A prescription for the doldrums: summer reading

July 07, 1995|By Myron Beckenstein

SO, WHAT'S the problem? The summer is not half over and already you are tired of TV reruns and nothing on the best-seller list appeals to you?

Well, there is a whole other world of books waiting for you on the friendly shelves of your library or new or used book store. Here are some good bets.

Fiction

Buried Caesar, By Stuart M. Kaminsky

The author has three good detective series going and all of his books are worth reading. This one involves permanently disheveled Toby Peters who gets involved with real Hollywood stars of the 1940s or, in this case, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Mr. Kaminsky's books are like potato chips: You try one and you'll probably immediately go for another.

A Doorbell Rang, By Rex Stout

The revelations about how J. Edgar Hoover ruled are hardly new. In this 1965 mystery classic, a woman is so taken by Fred Cook's book, "The FBI Nobody Knows," that she sends loads of copies to influential people. So the FBI starts investigating her. She turns to Nero Wolfe.

N A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, By Robert Olen Butler

This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories about Vietnamese immigrants in America is written by a former U.S. intelligence officer in Vietnam who is now a Louisiana university writing professor. Most of the action takes place near New Orleans. The tales are told with compassion, charm and realistic detail of Vietnamese life and attitudes.

Journey Into Fear, By Eric Ambler

In early World War II, a British engineer finds himself trapped aboard a ship with agents he knows are trying to kill him. This is one of the books that established Mr. Ambler's reputation as the master of his genre.

Penguin Island, By Anatole France

The history of mankind as told through the history of an island of penguins as they adapt to being humanized and civilized. The author has a keen eye and a slashing pen.

Nonfiction

Cobb, By Al Stump

Ty Cobb was one fantastic ballplayer and one miserable human being. Mr. Stump, a sportswriter, portrays both aspects of maybe the greatest ballplayer ever. (He set 123 records over 24 years.) He was a man whose shrewd investments also made him as rich as some of today's mediocre players.

The Man in the Ice, By Konrad Spindler

An insider's account of one of the archaeological finds of the century (no fooling) and of what studying the 5,000-year-old body has told us about mankind's past.

No Other Road to Freedom, By Leland Stowe

Correspondent Stowe spent the first 17 months of World War II traveling Europe from the Baltic to the Balkans for the Chicago Daily News. His sharp observations, clear reporting and passionate conclusions make one wonder how isolationists could have been so prominent in the United States at the time. This is first-person history at its best.

Washington Waltz, By Helen Lombard

Another look at the world on the eve of Pearl Harbor, but this one is of the way things were in Washington, especially in its diplomatic circles. The author is the observant American-born wife of a French military attache.

The Private Life of Chairman Mao, By Li Zhisui

This book by Mao's doctor gained fame last year for revealing some of the Chairman's sexual preferences, but it is so much more. This insider's view of how China's leaders live and reach decisions shows a ruling cadre removed and uncaring, but still subject to the underlying jitters associated with having to forever prove their loyalty to every sudden policy shift.

A Rage to Punish, By Lois G. Forer

Mandatory sentencing was going to be the quick solution to our crime problem. But, as this former judge points out, our streets are not safer and the courts and prisons face even worse problems than before. She says there is a solution.

Timewater Time Capsule, By Donald Shomette

Underwater archaeologist Shomette first recounts the history of Maryland's Patuxent Valley, then details his recent search for Commander Joshua Barney's fleet, scuttled along the river during the War of 1812.

Warriors Don't Cry, By Melba Patillo Beals

In a very disturbing book, one of the Little Rock Nine tells the story of what the black students had to put up with as they integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957. Besides the intense psychological pressures, there were constant physical attacks, including being set afire in the school's halls and massive political indifference at every level.

Myron Beckenstein works on the foreign desk of The Evening Sun.

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