What’s Glenn Burkins Reading?


We asked the editor and publisher of Qcitymetro to tell us about his favorite books – and he shared a literary travelogue:


For me, the best books are those that take me on a journey, allowing me to experience a life I could otherwise never know.

I recently completed Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery by Nathaniel Philbrick. I climbed aboard a sailing ship in 1838 as an ambitious U.S. Navy captain and his crew of 300-plus set out to map the entire Pacific Ocean. Along the way we conducted experiments, encountered native tribes and collected artifacts that laid the foundation for the Smithsonian Institution.

Now hooked on the seas, I turned to Endurance by Alfred Lansing. I sailed with Ernest Shackleton on a quest to become the first humans to cross Antarctica. We were shipwrecked, of course, when ice floes closed in on our boat and crushed it, leaving us stranded for months on the frozen ocean. For the next year we struggled to survive amid the most horrendous conditions any human could imagine.

Fools Crow by James Welch took me to the American West, where I lived among a band of Blackfeet Indians under pressure from white settlers in the late 1860s. I was part of a raiding party that stole horses from rival clans and watched as my tribe was decimated by smallpox. Although fictional, this book took me there, culminating with the Marias Massacre of 1870, in which the U.S. Cavalry killed a friendly band of Blackfeet, consisting mostly of non-combatants.

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough is the story of wealthy Americans — artists, writers, doctors, architects, etc. — who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, a time when France led the world in higher learning and Paris was its epicenter. Written primarily from family letters, this book gave me a front-row seat as the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty were being crafted and medical students were expanding our understanding of the human body.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (whose mother was a slave of African descent). I came across this classic late in life…but wow! One of the most incredible tales ever written. It has everything — love, jealousy, conspiracy, deceit, wealth and revenge. Going to bed each night to read this book became the best part of my day.

When I’m in the mood for something light, I turn to author Walter Mosley and his Easy Rawlings mystery series. I think I’ve read every one of those books. Fast, fun and always entertaining.

I am currently reading The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, a meticulously documented book by Richard Rothstein. The title says it all. It should be required reading for every American with a two-bit opinion about race and economics. When I’m done, I will start Washington Black, a novel by Esi Edugyan, It tells the story of an 11-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation who is chosen by his master’s brother as a manservant — a decision that will expand the boy’s world in ways he never could have imagined.

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