Summer began in earnest this week. It also began in other places. It’s warmer, school’s out, and soon we’ll all be at the beach, covered in sunscreen, eating Popsicles, and catching up on those books we’ve been meaning to read.
Apparently, people have more time on their hands in the summer. I don’t really get this, unless you’re young and get summers off. As an adult, I find myself having just as much work and worry in the summer as I do in the winter. I just sweat more.
Regardless, it’s summer book time. But what exactly is a “summer book”? Does it have to be “light”? Does it have to be “fluff”? Can it be something with a little more weight, something long, maybe even something — gasp! — serious? Of course! I don’t separate my books by the season, and you shouldn’t either. Though I wouldn’t advise dragging the entire Encyclopedia Britannica down to the sand with you.
Here are my picks for six books you might want to pick. Up, that is. They’re all out now.
This Storm by James Ellroy. This is the second book in the second “L.A. Quartet” by the veteran crime writer. It’s a giant, complex novel set during the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Folded Wisdom by Joanna Guest. Every morning for 15 years, Guest’s dad wrote her and her brother an illustrated note. This is a look at those 3,500 notes and what it meant for the kids to receive them. This isn’t just a beautiful personal story but also, I think, one about the power of paper.
The Conservative Sensibility by George Will. The veteran Washington Post columnist feels that traditional conservatism is under attack, and this book has a “new examination of how the Founders’ belief in natural rights created an American political tradition.”
Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson. The author of such classic science fiction titles as Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash has written this new novel that looks at a terrifying tech future which may not be that far away.
Recursion by Blake Crouch. If there’s one book that everyone will be talking about this summer, this might be it. It’s also a science fiction tale, about a cop who investigates a mysterious phenomenon called False Memory Syndrome, which causes people to go mad with memories of lives they’ve never lived.
Lake of the Ozarks by Bill Geist. The humorist and cultural correspondent looks back at his years as a high school and college student, working summers at the Arrowhead Lodge. Or, as the subtitle puts it, My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America.
They Ran Out of Words
The Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned not one but eight champions last week in Washington, D.C. While there has been more than one champion in a year before, this is the first time they’ve had enough to practically fill a baseball team. Each kid got the $50,000 prize. Here are the winning words that won each of them the money and the trophy.
The winning words spelled correctly by the 8 co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last night:
— NPR (@NPR) May 31, 2019
Those are pretty easy words, though. I just got off the phone, where I was mentioning to someone how I was concerned about my cernuous bougainvillea.
Could You Beat James Holzhauer?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Of course not! But he didn’t answer every question right during his incredible 32-game run on Jeopardy!, which came to an end this week at the hands of Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher. He just answered most of them correctly. But if you’d like to test yourself to see if you know something he didn’t, take this quiz over at Vulture, which lists all of the questions he couldn’t answer.
Holzhauer amassed almost $2.5 million in those 32 games. He just had to win one more game to beat the amount of money Ken Jennings claimed during his 74-game run in 2004. He couldn’t quite do it, but what he did achieve in those 32 games — not just the biggest one-day amount of all time, but the top 16 one-day amounts — will probably never be equaled.
Over a Gallon of Coffee a Day? That’s Okay, Say Doctors!
Here’s the latest in the “Is coffee good or bad for you?” debate. It’s good, even if you drink 25 cups a day.
That’s the finding of the British Heart Foundation, which studied the hearts of more than 8,000 people. While other studies have shown that excessive coffee consumption could harden the arteries, this study showed that people who drink many, many (many) cups a day don’t face any increased risk (though oddly, the study itself looked only at people who drank up to three cups of coffee or more and not 25 cups specifically).
Okay, so people who drink two dozen cups of coffee or more a day don’t run any more of a risk of heart problems than people who drink just a few. But does that mean you should do it? I can think of one or two other things that 25 cups of coffee a day would do to your body, but I won’t get into them here.
To mark yesterday’s 75th anniversary of D-Day, an original World War II C-47 transport plane was completely restored and once again flown over to Normandy, France. CBS Sunday Morning’s Richard Schlesinger has the story.
In a related D-Day story, the accounts of the role astronomy played in the invasion of Normandy have included a moon-related error all these years. The mistake was first made in the pages of the Post in 1946, in a six-part series by Eisenhower’s chief of staff, General Walter Bedell Smith.
RIP Claus von Bülow, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Leah Chase, Roky Erickson, and Roger Hirson
Claus von Bülow was the high-society figure who became well known for being convicted of attempting to murder his wife Sunny. He was acquitted after an appeal (with help from attorney Alan Dershowitz) led to a second trial. He died Saturday at the age of 92.
Everett Raymond Kinstler was the type of artist who painted a little bit of everything, from celebrities and comic books to portraits of American astronauts and presidents. He died Sunday at the age of 92.
Roger Hirson was probably best known for writing the book for the musical Pippin, but he also wrote for classic ’50s TV shows like Playhouse 90 and General Electric Theater, as well as the miniseries The Adams Chronicles and A Woman Named Jackie. He also wrote quite possibly the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the 1984 TV movie starring George C. Scott. He died last month at the age of 93.
Quote of the Week
“For a while, we just wanted to watch someone blow our minds by knowing stuff.”
—Former Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings on why James Holzhauer’s run enthralled the country.
This Week in History
“Ten-Cent Beer Night” Baseball Game (June 4, 1974)
What happens when you mix 10-cent beers and rowdy baseball fans? Absolute chaos, as the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers found out in a promotion that went horribly wrong, forcing the game to be forfeited to the Rangers before it could even be finished.
Nathan Hale Born (June 6, 1755)
I had no idea that the man famous for saying “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” was only 21 years old when he was hanged by the British for spying.
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Schlitz Beer (June 4, 1960)
Apparently, the “real joy of good living” involves strategically placing beer cans around your yard. And what’s coming out of that hose? Beer, probably.
National Mango Month
I don’t want to overwhelm you, but not only is June National Mango Month, it’s also National Papaya Month. That might be more fruit-based excitement than one person can stand in one day, but if you’re up for the challenge, here’s a Tropical Smoothie from the Post’s chef Curtis Stone that features both fruits.
You can make it while listening to Rosemary Clooney sing about the ingredients.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
The Tony Awards (June 9)
This year’s show is hosted by The Late, Late Show’s James Corden and airs on CBS at 8 p.m.
Flag Day (June 14)
How much do you know about the American flag? Probably not as much as you think!
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