Books With Spines: Good Teachers

Aug 22, 2016 |  NAS

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Books With Spines: Good Teachers

Aug 22, 2016 | 


[Check out the Books With Spines Complete List to see your suggestions for Books About Being Too Darn Hot. Please also go to the bottom of this page to see just the list of Books About Being Too Darn Hot.]

Summer is coming to a close—and so is Books With Spines. This theme, our twenty-first, will be our last, but we will be moving on to something new for the fall. (If you have an idea for a fall series in which readers may participate, send it to us! Our past series include Quizzes and a Trigger Warning Contest) We’ll keep our Complete List on the NAS website—it is a wonderful resource, and one we (the NAS staff) are already using for our own to-read lists. We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to this list.

Our first theme was Bad Teachers—and our last theme is going to be Good Teachers. The memoirs of NAS members would do nicely for such a list, but we’re going to ask you for good books as well. For our own suggestion, we’re going back to the beginning: Plato’s dialogues about Socrates, the first and best teacher of them all. We could choose any of them, but we'll go with Crito, where Socrates teaches us (among other things) how to die well. And what better lesson can a teacher give?

What do you think are the best books about Good Teachers? Why? Please tell us by the afternoon of Monday, September 4.


Week 20: It’s Too Darn Hot Books

  1. Ninety-Two Days: A Journey in Guiana and Brazil by Evelyn Waugh. A travel account of a journey along the Amazon.
  2. An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie. Young Kpomassie, in Togo, didn’t want anything to do with snakes. Then he read about Greenland, a place with no snakes at all. It took him half a lifetime to get there, but he did. The most determined escape from a hot place to a cold place, ever.
  3. “A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber. The Earth gets knocked out of orbit and freezes. One clever family survives by walking out to get a pail of frozen air each day.
  4. Dry September by William Faulkner.
  5. Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean. During hot summer periods, I am known to be carrying or reading this book. It gives me chills in the winter, and is just as effective in the heat of summer. Besides it is such a darn good (chiller) thriller anytime.
  6. The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Blithedale Farm, a utopian community meant to be in tune with nature, is stifling hot in summer and freezing in winter. The citified poet Miles Coverdale is put off by the work after he catches cold in a a springtime freeze and sweats in the field in summer.
  7. The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service. Isn’t it nice to think of being so cold that you’d die to get warm?
  8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Toward the end of the book the gang of Long Islanders is together on the afternoon of the hottest day of the year. Daisy says to Gatsby, "You look so cool," in front of her husband, who realizes she is telling Gatsby she loves him. They all go into the city (the last sensible place to go on a hot day) and get a suite at the Plaza, where they order mint juleps.
  9. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. You can have fun in the jungle. Just watch out for the tigers.
  10. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. Science fiction set on arctic world, with long sections on the glacial ice.
  11. Hothouse: The Long Afternoon of Earth by Brian Aldiss. The sun is red, the world is a jungle, and humans are the pests in a world of enormous insects.
  12. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. There’s a great dream sequence/fantasia imagining London turned into a tropical city.

Tom Horrell provides a small jungle of suggestions:

It’s too darn hot! I’d have to begin with Faulkner and his tales of Yoknapatawpha County, deep in those Mississippi summer days, dripping with that languid heat which seems to central to that time & place. Of course it’s hard to separate what was Faulkner and what was that “you can run but you can’t hide” sultriness of Paul & Joanne in that equally Long, Hot Summer. From there to more of a ‘dry heat’and the novel Dead Man’s Walk by Larry McMurtry which gives us Woodrow Call & Augustus McCrae slogging across the burning anvil which was (is) the Jornada del Muerto. Then back to the Wet, and the grim quest of homicide detective, Stuart Haydon in David Lindsay’s In the Lake of the Moon, from the sauna of Houston to the jungle of Mexico (sometimes described as hauntingly atmospheric….sometimes as excessively overdone). And that, of course, brings to mind Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano with its Mexican fever, cold drinks, dead dogs, and existential angst. We might add Don Winslow’s work, in particular The Power of the Dog and the companion piece, The Cartel….set in the fire of Mexico & Cocaine. Or Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast in the jungle of Honduras. Which finally brings to mind, of course, Joseph Conrad…and his Heart of Darkness:

Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off forever from everything you had known once -somewhere- far away in another existence perhaps.

It’s too darn hot!

Image Credit: Magnus Manske