Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Group Post:What We Read on Our Summer Break

Though the Foxes were recently on Summer Break, that didn’t mean we took a break from reading. Goodness gracious, no. Some of us did take some fun trips to exotic locales, as well as to the beach or local parks and such. Others started new projects or new jobs, but as always, dove into a book when we had some free time. Surprisingly, we didn’t do the stereotypical fluffy books; for some reason, this summer we were reading mostly books with depth. Here then, is a sampling of what some us read these last few months.
Colin was the first to speak up “Patria (Homeland) by Fernando Aramburu. It is an examination of the conflict in the Basque country through the experiences of two families. Each suffers pain and loss as a result of the fratricidal strife that tore deeply into the Basque community in the years up to the abandonment of the armed struggle by ETA in 2011. It has been a best seller in Spain and it was the book I saw most on the beaches of Marbella. I got a number of surprised looks as I read it, possible as it is a “big” book, both in page numbers and content and I am clearly not Spanish. Two or three chapters less and the book would not have suffered but it never lost sight of one its central themes: the horror of living in a society (in this case a small town) where it is the families of the victims that are ostracised if they grieve openly their loss.
Moira told us “This summer, I landed a job as a tour guide in a Scottish Castle, which requires a knowledge of not only the house and the family but also a decent working knowledge of UK and – specifically – Scottish history. As I grew up in Scotland, my Scottish history was probably a lot better than that of many outlanders, (I knew ‘It cam wi’ a lass, it’ll gang wi’ a lass’ before I ever even heard of the ‘weak and feeble woman’ thing) but I nevertheless spent the summer renewing forgotten details by reading a succession of books on general Scottish history. They ranged from Magnus Magnusson’s Scotland: The story of a nation and Alistair Moffat’s Scotland: A history from earliest times to Neil Oliver’s A History of Scotland and the OUP’s Scotland: A History via Nigel Tranter’s The Story of Scotland . What struck me most forcibly, reading the books one after the other, was that sometimes the descriptions and analyses of key moments in Scottish history were related from such radically different points of view (and, it has to be said, depths of knowledge) the authors could have been talking about entirely different events. All were equally worth reading in their own ways, but together they graphically demonstrated the dangers of relying on one voice and one viewpoint when trying to make sense of the past. When I was at school, history was very black and white, Eurocentric and told from the viewpoint of the victors. Today’s histories are far more confusing . just like the lives and events they portray, and that can only be a good thing.”
Jackie was also perusing history, most notably, “In the Land of Giants by archaeologist Max Adams, who took mostly walking tours through notable sites of the Dark Ages in the UK. There were many more than expected and ranged from towns settled by the Romans and Vikings to fortresses of Welsh kings. In between, were dozens of small villages with variegated lifestyles. One of the author’s premises was that the early Medieval era wasn’t as backwards as supposed, citing complex inventions such as tidal mill wheels which were developed during that time.
For lighter fare, I also read the first two cozy mysteries by Jessie Crockett featuring the Greene family who produces maple syrup in the tiny town of Sugar Grove, New Hampshire. It’s a unique setting with some appealing characters and humor.”
So that’s what some of the Foxes were reading. As always, we’d love to hear from our readers on what books they enjoyed over the summer months.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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