the ancient to the modern. This is a good little book for someone who never studied in school philosophy as a topic. I remember my classes in philosophy and our teachers who appeared to us so learned, I had two who would tell jokes in ancient Greek and Latin. Of course the majority of the students in the class did not understand and so they would invite us to translate them to find the meaning. Some of the books we read then were heavy going like the ones on Logic and thought process.

Recently I was reading how Millennials had angst about not wanting to make mistakes in their choices in life, leading to some kind of paralysis. I thought have they read Soren Kierkegaard? Some 50 years ago young people had the same anxiety, nothing new. He was with Jean-Paul Sartre on Existentialism, a popular author to help people understand the world after 1945.

With the crisis of Climate change I would think that Existentialism is going to make a comeback.


I also stumbled upon the Biography of Alex B. Campbell, Premier of PEI from 1966-1978, he was the youngest at 32 to be elected Provincial Premier in Canada and saw during his tenure massive changes in PEI. He is 85 years old now and lives in Stanley Bridge, PEI.

I also got a book by Rawi Hage, Lebanese Born Canadian living in Montreal who has won many literary awards. This recent book also shortlisted for many awards is Beirut Hellfire Society.  I always enjoy reading about the Middle-East where I spent so much time of my working life. The stories remind me of those days and my travel in the region. A place I always found fascinating for its politics, culture and antiquity.

Beirut Hellfire Society begins in 1978 with Pavlov, the son of an undertaker who inherits his father’s business and his membership in the eponymous group, a secretive, pagan-like sect that reveres fire, cremates the dead, and is accommodating to those who have been shunned for reasons such as homosexuality and atheism. Pavlov defies social norms, like the famed cynic Diogenes, whom he resembles (and makes explicit mention of in the text). The book follows Pavlov closely as he picks up the remains of bodies, caring for dogs (a species he holds in high esteem) and people with a modest but piercing tenderness. Pavlov befriends Rex, a stray dog, and begins talking with him. The context of civil war in the Middle East often lends itself to a blame game involving Christians versus Muslims, West versus East, or good versus evil. Hage dissolves these rigid binaries in his portrait of a syncretic Lebanon, where violence is perceived as a facet of everyday relations between people.

I also have on my roster the book of John C.G. Rohl, Kaiser Wilhelm II: A concise life. His life was complicated by family relations, Queen Victoria was his maternal grand mother and his mother was the eldest daughter of Victoria and Empress of Germany, a difficult birth which left him crippled and an upbringing verging on torture. He died in exile in 1941 and to this day is portrayed as a warlord, a misfit who became Emperor because of the early death of his father. The House of Hohenzollern to this day has to live with that ghost, though history is slowly rehabilitating him.

On the lighter side P.G. Woodhouse The code of the Woosters which is certainly good for a few laughs. That would fit the bill for what is called Summer fare.

So there you have it Summer reading!