Our Friday Reads: August 7

Our Friday Reads: August 7

Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations; have you read any of them? Tell us in the comments what you’ll be reading this weekend! If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Summer Previews.

Do No Harm

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of a good neuroscience yarn, and Henry Marsh is wowing me with his tales of brain surgery. I’m about halfway through this book, and what really strikes me is that neurosurgery still involves a large element of luck. It’s terrifying, but it makes for great reading: The reader never truly knows how a surgery will turn out, and Marsh does a great job narrating the uncertainty. —Elizabeth

The Secret Place

When I picked up this book, I was ecstatic to be checking off one of my literary resolutions by finishing Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Now that I’m halfway through, I’m devastated with the unknown amount of time I’m going to have to wait for the sixth book. Still, I can’t put the book down. The structure is different this time around: alternating chapter POVs and timelines. But it’s just juicing up the tension and I love it. —Kelly


A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety

The 1976 election was the first presidential election that I could vote in and I proudly cast my vote for President Carter. Ever since I’ve continued to follow him and his wife Rosalynn, and I’m looking forward to the detail on his continued humanitarian work post-presidency that this book promises to deliver. —Bob


James Nestor was assigned to cover the world freediving competition in Greece some years ago and was so fascinated by what he saw the unaided human body doing that he ended up writing this truly terrific book, which illustrates for me what great nonfiction writing can and should be.  Turns out that our bodies—all of us, all our bodies, without special training or skills—are designed to dive deep—and long—in the ocean. You, yes you, can dive down 30, 50, 80, 100 feet and come back up no big deal. The competitors take this to extremes: diving beyond 300 feet, over four minutes, on a single breath. Nestor does a fantastic job explaining how the body adjusts to the extreme pressure of being 100 feet down and then reverses it all as we come back up. It’s like a user manual for your own body in the ocean. And it goes much further than that: dolphin echolocation (which blind people can do), magnetoreception in sharks that allows them to navigate in dark waters thousands of feet deep (and magnetoreception in other animals, including people). It’s a book that I’m excited about reading every night and sad knowing that it will end. —Mike

Legacy of Ashes

This is a history of the CIA, which is on its face, awesome—there are great stories about, say, the CIA laundering money to the political arm of the Vatican, influencing Italian elections in the late 1940s. On top of this, though, Tim Weiner makes the argument that throughout its existence, the CIA has been continually crippled by both its own struggle for identity (Is it an outfit for espionage or operators?) and thwarted by politics and the president. In the years after WWII, when the Soviets and West were settling into a new world order, it didn’t even have an official budget (it was occasionally apportioned money by a few Senators or skimmed money off the Marshall Plan’s budget). Further, Weiner argues this is really bad, since any government trying to project power abroad is only as effective as its intelligence operation. This ends up being a far more interesting argument than simply “the CIA is awesome/evil.” —Luke


The Shepherd’s Life

Since I’m spending this summer in Irish cow and sheep country, I thought I should dive into James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life, which I’d first learned about via Twitter some months back while following the Englishman’s popular Lake District sheep-farm account @herdyshepherd1. The book’s first third, which covers his pre-university years working on his family’s farm, left me a bit worried about the rest, as the sensibility seemed defensive, the work of a Lake District local cranky toward outsiders, those who romanticize his hills and valleys, tramp around during nice weather, and make no effort to understand the area’s centuries-old farming life. However, as I read on, I realized Rebanks was recreating his young man’s perspective in these pages, and more maturity brought a widening of vision. That said, one of the book’s many pleasures is that even 40-something, post-Oxford University, husband and father James Rebanks remains a bit spiky. This makes the memoir feel real, absent of ingratiation, its chronicle of shepherding’s four seasons entirely his own, as opposed to a product buffed by a publisher to capitalize on the author’s social media following. The book hugely succeeds at its central mission: taking readers inside a world unknown to 99 percent of those who pick it up. The feeding, the herding, the breeding, the sheep selling and competing, and all other aspects of this traditional way of life in a place of rugged beauty are indelibly conveyed. —Phil

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Two things have me interested in this story: First, the phenomenal buzz on this debut novel. Many are comparing it to 2015’s breakout bestseller Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. Second, it seems to be joining the subgenre of mystery/thriller novels that often have their main characters work as authors who ultimately solve the crimes in their story. —Bob


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