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RICK MACLEAN: Sometimes cake has a power all its own

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

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.

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