Summer Reading for 2012

personal, reading

I did a lot of reading this summer, partly for pleasure and partly for the graduate class I took (“Curriculum Foundations”, CURR655 at EMU). As I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve been tracking my reading through GoodReads (see my profile on GoodReads).

Here’s the list of what I read this summer:


I read a fair bit of fiction this summer. It was nice to have as a counterpoint to the heavy academic stuff I had to read for my classes.

Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage
David Ignatius

Body of Lies
David Ignatius

The Salzburg Connection
Helen MacInnes

WWW: Wake (WWW, #1)
Robert J. Sawyer

Neal Stephenson

Kill Decision
Daniel Suarez

Bitter Seeds (Milkweed Triptych, #1)
Ian Tregillis


Summer is traditionally a time for me to unwind and read some good YA fiction. This summer, I was busier than usual with other reading, so I only read the Hunger Games series (in a tearing-through-the-pages 2-day stretch that felt like a fever dream – they’re hard to put down, and pretty intense for YA fiction).

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
Suzanne Collins


This list is actually not entirely comprehensive; I read lots of single chapters from different things during my curriculum class, and that’s not really on this list, only works I finished.

The Process of Education
Jerome Bruner

 Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II

Jennet Conant

Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D Day
Cornelius Ryan

Curriculum 21: Essential Education For A Changing World
Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball
R.A. Dickey

La Place De La Concorde Suisse
John McPhee

Seizing the enigma: The race to break the German U-boat codes, 1939-1943
David Kahn

2011’s reading in review

personal, reading

I’ve read a lot of books this year, thanks in part to the joy of tracking things through GoodReads (see my profile on GoodReads). For some reason, keeping track of what I’ve read and want to read in the future has spurred my reading on in ways I didn’t expect.

Here’s the list of what I read in 2011:


In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat in Iraq, by Rick Atkinson

The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966, by Rick Atkinson

Rick Atkinson may be my favorite writer covering military issues – he brings a fantastic balance of experience and objectivity. I’m greatly anticipating the third in his “Liberation Trilogy” about the Allied forces in Europe during World War II.

The New Cool, by Neal Bascomb

A great story about a high school FIRST robotics team. Inspiring.

Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II, by Stephen Budiansky 

Triumph and Tragedy, by Winston S. Churchill

Finally finished the last of Churchill’s World War II memoirs. It was a long slog, but worth it.

Soul Mining, by Daniel Lanois

A beautiful, impressionist look at the work of my favorite music producer.

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis

I got slightly obsessed with Michael Lewis’s writing this year; he has the rare talent of taking things I would never be interested in (the financial meltdown, valuations of football players by position, etc) and making them incredibly intriguing.

Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway, by Walter Lord

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, William Raymond Manchester

Manchester is a fantastic biographer whose work I first read when I tackled his biography of Winston Churchill. This is another excellent piece.

Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage, Joseph E. Persico

Not recommended; this is a strange and scattered accounting of the USA’s World War II espionage and codebreaking. Battle of Wit, by Stephen Budiansky, is much better.

Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945, by Evan Thomas

Spare Parts: From Campus to Combat: A Marine Reservist’s Journey from Campus to Combat in 38 Days, by Buzz Williams


Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery (Billy Boyle World War II, #1), by James R. Benn

Pacific Glory: A Novel, by P.T. Deutermann

Enigma, by Robert Harris

Los Alamos, by Joseph Kanon

Lots of WWII-era fiction here; “Pacific Glory” may have been the best among them, but none are really essential. This was basically light summer reading.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

I finally read this after years of gentle (and not-so-gentle) suggestion by my lovely wife, and I regret not having read it sooner. A masterpiece.

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, by Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

Stephenson’s new work, “Reamde”, spurred me on to re-reading “Cryptonomicon” for the fourth or fifth time. “Crytonomicon” is still my absolute favorite of his books, but “Readme” was entertaining; it’s more a thriller (think Bourne Identity) than a piece of historical or science fiction.

The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk

summer reading 2010

personal, reading

As I did last year, I’ve compiled a list of what I read this summer. The summer months are always a chance for me to unwind (one of the benefits of being a teacher!) and catch up on reading. This summer was a mix of reading areas, as usual.

Non-Fiction: History
I’ve been on a 2-year World War 2 history kick, and this summer I got to finish off the second of Winston S. Churchill’s histories of WWII. I also read about the Monuments Men, and learned the history of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the US Army.

Winston S. Churchill – Their Finest Hour
Robert Edsel – The Monuments Men

Non-Fiction: Photography
One thing I love about the Ypsilanti District Library is their willingness to take suggestions for new purchases from patrons. They ordered both of these titles for me, and I very much enjoyed reading them. The David duChemin book was especially meaningful, as it helped me figure out the voice and vision for my burgeoning freelance photography business.

Joe McNally – The Moment it Clicks
David duChemin – VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography

Non-Fiction: Essays
I love reading good longform essays. I’d read a few of the David Foster Wallace pieces before, including the title essay in his collection “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, but never read most of the others. was also a great source for new essays.

David Foster Wallace – A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
lots of essays from

Fiction: Adult
The two Daniel Suarez books in this list predict a dystopian near-future. Scarily prescient at times.

Daniel Suarez – Daemon
Daniel Suarez – FreedomTM
Gayle Lynds – The Book of Spies

Fiction: Young Adult
I have a soft spot for good YA fiction, and this summer our family all read the Percy Jackson books. Good fun.

Rick Riordan – The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)
Rick Riordan – The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2)
Rick Riordan -The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3)
Rick Riordan -The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4)

current reading list

personal, reading

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

1. Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America, by Jay Mathews

This book charts the creation of the KIPP public charter schools. I picked this up to help get inspired for the new school year, as well as to crib some teaching tips from successful teachers, and so far it’s working.

2. Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, by P.W. Singer

A fascinating look at the use of robotics in warfare. It is, by turns, scary, mindblowing, inspiring, and thought-provoking. I’m really enjoying the writing style, too – P.W. Singer writes with a strong knowledge of popular culture and even a sense of humor.

3. A History of Modern Europe, Second Edition: From the Renaissance to the Present, by John Merriman

Much of this is fairly dry stuff, but I’ve realized, during some of my recent reading about World War I and World War II, that I wanted to have a better handle on the broader scope of European history. This certainly provides it, even if it’s somewhat slow going at times. With luck, I’ll get out of the 1600s before September!

4. Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

I have to confess, I had hoped to complete this book early in the summer and use it as a springboard for creating fantastic new unit plans for the upcoming school year…but that didn’t happen. I love the idea that “understanding” is a multifaceted phenomenon (an idea that happens to come up in “Wired for War”, too, in the context of artificial intelligence). The book’s central premise is that it makes sense to know what kinds of understanding(s) you want students to have at the end of a unit of instruction, and then work backwards from there to figure out what and how you’re going to teach in order to get them to that point. I just haven’t managed to get very far yet. Two weeks left until school starts; I’m hoping I can make a pretty good dent by then and finish shortly after that.

The Copper Country

personal, reading

I started reading the New York Times a couple of years back when I was taking classes full-time at Eastern Michigan University. They had a program where they supplied free copies of the paper to their students, so I eagerly picked up my copy every day I was in the Porter building (the primary area for School of Education classes, and the site of the free papers).

Over the last while, I’ve also started reading their online version, and today I noticed a great article entitled “Industrial Echoes in Michigan’s Copper Country“. It’s a nice travelogue, describing the author’s trip through the Keeweenaw Peninsula, also known as Copper County. I have a special place in my heart for that area of the country, since it’s where Michigan Technological University, my alma mater, is located. The article is definitely consistent with many of my memories, though my favorite restaurants were always Marie’s Deli and the Suomi Cafe (though the Kaleva Cafe, which the article mentions, was great too).

The photo that accompanies the article shows the Quincy Smelter, which I explored a number of times during my college years. My good friend Harrison Withers first showed me the smelter, and we used it as the location for a photoshoot we did, producing material for a class CD-ROM project. Later, I introduced my friend Josh to the smelter, and he took some amazing photos of his own.

smelter: looking up
Interior of the Quincy Smelter. Photo by J. Schnable

It was during this time, along with the summer internship in downtown Detroit in 1996, that I discovered my love for rusted, decaying textures. Inspired in large part by the small artists’ community in Houghton (which was centered around the Suburban Exchange coffee house, performance space, and recording studio), I started producing my own music, photos, and visual art, and it is those experiences that have largely shaped the art I continue to produce to this day.

Seeing this all in the New York Times this morning brought back a powerful flood of memories. There’s no place more beautiful in the fall than the Copper Country, as the colors turn and the whole area becomes a sea of orange, gold, rust and brown, and I think I might finally try to get back up there this year. We’ll see. For now, enjoy the article.