RICK MACLEAN: Sometimes cake has a power all its own

Published on July 22, 2017

Holland College journalism instructor Rick MacLean offers his latest suggestions for good summer reads.

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Ah, summer. Shade, a cool beverage and something good to read.

Here is part two of my annual edition of books worth reading this summer, based on what I’ve read this year.

• Just Passin’ Thru: A vintage store, the Appalachian Trail and a cast of Unforgettable Characters by Winton Porter.

Years ago, a running friend thru-walked the 3,000-plus trail. One day, after finishing his work doing dishes in exchange for a free place to stay, he saw a plate of big blocks of cake on a table occupied by a group of visitors.

He walked over, cool and calm, grabbed two blocks and kept on walking out the door. Food, he came to realize during his five-month walk, has its own power over a hiker.

Porter runs a hiking supply store along the famous trail from Georgia to Maine. My friend would have fit right in with this cast of real-life characters. I’m hoping there’s a TV series coming soon.

• Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets by David Simon.

If the author’s name rings a bell, it might because you watched “The Wire” on HBO TV. This book came first and was based on Simon’s years as a reporter with The Baltimore Sun, before he took a buyout package and left for better pay. It’s gritty and reads like a novel.

• If I understood you, would I have this look on my face by Alan Alda.

I bought it on Alda’s name alone. He has always seemed as smart and thoughtful as his most memorable TV character, Hawkeye on “M.A.S.H.” Plus, he did a great job reporting on science for the TV series Scientific American Frontiers.

Funny and entertaining as always, he talks about things like how to interview people – don’t pretend to know more than you do, and how to talk to them - kill the jargon. Preaching to the choir my friend.

• The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks by Susan Casey.

Hey, isn’t it Shark Week on some TV channel, so why not a shark book? Turns out, there’s a collection of puny islands near San Francisco where Great Whites just love to hang out and a group of eccentric researchers like to hang out with them. To each their own.

• Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The Findings of the Investigation That Inspired the Major Motion Picture Spotlight by The Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe.

I avoided reading this one for months, even though the movie was amazing and the journalism done by The Boston Globe outstanding. I didn’t want to start reading it only to become infuriated at the years of lies by church officials at the highest levels as they protected priest preying on children.

I was right. I was infuriated. You’ve been warned. Still, it’s a great reminder of the need to challenge the claims of those in positions of authority.

• Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams. Feel like travelling and Peru is on your wish list, but you want to do something the other tourists aren’t doing? Adams did, so he found a tour guide right out of Crocodile Dundee and headed into the mountains.

You’ve been warned.


Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.