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The Summer of Grann
Let's read David Grann's best books together this summer
So, I have an idea that may be a little bit of a curveball, but hey — it’s summer, let’s let our hair down a little and have some fun 😃
About three years ago, we held a book club for a series of running-focused books that were published that year: for Christopher McDougall’s Running With Sherman, Katie Arnold’s Running Home and Laura Lee Huttenbach’s Running With Raven. Each was a blast to read and discuss, and for me, it was so much more enjoyable to read them together as a group with you than on my own, that I’ve been thinking of ways for us to do it again.
A week or so ago, it occurred to me that we might use the summer as a time to do this. Remember summer reading, from your grade school days? When I grew up, we’d be assigned three books to read by the time school started again in the fall; I was thinking, why not read something really thrilling and escapist, yet also moving and thought-provoking?
When I saw that David Grann, the New Yorker writer who’s also written some of the most popular non-fiction books of the past several years, was coming out with his latest, The Wager, this spring, I thought — this is it.
If you haven’t heard about it, here’s a synopsis of the book from the publisher:
On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.
But then ... six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that while stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang.
And here’s an interview Grann did with 60 Minutes a few weeks ago, talking all about the book and what it took to get the story, including traveling to the site of the shipwreck itself:
(If you’d like to see his full interview, you can watch it here on YouTube.)
Interested? Excited? I am, and I hope you’re up for reading it along with me. And, that you’ll be up for reading Grann’s other books, both of which I’m equally excited to read.
Here’s what I’m proposing: we pick a book a month this summer, read it together and discuss, either in weekly discussion threads or in the Substack app’s Chat area, in this order:
As luck would have it, Hollywood already has made movies of the latter two books — The Lost City of Z premiered back in 2016, while Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese, will be released this October.
Here’s a preview:
In? I hope you are, and I’m excited to dig into these books with you. I think they’ll be a blast to read, they’ll be amazing and fascinating worlds to explore, and they’ll move us to think and feel in ways we don’t expect.
My question to you is, first, let me know what you think! 😃 And second, do you have a preference over whether we use discussion threads on the web (like we do for our Friday discussions), or if we use Chat in the Substack app?
I hope you’re having a great first week of summer. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to running again soon — think of us as a fun bonus. And, you’ll need to be a paid subscriber to participate, so if you haven’t, I hope you’ll become one today by clicking here:
Let me know your thoughts! And, as always, keep in touch and let me know how your running + life is going.