Ancient Adventure to Complement a Vacation

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hide captionCover image from Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf and Peter Sluglett.

Whether it's the indulgent hours or lighter genres, summer reading is characterized by its reverie. In My Summer Books, NPR hosts and reporters talk about their reading. Today, NPR correspondent and temporary Weekend All Things Considered host, Jennifer Ludden.

Do you have all-time favorite summer book?

One of my all-time favorites is Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf and Peter Sluglett. Maalouf is a Lebanese writer living in Paris. It's historical fiction, so I didn't feel I was being too frivolous!

It's the story of an actual man who in 1492 was exiled with the Moors from Andalusia, Spain, to Morocco. As a businessman, he eventually made his way to Mali and then over to Cairo as the city was suffering from a horrid plague. He passed through Rome and wound up in Constantinople as the Byzantine Empire was crumbling. Christopher Columbus, the Medicis, Islam, Christianity — it's all in there, and it's a page-turner!

I read the book while on vacation in Morocco, when living in West Africa, where it's always summer. It was perfect.

Do you have any memories of special summer books from your childhood?

I actually hated beach reading because the sun was too bright and the sweat dripped from my nose onto the page! But I read all the time, in every season, as a child. I remember trailing my mom around the grocery store with a book open, occasionally looking up to discover I was following the wrong person.

Do you have time or an interest in somewhat indulgent, frivolous summer reading?

These days, with two toddlers, work reading is about all I can squeeze in — even in whatever spare time I have. On principle, I try to use vacation for something not work-related, but I still prefer well written non-fiction.

Is there a book on your shelf just waiting for this summer?

Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror has been waiting for a couple summers. This year for certain I'll read it!

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