By Leslie Whitaker
It has warmed up enough to issue my annual invitation to spend time developing a close relationship between you and a book more commonly known as summer reading. As I ve said in previous years, reading is a power tool because it s good for your mind and your spirit. Fiction especially exercises and rests your brain at the same time, and that can t help but boost your productivity and ultimately your career.
To help you along, I sought out reading recommendations from many of my favorite people, hailing from a wide variety of professions. I recommend reading fiction in your time off, but one of the favorites cited this year was non-fiction. Below is this year s list of great summer reads followed by the recommender s name and profession.
Heaven Lake by John Dalton (Simon & Schuster, 2005). I traveled alone in China in Spring 1987 - the same year as Tiananmen Square and the year in which the novel is set. What struck me is how true to the time and place it was, and how complex and well-drawn all the characters were. He doesn t pander to stereotypes about inscrutable Asians and naive Westerns. Everyone is grappling with difficult moral dilemmas and life problems, and acts unpredictably and often badly. The main character is a (failed) missionary turned ESL teacher. Although I haven t taught ESL in a non-English speaking country, I could still laugh at and commiserate with the character s experience. Simply, I found it a very mature and elegant book about facing oneself and trying to do good.
Leah, ESL teacher
There s an awesome new book out called The Stolen Child (Doubleday, 2006) by Keith Donohue. It s a wild fantasy about a little boy stolen by hobgoblins that replace him with one of their own. Very smart, spooky tale.
Steve Martin s Shopgirl (Hyperion, 2001) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez Memorias de mis Putas Tristes (Memories of My Melancholy Whores) (Knopf, 2005): two very different, unexpected insights into the multiple ways in which money enters into the relationships between young women and older men.
Viviana Zelizer, Princeton University professor and author, The Purchase of Intimacy (Princeton University Press, 2005)
One book I enjoyed is Riding the Bus with My Sister a True Life Journey (Penguin, 2003) by Rachel Simon. It s a wonderful book about what s important in life and the power of a journey. It s about a young lady, Beth, who has Down Syndrome and wants to live on her own. She spends all day riding buses in her Pennsylvania city and meets lots of interesting people. The author, Rachel, is her sister, a writer who lives in another city, who tries to come to understand her sister by taking a year off to spend time with her. Rachel learns a lot about what is important in life (happiness), how to slow down and enjoy life and how to finally accept her sister for who she is.
Ann, physical therapist
The Human Stain (Knopf, 2001) by Phillip Roth has fascinating characters.
Donna, school social worker
For short story fans, I recommend Great Dream of Heaven (Vintage, 2002) by Sam Shepard. These tightly crafted pieces each illuminate a main character s inner thoughts about another person a father, a spouse, a party guest.
Leslie Whitaker Got a problem at work? Leslie Whitaker, co-author of The Good Girl's Guide to Negotiating, would like to hear from you. Send Leslie an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 5063, River Forest, Ill. 60305.
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