Summer Reading Roundup

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Wolfe and Roth, Biography, Sports and Fiction

As booklovers head to the beach, many do so with a heavy heart as two of America’s most energetic talents, Tom Wolfe and Phillip Roth, have passed away. Here are some of their greatest efforts.

The Right Stuff (1980)

Tom Wolfe intended to write a book about the entire space program, up to the Apollo moon landings. But once he finished with the amazing story of the Mercury astronauts, those seven brave men who got the space program underway, Wolfe realized he had a finished product. It’s all here: Chuck Yeager, the mountaineer who broke the speed of sound, Alan Shepherd, the first American in space, and John Glenn, whose orbit of the earth made him a national hero. You’ll read this 365-page book in one sitting, guaranteed.

The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1986)

Wolfe’s first novel was the ultimate ‘80s novel. Wall Street to Park Avenue to the South Bronx, stockbrokers to tabloid journalists to ghetto youth: All come together in an unforgettable grand smash as the unlikely Sherman McCoy must prove his manhood over and over again.

American Pastoral (1997)

Phillip Roth’s finest novel confronts “berserk America,” 1970s-style. Seymour “Swede” Levov has lived a charmed life: Sports hero at his Newark, NJ, high school, successful businessman, marriage to a former Miss New Jersey, only to see his daughter grow up to become an antiwar, bomb-throwing terrorist. How did it all go wrong?

Shop Talk (2002)

Roth was an astute critic. He also championed the cause of Eastern European writers living behind the Iron Curtain. Included are essays on Primo Levi, Milan Kundera and Edna O’Brien, plus Roth’s two great contemporaries, Bernard Malamud and Saul Bellow, the trio that once formed the “Hart, Schaffner and Marx” of mid-20th century American letters.

RFK: Collected Speeches (2018)

Edited by C. Richard Allen and Edwin O. Guthman. This year is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of former New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The man still has his fans. Or as the publisher states: “With messages of hope in the midst of a fractured nation…Kennedy’s words speak to our times as strongly as they did to his own, a legacy testified to here by highly individualized reflections from notables, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, five Nobel Peace Prize laureates [and] two Pulitzer Prize winners.”

The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations (2018)

Co-authored by John McCain and Mark Salter, the autobiography recounts the last two decades of the senator’s career in public service. From his super-cautious presidential run against Barack Obama, to his opposition to CIA torture tactics, his embittered opposition to Vladimir Putin (a man that McCain claims to hate), his co-operation with Sen. Edward Kennedy on immigration reform/amnesty and his disdain for the politics and personality of Donald Trump, McCain pulls no punches. McCain clearly misses the camaraderie he enjoyed with Kennedy, while urging policymakers to retrieve America’s standing as protector of a liberal world order.

A Season In The Sun: The Rise Of Mickey Mantle (2018)

For sports, it’s back to the Fifties for a biography on a man even more popular than Dwight Eisenhower. Authors Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith celebrate the stupendous 1956 season where The Mick won the Triple Crown and led the Yankees to yet another World Series title. Ike makes his own appearance. In August, the president attended a Yankees-Washington Senators game. There, Eisenhower asked Mantle to hit a home run for him. The Mick, naturally, obliged and neighbors in the Griffin Stadium neighborhood spent days looking for the ball.

The Age of Eisenhower (2018)

From the placid Fifties to the tumultuous Sixties, William I. Hitchcock dramatizes how Ike dominated the peace and prosperity decade. Abroad, Dwight Eisenhower managed a détente with both the Soviet Union and China, while at home, he forced a reluctant Republican Party to embrace New Deal-era spending programs, while also beating back challenges to the integrity of the U.S. government by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

The Female Persuasion (2018)

Summer reading means fiction reading. One of the most anticipated novels of the year is The Female Persuasion by Brooklyn-born novelist Meg Wolitzer. The novel charts the relationship with an idealistic co-ed, Greer Kadetsky and her mentor, Faith Frank, a feminist icon. “This novel shimmers with hope and yearning and examines just how potent (and complicated) female support can be in a world that does not always champion women,” hails one reviewer.

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Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News and New Hyde Park Illustrated News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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