Summer Reading List

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(Host) Better get out the pen and paper. Commentator Jules Older has his summer reading list ready.

(Older) There was still snow on the ground when folks started asking me, "So when you gonna do your summer reading list?" What’s up with that? Okay, okay, here it is. As always, it’s eccentric, eclectic and only reflects my peculiar taste in books. Here we go:

Got someone special you want to convert from meat-eating to healthy soy products? You couldn’t do better than Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meat. It’s a terrific first novel about a documentary filmmaker crossing America, making advertorials for beef. If George Bush ever read it (mmm, why do I doubt that?) by the end, even he would be a vegetarian. Nah. If it didn’t work for me, it won’t work for a Texan.

For a classic Vermont read, pick up Green Mountain Farm by Elliott Merrick, published in 1948 and re-released in 1999. OK, I admit I’m partial to it because it takes place in a farmhouse just a couple of miles from my home. But it’s an incredibly sweet book, filled with lyrical writing about the hard and calloused joys of north-country living. It opens in 1934, when Merrick and his wife, Kate, buy a broken-down farm in Craftsbury Common for the princely sum of $1000. Though the roof leaks and the wind whistles through the cracks in the walls, the Merricks are deliriously happy there. As Merrick says, "We did everything wrong, but it came out right."

If you want more of classic Vermont reading, get hold of any of the many books by Maggie Wolf. The first was Anything Can Happen in Vermont. The latest, last I checked, is Postmark Vermont. They’re funny, wise and, especially Postmark Vermont, poignant glimpses of the Green Mountain State from one smart enough to move here.

For a different kind of Vermont book, and a challenging one, try David Huddle’s Le Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl. It’s an unusual short novel that constantly shifts between contemporary Burlington and seventeenth century France. It’s about love and obsession and art and music.

If you prefer faction to fiction and love to read about medical scandals, buy a disturbing book by John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him: the Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. It’s the story of medical misadventure, medical cowardice and medical disaster. And the chief villain of the volume is actually a medical psychologist. Tough and hard-hitting stuff.

Finally, here are two lovely picture books for kids, both by New Hampshirites. One is Henry Builds a Cabin by D.B. Johnson. Yes, it’s Johnson’s fine follow-up to Henry Hikes to Fitchburg. Once again, a bear named Henry recreates the life and wisdom of Henry David Thoreau, this time by building his cabin in the woods.

The other is No Ordinary Olive by Roberta Baker of Tilton, New Hampshire. No Ordinary Olive tells the tale of a rambunctious child making her way through a tame world. It’s delightful, and it’s Ms. Baker’s first book. It’s also adorably illustrated by Debbie Tilley.

That’s it. Summer’s coming. Start reading. This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.

Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults, and is a passionate outdoors enthusiast.

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