A vacation and a reading list: a personal update

It’s hard to believe how quickly things happen. My summer term - roughly six hours a day, five days a week of education classes - is drawing to a close, and as of Friday afternoon I’ll be free for an entire month (the life of a student is good - certainly beats two or three weeks of vacation over the course of a year). I’ll be in Colorado (Boulder, Telluride, Denver) for almost two weeks, in Chicago for one, and in Muskegon for one - as well as a few days of camping in Northern Michigan with friends.

Whenever I prepare to travel, my thoughts quickly turn to the question of what books I will bring along and read. I always make absurdly ambitious reading lists and pack way, way more than I could ever hope to finish, and this time is no exception. I am bringing four:

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age. About the rise of secularism in Western society. Considered one of the most important books in the field of religious studies in recent decades. Weighs in at a hefty 776 pages.

John Cheever, Collected Stories and Other Writings. Cheever is one of the best short fiction writers of the 20th century. 969 pages.

Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Publishers Weekly says: “The author, beginning with Homer and the Bible, traces the imitation of life in literature through the ages …touching upon every major literary figure in western culture on the way.” A key work in 20th-century literary criticism. 574 pages.

Dennis Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, Introduction to Jurisprudence. A vast, out-of-print, fantastically rich collection of writings on the philosophy of law and political philosophy - a mangled old book I believe I picked up for free in the box outside of the Powell’s Books in Hyde Park, Chicago. 981 pages (but I’ll skip writings that I don’t want to read for whatever reason). From the Independent’s interesting obituary of Lloyd: “As important to generations of students has been his encyclopaedic Introduction to Jurisprudence (1959). Lloyd was working on the sixth edition when he died. It was through this book that law students in much of the English- speaking world came to read Kelsen, Olivecrona, Savigny, Geny, Pashukanis, giants of continental juristic thought otherwise largely inaccessible. The recipe of wise text and suitably chosen extract remains a model guide to the study of legal thought. To the text he brought his own philosophical training, his culture and his erudition. The Introduction has its detractors but it remains the standard student text on the subject.”

Will I succeed in finishing all of these, or any of them? Most likely not. If history is any guide, I’ll buy some other book or books during vacation and distract myself with those, or I’ll get heavily involved with my writing, almost as a way of avoiding my reading with a good conscience. But if I restrict my book-reading to these four tomes and read around 118 pages a day for 27 days, I could do it - so that’s the bar I’m setting for myself.

I can’t wait. Two more days of finishing my summer projects, and I’ll be free to travel, read, and write without restrictions for an entire month.