Visit our Reading Radar pages when you need help choosing your next great read. Every couple of months we feature a different celebrity reader’s recommendations. Take a moment to browse through the Local Celebrity reading choices, then scroll down to see staff picks.
Looking back, these were stories or how-to books about surprising heroes, underdogs, strategy—and friendship. All things I either loved, or longed for more of, as a kid. Today, I still have sports books like that by my bedside, only now it’s often the writing itself that delights me. Those books are by Bill James or Michael Lewis.
Other books I read and reread are about ethics and society. My favorite author of those is Michael Walzer. His book Exodus and Revolution changed what I see in the Bible and how I see the arc of change in society. Professor Walzer writes the way he teaches in the lectures of his I have listened to. He walks you through his ideas in a way that’s patient and not argumentative, even when he is taking aim at an opposing and often conventional perspective. He lets you know when he is certain and when he is surmising; he lingers over a surprising detail of textual nuance or history.
I don’t read nearly enough fiction or biography. Indeed, as a reader I have a tendency even when I read a new book to read something that’s too similar to what I’ve already read or how I already think. It’s something I am working on, as a literate person and as a human generally.
Finally, there are books that have shaken me to the core, books I’m afraid to reread because of how they challenge me. I’m thinking particularly of Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Dr. Paul Farmer, a healer who walks and works in both Harvard Medical School and the poorest areas in the world. Such a book makes you ask whether the values you think you are upholding are actually the values you are living.
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