Summer is a good time to read, but this year, with COVID-19, I did not take a vacation. Most of my reading was done around my work responsibilities. However, the list below is a mixture of new books and old books, favorite authors, and those unknown to me. I was a productive summer of reading.

In the Garden of the Beasts by Eric Larsen

Erik Larsen has become one of the writers I read regularly. (In this list there is another one.) This book deals with the rise of Hitler in 1933-1934 and the work of William Dodd, American’s ambassador to Germany. The story is both riveting and frightening. It describes when power is unchecked and a leader has so devoted a cadre of followers, it will do anything to keep him in power.

Life is in the Transitions by Bruce Fieler

Bruce Fieler, a New York Times writer, has had an interesting career. Previous works include Walking the Bible, a journey through places of the Old Testament. In this book, Fieler describes his Life Journey Project and the transitions that people encounter in life. I found his stories compelling and insights helpful.

Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larsen

This is the second Larsen book on this list. This is also the third time I have read it. The book has a special interest to me since I lived in Galveston County for 17 years. Larsen chronicles Isaac Cline, the weatherman who encountered the Great Hurricane of 1900 that killed thousands in Galveston. The account rivets attention and teaches much about the deadly storms that are regular visitors to America’s Gulf Coast.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is a computer scientist at Georgetown University. His book concerns one of the great problems of our time. How do we gain focus in a world of distraction? His answer is to do deep work, the focus required to do significant things. He provides both the framework and practical tips on increasing focus in a society of the shallows.

Countdown 1945 by Chris Wallace

The world changed on August 6, 1945. The United States made the decision to end the Second World War with a new weapon called the atomic bomb. In this book, journalist Chris Wallace gives the story of how a new president Truman came to the gut-wrenching decision to drop the bomb.

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry

In March of this year, we faced something we believed was “novel.” It was a virus and a pandemic that swept the world. While many dismiss the virus, this 2005 book tells the story of the flu pandemic of 1918-1919. That pandemic, before much research into viruses, killed 20 million Americans. After reading this book, I was irritated at educators for teaching high school students about the War of the Roses and not this pandemic. (It also gave me great faith in information from Johns Hopkins University.)

Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

This is the third reading of Willpower, a book by Roy F. Baumeister, a social scientist, and his writing associate John Tierney. Tierney’s lucid prose on the difficult research of self-control weaves real stories of people like David Blaine or Eric Clapton. I have yet to leave any reading of this book that I have not taken a new insight with me.

The Garden by Jon Gordon

In this parable, Jon Gordon tells the story of Adam and Eve and how it applies to the lives of two teenagers. I found many of his explanations effective, even though it is presented in simple language. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned much about storytelling.