I took a lot of flak from friends one summer in Maine¬†for taking I.F. Stone’s The Trial of Socrates¬†to the beach.¬†Stone’s classic work was a philosophical spin through¬†the events of 399 BC, when Socrates’ mischievous teachings¬†brought him into conflict with Athenian democrats, leading¬†to his trial and execution. Fascination with those events¬†persists through the centuries. The fascination also swept¬†up Stone, a muckraking Washington journalist who learned¬†classical Greek late in life in order to read the original texts¬†for new clues, trying to understand how an ancient society¬†that revered free speech could engage in the ‚ÄĚtraumatic¬†spectacle‚ÄĚ of executing a philosopher.

But beach reading? Summer is supposed to be a time to¬†dial your mind down, lightening it with fictional detectives,¬†dysfunctional families and ghosts. We spend our working¬†days plowing through reports and ‚Äúimportant articles,‚ÄĚ surfing¬†news sites and Twitter feeds that are supposed to ensure¬†that we are always up to date. The division between those¬†daily reading habits and ‚Äúsummer reading‚ÄĚ has become almost¬†a cultural artifact, as if reading for pleasure is a conscious¬†break in the routine, the way skipping the gym over¬†the Christmas holiday is indulged until the New Year.

The guy who read I.F. Stone in hardcover in the sand¬†disagrees. We should read fiction (even the fluffy stuff) all¬†year round. Similarly, there is no reason why you can’t¬†load an iPad with serious nonfiction to take to the beach,¬†which is why our summer reading issue is offering excerpts¬†from a host of new books that merit the attention¬†of those who care about public policy. They cover a range¬†of topics, from the potential and the overhyping of new¬†technologies, to why Western governments are incapable¬†of dealing with our biggest problems and how intentions¬†ran aground in Sudan. They are good reads, worth reflecting¬†upon from your perch at a cottage, park or balcony.

With the arrival of our new Web site at irpp.org, Policy Options is shifting to a new schedule, publishing every two months. The move reflects the changing media landscape in which readers expect to be engaged online, whenever they choose. We plan to meet them in this digital space. The magazine will continue to innovate and improve, in print and online, seeking out important ideas and new voices to grapple with the policy challenges of our time.

Photo: Maglara / Shutterstock

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace was appointed editor of Policy Options magazine, the IRPP's flagship publication, in August 2012. A native of Montreal, he was Tokyo bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times from 2004 to 2008, after which he became that newspaper's foreign editor. Over a long career in journalism he has reported from across Canada and around the world, covering wars, elections, economics and three Olympic Games. He has worked outside Canada for 16 of the last 19 years, so he has a good understanding of the global economic, political and security currents that affect Canadian public policy.

You are welcome to republish this Policy Options article online or in print periodicals, under a Creative Commons/No Derivatives licence.

Creative Commons License