Summer Reading List 2016: Wrap-up

So it’s Labor Day, and we’ve reached the unofficial end of another summer. Last month, I posted my progress in my Summer Reading List challenge. I had read 2 out of 3 then, and I’ve since finished the third.


Title: New Atlantis
Author: Sir Francis Bacon
Genre: Fiction/literature
Year: 1627

Yes, you read that year right, this is a work almost four centuries old. You can find it at Project Gutenberg if you want to read it for yourself. That’s where I got it, and I’m glad I looked it up. Genre-wise, I’m not sure what to call it, so I went with the catchall of “literature”.

New Atlantis is what we’d call a short novella today, but that’s mainly because it was never truly finished. It’s also an incredibly interesting text for its vision. Written like many old stories purporting to be travelers’ tales, it describes the utopian land of Bensalem, supposedly located somewhere out in the Pacific. The inhabitants of that land are far advanced (compared to the 17th century) and living in a veritable paradise of wisdom and knowledge.

By my personal standards, however, it reads more like a dystopia: despite professing a very progressive separation of church and state, for example, Bensalem is hopelessly rooted in Christianity, to the point where even the Jews living there (the narrator meets one) lie somewhere in the “Jews For Jesus” range. The whole place seems to be governed in a very authoritarian manner, where societal norms are given force of law—or the other way around. Yes, Bacon describes a nation better than any he knew, but I would take modern America, with all its flaws, over the mythical New Atlantis every time.

But people today rarely look at those parts of the text. Instead, they’re more focused on what the scientists of Bensalem have done, and this is described in some detail at the very end of the work. Bacon’s goal here is to overwhelm us with the fantastic creations, but they read like a laundry list of the last hundred years. If you read it right, you can find airplanes, lasers, telephones, and all kinds of other things in there, all predicted centuries ago. And that is the real value of the book. It’s further proof that earlier ages did not lack for imagination; their relatively unadvanced state was through no fault of their minds. As an author myself, I find that information invaluable.

Next year?

I had fun with this whole thing. I read something I never would have otherwise, and I pushed myself outside my normal areas of interest. I’m not sure I’m ready to make this a regular, annual occurrence, but it seems like a good idea. I hope you feel the same way.

Summer Reading List 2016: halfway home

We’re halfway through the official summer, about two-thirds of the way done with the unofficial season we’re using for our Summer Reading List. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got two out of three.


  • Title: Shadows of Self
  • Author: Brandon Sanderson
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Year: 2015

This is the fifth book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, the second of the second trilogy. It’s a pretty good one, though I feel it’s a bit weaker than some of the previous four. Compared to its predecessor, The Alloy of Law, it’s a bit lighter on the action, but far heavier on the worldbuilding. That’s fine by me. If you haven’t noticed, I love worldbuilding, and Sanderson is one of the best there is when it comes to it. I’ll definitely give this one high marks, and I can’t wait to read the trilogy’s finale, The Bands of Mourning. (It’s already out, by the way.)


  • Title: A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life
  • Author: Greg Jenner
  • Genre: History
  • Year: 2016

I found this one not too long ago (somewhere…), and I’m glad I did. It’s a fun look back through the history of everyday things and activities, following and relating to one modern man’s Saturday. I love history, and I especially love those smaller, less popular bits of it. History is not all about wars and religion and politics and race. It’s about people living their lives, and those lives never really change that much. And that’s the message of this book. Definitely worth a look, especially from a worldbuilding perspective. (Funny how that works out, huh?)

And one more…

I haven’t decided what the final book on the list will be, but I’ve got another month, so I should be okay. I hope you’re playing along at home, and that you’re having fun doing it.

Summer reading list 2016

In the US, Memorial Day is the last Monday in May, and it is considered the unofficial start of summer. Time for the kids to get out of school, time to fire up the grills or hit the water. Although the solstice itself isn’t for three more weeks, late May feels like summer, and that’s good enough for most people.

But there’s one hint of school that stays with us through these next glorious weeks of peace: the summer reading list. Many will remember that awful thing, the educational system’s attempt to infringe on a child’s last refuge. I hated it, and you probably did, too. The books they chose were either awful (Ayn Rand’s Anthem) or tainted by association with school (Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer). Just like the reading assignments of the other nine months, the summer reading list seemed designed to suck all the enjoyment out of a book.

Now that we’ve outgrown it, things are different. We no longer need to read to please others. But that doesn’t mean we stop reading. No, we instead choose our own path.

So here’s a bit of a challenge for you. Read three books between now and Labor Day (September 5). That’s roughly one a month, so it shouldn’t be too hard. There won’t be any reports due, so you don’t have to worry about that, either. Remember, adults can read for fun rather than work.

It wouldn’t be a challenge if there weren’t rules, so here they are:

  1. You have to read three (3) complete books between May 30 and September 5 of this year. (For following years, it’s the last Monday in May to the first Monday in September.) Giving up halfway doesn’t get you partial credit, so make sure you pick something you can stand to finish.

  2. One (1) of these books should be nonfiction. It can be anything from history to self-help, but it has to be real. (Historical fiction doesn’t count for this, by the way.)

  3. If you’re an aspiring fiction writer, then one (1) of the books must not be from your preferred genre. For example, a fantasy writer should read a non-fantasy book, perhaps sci-fi or a modern detective story. The idea is to branch out, expand your horizons.

  4. Graphic novels count, but comic books don’t. The distinction is subtle, I’ll admit. I’d say a comic book is a short periodical, usually in magazine-style binding, while a graphic novel is a longer work presented in the same way as a text-only work. You can be your own judge, as long as you’re honest with yourself.

And that’s it!