THE BLOG
12/01/2013 09:02 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2014

52 Books in 52 Weeks, Week 47-48: A Little History, a Little Future

For week 47 of 52 books in 52 weeks I read Bill Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927. And for week 48 I read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

Bryson first. I'm a big fan of Bryson's, and have followed him from when he was writing travel books (A Walk in the Woods is a favourite) to his more recent foray into his special brand of non-fiction/history (if you haven't read A Short History of Nearly Everything you really should). What Bryson does best, and this is in good evidence here, is find and follow fascinating threads in big events. And the summer of 1927 in America had plenty: Lindberg's flight across the Atlantic, Babe Ruth, mad anarchistic bombers on the loose, a kooky president, flooding, and inept murderers to name a few. If there's an odd fact to be mined, Bryson will do so, and in such a way that you forget that you're learning history. In fact, if Bryson had written my high school history book I might've paid more attention.

It was an odd shift to go from Bryson to Card's book. I admit I'd never heard of the Ender's Game series (though I had heard of Card) before the movie came out, but the plot line intrigued me and I am glad I read it. Ender's Game is set in a future 75 years past a series of alien invasions that nearly ended civilization as we know it. The world has come together to make sure it doesn't happen again -- they're looking for the perfect general to lead their armies and they've decided that training children from a young age is the way to go. Ender Wiggins is the most promising candidate they've seen in a long time, and it's Ender's perspective that we mostly follow through his training and ultimate ascension to leadership. Written in the 1980s, Card does an impressive job of predicting the future -- people use the 'nets' and work on tablets and learn in simulators. There are a few touches that ring a disturbing note -- one aspect that felt quite anti-Semitic to me -- and I gather that Card has some troubling personal opinions that might turn many readers off.

As this shortened column might indicate, life is a little hectic right now. But I'm still reading, and if you care to read along, Week 49's read is The Dinner by Herman Koch.

Three more weeks! In the meantime, come vote in the poll of our top ten reads.

Read on.