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Summer Reading List With a Twist

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Summer Reading Lists tend to be light and frothy "beach reads." Here's a historian's summer reading list with a slight twist: a "water" theme.

These are some of my favorite history books --recent and not-so recent--that may help you keep cool by taking you down to the water. Go ahead, dive in!

Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journal of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon by Edward Dolnick.

Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran, leads a band on an exploration of the Colorado River in rowboats.

Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky.

A slim volume about the fish that helped inspire the discovery of North America.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard.

Riveting account of TR's nearly fatal trip on an unexplored tributary of the Amazon.

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America by Russell Shorto.

Great history of early Manhattan. And its about an island -surrounded by water.

The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire by Susan Ronald.

The real story behind those swashbuckling "sea dogs" that Hollywood has always loved.

The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True History of the Spanish Armada by Neil Hanson.

Tells the real story of one of the most important, and mythologized, moments in history.

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 by David McCullough.

One of McCullough's best. You can also make it a McCullough "Water Trilogy" by adding The Johnstown Flood, an account of the tragic 1889 dam failure in Johnstown, Pa., and The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathanial Philbrick.

An earlier book by the author of Mayflower explores the tragedy that inspired the "Mother of all summer reading books," Moby-Dick.

If that's not enough whaling, there is also *Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin which describes the industry that once "lit the world" with whale oil and its unique place in American History.

PS: No book reports required after you finish this summer reading list.