No longer sun-seekers, Jeanne Earle and Jack McConnell prefer to do their outdoor reading on a covered porch, or under the leafy shade of big tree, but a pile of books (both traditional and those of the audio variety) generally accompanies them. The couple also like to pass on their love of reading to upcoming generations.
“We buy a copy of Bill Bennett’s ‘Book of Virtues’ for every 13-year-old in the family,” said Jeanne Earle.
Jack came to reading for pleasure later in life. The couple and their family moved a lot due to Jack’s job with the federal government, but when he was finally stationed in Washington, D.C., he had more free time to pursue off-duty interests. Jeanne Earle, however, is a lifelong reader.
“I read more now for pleasure,” said Jack. “My job took more of my time.”
The McConnells have an interesting tradition. Jeanne Earle usually reads a book first, then talks about it to the point that Jack says “I have to read it.”
Jeanne Earle has no favorite genre, but she does have books she considers her favorites.
“I try to mix it up; I like nonfiction, memoir, novels with some purpose,” she said. “Everybody here should read ‘Ninety Percent of Everything.’”
The complete title of the book is “Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate,” and was written by Rose George, who explores the world of freight shipping and its impact on the environment, the economy and civilization. In the book, George chronicles her travels from Rotterdam, The Netherlands to the Suez Canal Zone and on to Singapore aboard ships. She documents her time spent in the Indian Ocean patrolling with an anti-piracy task force and her travels with seafaring chaplains.
“It’s a textbook really, about all the imports and exports that come through here,” Jeanne Earle said.
Jeanne Earle admits she has eclectic tastes, and counts among her favorite books such stellar examples as Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible,” anything by Bill Bryson, “TransAtlantic” by Colum McCann, which is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of three events that have had far-reaching effects on the modern world. The first story is set in 1919, and readers learn the tale of Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown, two aviators who take flight from Newfoundland to Ireland in an attempt to complete the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. It then shifts to Dublin, in 1845 and 1846, when Frederick Douglass visits the city on a lecture tour to support his autobiography, and then in 1998, when former U.S. Senator George Mitchell visits Belfast, where he, the son of an Irish-American father and Lebanese mother, conducts peace talks between the two warring factions in Northern Ireland.
Jack enjoys stories of international espionage, particularly those by Vince Flynn.
“We’ve been to so many of those places,” he said.
One of his newest favorite books is “Ghost Army of World War II,” a non-fiction book set in World War II written by Jack Kneece, the details of which have only recently come to light.
The purpose of the Ghost Army — troops handpicked by the U.S. Army — was not to fight, but to deceive the German Army. Made up of artists, actors, and others, information about 23rd Headquarters Special Troops was not de-classified until 1996. Kneece, the author, interviewed many of the people involved, including fashion designer Bill Blass. Only 1,000 men belonged to this special troop, which the Germans referred to as the “Phantom Army” because of their ability to move quickly from location to location. According to a review of the book on GoodReads.com, this small army fooled the Germans 21 times during World War II, and many of the ruses took place within a few hundred yards of the front lines.
“Just before D-Day, more than 200 individuals tricked the German Army into thinking there was another division across the river, but in reality, the special American group had set up decoys,” said Jack.
So, if they were to pack a beach bag, what would be in it?
“Sunblock, pb and j, lots of water, towel, sunscreen,” said Jeanne Earle.
Their favorite Golden Isles beaches are on Jekyll Island — St. Andrews for Jeanne Earle and the main part of the beach (mid-island) for Jack.
Both admit to bringing less serious books along for their outdoor reading time.
“Definitely beach reads,” said Jack. “Sometimes you have to lighten up.”