Bedtime Stories: July 2017
- July 14, 2017
What do book lovers have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked one of them, and here’s what he said.
In difficult times, a familiar voice can make all the difference. So with the country being pulled apart at the seams, my nightstand has become populated not only with new works but several old favorites, as well.
Many of Alan Furst’s books are set in Europe on the eve of World War II. I’m currently reading The Polish Officer, where the backdrop is Warsaw soon after the city falls to Hitler’s Wehrmacht. It’s up to Captain Alexander de Milja to transport the nation’s gold reserve to safety. As Furst did so well in Kingdom of Shadows, Dark Voyage, and Night Soldiers, his stories are about everyday people buffeted by forces much larger than themselves. Invariably, they demonstrate more heroism and compassion than the generals, presidents, or prime ministers.
In the fall, I’ll be teaching a course at Johns Hopkins about prize-winning books in science and culture. That gives me the excuse to check out Monica Hesse’s amazing American Fire and Elizabeth Kolbert’s thought-provoking The Sixth Extinction. Yet right now I’m rereading another favorite, Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel. For me, it remains one of the cornerstones of creative nonfiction.
Richard Peabody, the longtime editor of Gargoyle, is a DC institution and an amazing writer and poet, too. The Richard Peabody Reader came out in 2015 and it has been on my nightstand ever since.
A friend who teaches high school English once gave me Baseball: A Literary Anthology, edited by Nicholas Dawidoff. With everyone from Ring Lardner and Red Smith to Richard Ford and Philip Roth along for the ride, it’s become the perfect tonic for a season when no lead is safe with the Washington Nationals’ bullpen.
Several years ago, my son moved to the West Coast, and when I miss him, I take up Gary Kamiya’s Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco. Part walking tour, part rambling history, Kamiya takes the reader from Coit Tower to Land’s End in the magical city that I once called home, too. Each chapter stands on its own, offering vivid descriptions and insights about a particular part of San Francisco. Most of the entries are only a half-dozen pages or so, and after I finish reading another, I’ll close my eyes and picture my son walking along those same streets or riding a trolley car to the stars. For a moment, I am alongside him again.
A writer-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University, Tim Wendel is the author of 13 books, including Summer of ’68, High Heat, and Castro’s Curveball: A Novel. His stories have appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, Gargoyle, Washingtonian, GQ, and Esquire. His new book, Cancer Crossings: A Brother, His Doctors and the Quest to Cure Childhood Leukemia, will be out early next year.