Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Lounge meets Bad Advice Wednesday: Do Your Summer Reading this Fall

categories: Bad Advice / bad advice / Guest Columns

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Bill Lundgren

Bill Lundgren with Pearl the Blind Pug

The return to school and teaching duties in the fall always comes with a bittersweet sense of loss. Gone the unfettered freedom of summer with the absence of deadlines and in their place swimming and gardening and hiking and baseball and most of all, reading… savoring the exquisite pleasures of books and marveling at the universe’s talent for selecting just the right book at just the right time. Below are a few of the highlights of the past summer’s reads. But don’t let Fall keep you from discovering them all:

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead—I have been a fan ever since the dense, mysterious layers of The Intuitionist. In Whitehead’s latest the underground railroad is not merely metaphor, but a living, breathing beast that runs from Georgia to Maine beneath a society riven by the evils of slavery.

Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo—in a sequel to Nobody’s Fool we return to the upstate New York hamlet of North Bath and the adventures of Sully and his merry band of misfits, only this time the focus is on chief of police Doug Raymer. Reading Russo is like spending time with one’s favorite uncle, who also happens to be America’s consummate storyteller.

The Fire This Time edited by Jessamyn Ward—a brilliant anthology of writings riffing on James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew warning of the perils of being Black in America, an issue that will not go away because we refuse to honestly address it.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood—a heartwarming tale of love and grief and people coming together to find their way in the world. Tender, hilarious and as always with author Wood, exquisitely crafted.

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan—I have been a fan of Finnegan’s ever since reading his under appreciated classic of youth culture in the contemporary U.S., Cold New World. Barbarian Days is a memoir recounting the author’s lifelong obsession with surfing, from a dissolute youth roaming the world in search of waves to the renowned author and family man who continues to be entranced with surfing.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance—this curious memoir of growing up in Appalachia perhaps reflects our growing national preoccupation with the forgotten culture of the Rust Belt and a group of people that have seemingly been left behind in the wake of globalization. Vance escaped to Yale Law School and silicon valley but has never lost his fondness nor fealty for hillbilly culture.

Underground Airlines by Ben Fountain—in a futuristic United States, the Civil War never happened. Instead, in the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination a compromise is reached where four southern states are allowed to continue practicing the peculiar institution of slavery. Add in a tortured slave-catcher and myriad twists and turns… riveting.

The Accidental Life by Terry McDonnell—former editor of Outside, Men’s Journal and Esquire magazines, McDonnell shares his memories with the writers that peopled his fascinating world, among them Jim Harrison, Tom McGuane, James Salter, George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson.

The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan—a majestic, sprawling novel that uses the lens of the thoroughbred horse racing world of Kentucky to examine race and power in America. Morgan’s clear-eyed gaze and prodigious writing talent mark this as a book that will endure.


Bill Lundgren, reader, critic, blogger, athlete, teaches at Southern Maine Community College.

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