“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Suess


This week’s list consists of two books that should be required reading for every Florida man (and woman), my thoughts on post-French Revolution literature, a travel book that changed my life, a book named after a bird, and a boyhood memoir from the 1950’s. Happy Reading!

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (fiction, published in 1844 -1846, translated into English in 1850)

The French Revolution produced some of the greatest authors in human history, and it is impossible to truly understand Dumas, Victor Hugo, or Charles Dickens without appreciating that they grew up in the long shadow of this seminal event. Thus the focus in their stories on both the depravity and the nobility of human nature.The Count of Monte Cristo is a timeless tale of secret identity, a prison break, a fortune made (maybe stolen), and a girl who got away.  It was the original story of the hero with a secret identity, and this model has been replicated over and over:  Superman, The Lone Ranger, Batman, etc. This book was even mentioned in the movie Shawshank Redemption.  (Do you know the scene?) I have read this book at least 4 times – it never fails to deliver.

2. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts (travel, published in 2003)

I have worn out my copy with highlights and underlining, and have given many copies to young adults contemplating world travel. Since reading it, I have traveled, worked, or lived in over 20 countries world-wide.  Rolf Potts is a contemporary of Tim Ferris, has worked for National Geographic Adventure, and is an accomplished travel writer. This book will teach you how to travel for the rest of your life.  If you suffer from wanderlust, you owe it to yourself to give this a try.

3. The Swamp by Michael Grunwald (nonfiction, published in 2006)

This book explores the history of the Everglades from the time of the Seminole Indians all the way through the governorship of Jeb Bush.  It is a compelling story of our state’s ill-conceived attempts to transform an ecological wonder, and of our attempts to bring it back.  This book should be required reading for every Florida resident and politician.  Another must-read is A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith, which tells the history of Florida through three generations of the MacIvey family.  If you aren’t from Florida (and let’s face it, who is?) you will have a much better grasp on the historic context of our state after reading these two books.

4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (fiction, published in 2013)

The plot involves a terrorist bombing coupled with family separation, the dark underworld of stolen art, and the timeless question about whether the choices we make are a result of our trauma or our character, and contemplates “the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire”. This is a riveting story, I could not put it down.

5. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolf (memoir, published in 1989)

This book recreates the frustrations, cruelties, and joys of adolescence.  It’s a book about holding on and letting go, and the power of possibility.  Profoundly moving. I read this book in the 6th grade and the impression it made has never left me. This book was made into a movie in 1993 starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (fiction, published in 2003)

This is a heartbreaking story about the fragile relationships between fathers and sons, humans, and their gods, men, and their countries. It is raw.  If you can only read one book on this week’s list, it should be this one.  What are you waiting for?

Thank you again for your interest in my book list, and please feel free to email me with your comments and feedback. I do see every email that is sent to this account, but for a faster response, you can email me directly at [email protected]


Spencer Roach