EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked a few familiar faces and for the a book or two they could be seen reading this summer.
I’d re-read Harry Stein’s How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace), because as a tale of redemption-against-all-odds, it’s much funnier than the Bible and not nearly as long as Crime and Punishment — and thus perfect for a sun-soaked holiday. Plus, open it up and put it on your head, and presto! Stein saves you from sunstroke. That’s a practical book.
— Denis Boyles is a freelancer writer living in France. An NRO contributor, he writes regularly about the European media for NRO.
I will have finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by the 4th, so that’s no good. I just read Robinson Crusoe, in a way a perfect beach book. John Ferling has a new book out on the Revolutionary War, which is bound to be good.
— Richard Brookhiser, an NR senior editor, is author, most recently, of Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution.
My favorite work of popular fiction is Gregory MacDonald’s mystery novel, Fletch, which was turned into the 1985 film featuring Chevy Chase. Although the novel is vastly superior to the movie, its sequel, Confess Fletch, is even better as the hero squares off against his intellectual equal, Inspector Francis Xavier Flynn in an intriguing mystery with rapid-fire dialogue.
— Kevin Cherry is a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame in political science and a frequent contributor to NRO.
My impulse answer to this question is to name some great long classic, like War and Peace, which is genuinely a great beach read, but to say so would unfailingly make me look pompous. Each summer we go away to Canada, to my parents’ house on the shores of Lake Ontario, and I tend to choose a “category” of books to take with me. Last summer I was on a British binge — catching up on Trollopes, Thackerays, and Dickens I had not read. This summer I’m in a more Middle Eastern mood — especially for memoirs by women who live under the veil. My first pick was Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I was actually going to read it in conjunction with Lolita, which I’ve never read — in Tehran, Toronto, or elsewhere.
— Danielle Crittenden is author, most recently, of Amanda Bright@home.
Watching TNT’s Julius Caesar the other night, I thought of the first two volumes of Colleen McCullough’s series of novels about late-Republican Rome. I read them a few years ago, enjoyed them tremendously, and meant to read the new ones as they came out, but somehow never did. There are now eight books in the series, the latest (and I think final) one titled The October Horse. I’d like to pick up with the third book, Fortune’s Favorites, and then carry right on through to the eighth.
— John Derbyshire, an NRO columnist and NR contributing editor, is author, most recently, of Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann & the Greatest Unsolved Problem.
Meghan Cox Gurdon
The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz, (published in 1956) is the amazing true story of a Polish cavalry officer captured by the Russians who escaped the gulag and walked across Asia — across Russia, across the Gobi Desert, across India! — to freedom. Why pick it up now? It’s got everything a conservative would want in poolside reading: bravery, patriotism, brutal cold and grueling heat (things best enjoyed vicariously), and its a pungent reminder of what happened to free people when the Soviets got hold of them.
— Meghan Cox Gurdon is a writer and stay-at-home mother in Washington, D.C.
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. Forget the fact that the author was French. This is a “can’t put it down even though it’s 4 A.M. and the kids get up at 6″ read. It’s a swashbuckling tale of a young sailor mid-19th-century sailor unjustly imprisoned and so separated from the woman he passionately loves and was about to marry. But when he gets out — watch out. Dumas ‘s tale of cunning revenge is unparalleled. His understanding of the wickedness men are capable of is extraordinary. But it’s his ability to tell a great story which is makes him such a master.
— Betsy Hart is a syndicated columnist.
On many questions, Cardinal Newman observed, to think like Aristotle is to think correctly. Accordingly, my one book to re-read (for an adult the best reading is almost always re-reading) is Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics: a brilliant compendium about virtue, friendship, and the practical requirements of the goodlife. One of my favorite lines: “Only a blockhead believes that our character is not formed by our behavior.” If you behave decorously, you become decorous, if you behave courageously, you become courageous; on the other hand, if you behave in a vile, cowardly fashion, you become a vile, cowardly person.
— Roger Kimball is managing editor of The New Criterion. He is author, most recently, of Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse.
Well, it’s summer, and I think we’ve all done more than enough thinking for a while, so my beach choice would be The Light of Day by the late, great Eric Ambler — or, to be honest, anything by that master of political adventure tales.
— Rob Long is a writer in Hollywood. He is author of the “Long View” column in National Review and of the book Conversations with My Agent.
John J. Miller
The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth: This is simply the best thriller ever written — perfect for summertime and anytime.
— John J. Miller is NR national political reporter and author of The Unmaking of Americans.
Robert Darnton’s George Washington’s False Teeth, because it’s the only book I’m reading right now that wouldn’t make my brain hurt.
— Ramesh Ponnuru is an NR senior editor.
You’d need to arrive early in the morning to get this book read in a day, but I’d choose Roy Jenkins’s Churchill, a captivating biographical masterpiece about the greatest — and most entertaining — statesman of the 20th century.
— Andrew Stuttaford is an NRO contributing editor.
Editor’s P.S.: Not enough suggestions? Check out last year’s summer-reading list, too, here.