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1. Garlic and Sapphires : The Secret
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1. Garlic and Sapphires : The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
by RuthReichl
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1594200319
Catlog: Book (2005-04-07)
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The
Sales Rank: 109
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Fans of Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples know that Ruth Reichl is a wonderful memoirist--a funny, poignant, and candid storyteller whose books contain a happy mix of memories, recipes, and personal revelations. Interview
We chewed the fat with Ruth.Read our interview.
What they might not fully appreciate is that Reichl is an absolute marvel when it comes to writing about food--she can describe a dish in such satisfying detail that it becomes unnecessary for readers to eat. In her third memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Reichl focuses on her life as a food critic, dishing up a feast of fabulous meals enjoyed during her tenure at The New York Times. As a critic, Reichl was determined to review the "true" nature of each restaurant she visited, so she often dined incognito--each chapter of her book highlights a new disguise, a different restaurant (including the original reviews from the Times), and a fresh culinary adventure. Garlic and Sapphires is another delicious and delightful book, sure to satisfy Reichl's foodie fans and leave admirerers looking forward to her next book, hopefully about her life with Gourmet. --Daphne Durham

More from Ruth Reichl

Tender at the Bone

Comfort Me with Apples

The Gourmet Cookbook

Remembrance of Things Paris

Endless Feasts

Gourmet magazine's The Significant Seven
Ruth Reichl answers the seven questions we ask every author.

Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: Kate Simon’s New York Places and Pleasures. I read it as a little girl and then went out and wandered the city. She was a wonderful writer, and she taught me not only to see New York in a whole new way, but to look, and taste, beneath the surface.

Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: Ulysses by James Joyce. What better place to finally get through it?

Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert. If you’re going to listen to one piece over and over, this is one that doesn’t get tiresome.

How to Build a Boat in Five Easy Steps. Since I’m going to be watching one movie over and over, it might as well be useful.

Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: I’m such a good liar, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: I can write pretty much anywhere. But I prefer small, cozy spaces, with a good view over a lake or a forest, and room for the cats to curl up.

Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: "She’ll be right back."

Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Elizabeth I. She fascinates me. She had a great mind, enormous appetites--and she was a survivor. The most interesting woman of an interesting time, and I have a million questions I’d like to ask her.

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: You mean after creating world peace?This is a hard one. But I’ve always wanted to be able to fly.

... Read more

Reviews (16)

3-0 out of 5 stars Ruth teased me, I wanted more
It took me over half of the book to warm to Ruth's ways. I felt too many times she built up a scenario and left me hanging, wanting to know more. I was desperate to find out what happened... if there was any comeback from the charity couple, how the guy she duped on a date with her sexiest disguise reacted to finding out he had in fact been dining with the NYT critic, what the Chinese restaurant who had diligently faxed menus back & forth felt when she decided to unceremoniously dump them for some other venue, after so much effort to please her.
Its a light read and charming enough, but my appetite was whetted and I craved more gritty details.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book
I thought the book was funny.It grabbed me from the first chapter and I laughed through the whole thing.This is a great read and I am up for reading any other books from this writer.Another great one is the glass castle and also Whispers of the wicked saitns.Great reads !!

2-0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected
I was extremely disappointed with this book.I expected to read more about the inner workings of NY restaurants, not recycled reviews from the New York Times.I thought it would be interesting to read about how she fooled restaurants with her various disguises.I did not expect to read page after page of where she bought the wigs, how she found the clothes, etc. etc.You can only read "the tastes exploded in my mouth like hundreds of little fireworks" (not a true quote from the book) so many times before you start skipping over the reviews.Save yourself some money and read the actual restaurant reviews from the Times' archives.I wish I had.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great third Memoir. Leaves us wanting more! Buy It.
`Garlic and Sapphires' is the third volume of memoirs by Ruth Reichl. After `Tender at the Bone' which deals with her childhood and teens and `Comfort Me with Apples' which deals with her early journalistic career in San Francisco, this latest volume deals with her five years as the lead restaurant critic for the New York Times.

This volume proves that Ms. Reichl is truly the best culinary memoirist today, and easily the best since M.F.K. Fisher. And, as one who has read more than a few of Ms. Fisher's memoirs, I would easily choose Ms. Reichl's humor and great stories of the modern scene over Ms. Fisher's slightly musty, albeit exquisitely crafted tales of cities and towns in France.

The primary point of this volume is to tell the stories behind Ms. Reichl's various disguises and personas she took on in order to dine at Daniel's and Lespanisse and Le Cirque without being identified as the restaurant critic for the Times. The book starts off with the amazing story of Reichl's flight from Los Angles to New York seated, by coincidence, along side a waitress of a major Manhattan restaurant. It turns out that posted in all restaurant kitchens in New York City was already a photograph of Ruth Reichl with a reward to any staff member who identifies Ms. Reichl in their restaurant.

In spite of all the other things on which Ruth could dwell, she stays remarkably on message. There is only the slightest of references to the great New York Times culinary writer, Craig Claiborne, who was still alive while Reichl was at the Times. And, there was only a slightly more specific reference to R. W. Appel and Amanda Hesser. The only two writing talents cited to any extent are Marion Burros, a friendly colleague who mostly worked out of the Washington bureau and adversary Bryan Miller who left the critic's post and objected to Reichl's overturning a lot of his restaurant opinions. What Miller forgot was that the power of the restaurant critic's column was not based on the writer, but on the newspaper which published the column.

The most important character in this story after Reichl may be `THE NEW YORK TIMES', commonly thought to be the best and most powerful newspaper in the world. This fact makes it almost unthinkable that Reichl would question whether or not she really wanted to work for the Times when she was literally offered the job on a silver platter. There may have been some foundation to her doubts when she saw the Times offices for the first time. In contrast to the light, airy, Los Angles Times offices, the New York offices were crowded and filled with lots of old desks and unmatched chairs. After a full day's interviews plus total willingness from her husband to relocate to New York, Reichl took the job and immediately changed the tone of the paper's reviews.

Reichl's personal philosophy was that reviews were nothing more than informed opinion and taste. This may seem utterly subjective, but actually, it is not far from what you would see in a scholarly work on the nature of aesthetic judgment. One is much better off trusting the opinion of a literary critic who has read 10,000 novels, both good and bad, than of your dentist who may have read 10, all from the same author. The thing that endeared her to her Times editors and publishers was the idea that her columns were written to sell newspapers, not to promote restaurants.

For someone who does not read reviews of major Manhattan restaurants, I was a bit surprised at the incredible difference between the quality of food and service given to a pair of `beautiful people' versus the quality of food and service given to a drab looking old woman. And, if the diner is known to be the critic from the Times, food and service quality goes off the charts. This was the reason for the many disguises. And, it is obvious that more than one was needed, as it was all too easy for an astute restaurateur to connect a person with the byline on a review which can change their gross by tens of thousands of dollars a week. The truly remarkable thing about many of the disguises is how the personality embodied by the wig and clothes became part of Reichl's persona in dealing with people who were not in on the ruse. By far the funniest was the incident when Reichl took on her mother's persona, using her mother's clothes and jewelry. The story is doubly amusing if you have read `Tender at the Bone' where Reichl describes her primary chore was to keep her mother from poisoning any guests by serving spoiled food.

It should be no surprise that Reichl's job had a serious downside. In addition to all the nasty mail from offended restaurateurs and their advocates and the political backbiting at the newspaper, there were the really unpleasant situations where Reichl offered `a dinner with the New York Times restaurant critic' as a prize to be auctioned off for charity. Ruth recounts one especially distasteful episode where the situation went so far as to turn her well-trained chameleon personality into someone who was distasteful to her husband. This job is no picnic. From this encounter comes the name of the book from a line in T. S. Eliot's `Four Quartets', `garlic and pearls in the mud' which echoed the fact that the evening had nothing to do with Reichl's love of cooks, food, or writing.

The book includes the Times reviews Reichl wrote as a result of the meals described in the book. These are fun and interesting, but are really just sidebars to the real action in the main text. My only regret is that Reichl did not find it useful to include photographs of her disguises.

Very highly recommended reading for foodies and non-foodies alike.

5-0 out of 5 stars I ran right out and bought all her other titles
As a foodie and a wine lover, as well as a person who loves New York, this book was like being in heaven at the same time as being a voyuer.I often go to the "starred" restaurants and have my own opinion not only on the food but on how I was treated as a normal everyday person.Having a food critic do the same in costume and actually rate the restaurant based on this makes me want to give her a standing ovation.Hopefully, restaurants around the world have learned something from her and her very equitable way of evaluating restaurants.Ruth writes so very well and entertainly, and you are torn from your own reality into her world of costumes and intrigue.I highly recommend her books if you like food, wine and real life New York restaurants.It may change where you decide to spend your hard earned dollars next time you go out to eat. ... Read more

2. Big Russ and Me: Father and Son--Lessons of Life
by Tim Russert
list price: $22.95
our price: $13.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1401352081
Catlog: Book (2004-05-10)
Publisher: Miramax Books
Sales Rank: 378
Average Customer Review: 3.79 out of 5 stars
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Veteran newsman and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert is known for his direct and unpretentious style and in this charming memoir he explains why. Russert's father is profiled as a plainspoken World War II veteran who worked two blue-collar jobs while raising four kids in South Buffalo but the elder Russert's lessons on how to live an honest, disciplined, and ethical life are shown to be universal. Big Russ and Me, a sort of Greatest Generation meets Tuesdays with Morrie, could easily have become a sentimental pile of mush with a son wistfully recalling the wisdom of his beloved dad. But both Russerts are far too down-to-earth to let that happen and the emotional content of the book is made more direct, accessible, and palatable because of it. The relationship between father and son, contrary to what one would think of as essential to a riveting memoir, seems completely healthy and positive as Tim, the academically gifted kid and later the esteemed TV star and political operative relies on his old man, a career sanitation worker and newspaper truck driver, for advice. Big Russ and Me also traces Russert's life from working-mjkjclass kid to one of broadcast journalism's top interviewers by introducing various influential figures who guided him along the way, including Jesuit teachers, nuns, his dad's drinking buddies, and, most notably, the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whom Russert helped get elected in 1976. Plenty of entertaining anecdotes are served up along the way from schoolyard pranks to an attempt to book Pope John Paul II on the Today Show. Though not likely to revolutionize modern thought, Big Russ and Me will provide fathers and sons a chance to reflect on lessons learned between generations. --Charlie Williams ... Read more

Reviews (53)

5-0 out of 5 stars Cats in the cradle...Harry Chapin's song comes to life!!!
The background story behind this book is learning from your elders. In this particular one, we are talking about Tim Russert and how he explains the way that his father's knowledge (something that most children never appreciate until after the fact) and experience shaped his life. We learn of Big Russ, as he refers to his father, and how he was raise in poverty, was a WWII vet with an admirable record and his ability to raise his four children and support his household while holding down two jobs for a good part of his life. That, in itself, shows the character of Big Russ.

As is the dream of every parent, Russert's life is anything but representative of the suffering his father witnessed. A wealthy lawyer, Capital Hill insider and married to a celebrity journalist, Russert is the success story his father could brag about to any and everyone.

The book provides a nostalgic walk through time as the author reflects on his own life as well as that of his country. By the time you finish the book, you can understand why Big Russ earns the biggest title that any father can ever dream of. That of being seen as a hero in his own son's eyes. No amount of money or honors can ever top such a title as that.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Gift to Big Russ
Bookstores have been gearing up for Father's Day for some time now, lining their front displays with titles dad is sure to enjoy: sports, grilling, amusing how-tos. Pretty standard stuff. But once in a while a book comes along that supersedes the silly.

BIG RUSS & ME, by Tim Russert, is one of these rare finds.

Russert, the popular host of NBC's "Meet the Press," wrote this tribute to his father, Tim Senior, a member of what has become known as "the greatest generation." A hard-working, spiritual and devoted family man who served his country during World War II, the elder Russert represents the millions of fathers (and mothers) who sacrificed to make their children's lives better.

The Russert family grew up in a blue-collar section of Buffalo, NY, where Tim Senior instilled in the author and his three sisters the qualities of discipline, respect, honesty and faith that, for whatever reason, are sometimes lacking from parents today.

In the minds of younger readers, Russert might as well have written his book a hundred years ago. Imagine having to walk to school, including "sir" or "ma'am" when addressing adults, or having to do chores. It wasn't punishment --- it was expected and not open to discussion or bargaining.

Writers of a certain age often recall a time and place in which television shows were broadcast in black and white, no one locked their doors, kids always had friends to play with and people watched out for one another. Compare that with today's omnipresent security alarms, motion detectors and play-dates.

Russert writes fondly of his Jesuit education. Its extension of discipline helped him focus on excelling in college and law school. He worked hard to put himself through school, not just because his parents could ill-afford tuition and other expenses. As Big Russ said, you appreciate it more when you earn it yourself. The era in which he grew up was difficult: the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. had profound effects on his circle, as did the social unrest of the sixties. Through it all, however, he remained close to his father while many of his contemporaries rebelled against their parents' values.

Russert is not a name-dropper. He was fortunate enough to know several people who were very influential to his maturation, and he mentions these relationships (his chapters on Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Pope John Paul II are especially warm) more in thankfulness than to inflate his own ego. His self-effacement ("I have a face for radio") seems genuine, not put-on, which makes BIG RUSS & ME even more enjoyable.

The saying goes (approximately): "When I was a teenager I thought my father didn't know anything. It's amazing how much smarter he became once I got older." This is definitely not Russert's credo. Indeed, he has always sought his dad's advice and opinions; even now, in his high-powered capacity as host of one of television's venerated staples, he is not satisfied until Big Russ gives his feedback. (Not to psychoanalyze, but one doesn't get the impression that Russert, Jr. is in dire need of Senior's approval.)

Being "men," it's not unusual that expressive feelings exchanged between fathers and sons are underplayed. This is one reason why BIG RUSS & ME is so welcome. And the love and respect between the generations continues through the author's son, Luke.

Relationships, especially for today's parents, seem much more difficult, thanks in no small part to the myriad distractions and competitions for their kids' attention that simply didn't exist fifty years ago. All vie for the child's attention and some can be very seductive, especially when the folks want him to do something that isn't cool, like get good grades or clean up his room.

Russert's apotheosis is a wonderful gift to Big Russ, an expression of love and gratitude that makes all the hard work seem worthwhile. It's even better that the old timer is still around to enjoy the accolades the book will no doubt engender.

So, what did you say you were doing for your dad this year?

--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan

1-0 out of 5 stars Ack! Ack!
Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack!

4-0 out of 5 stars Endearing & heart-felt memoir.
Refreshing and light read written by a man with a genuine and, in many ways, a new-found love and appreciation for the most important man in his life.

In a society that seems less determined to be self reliant and accountable and more determined than ever compete over who can be the biggest victim, Big Russ is living testimony that absolutely nothing beats a strong family bond and a solid work ethic.

5-0 out of 5 stars Engaging, nostalgic, well-written
This is a great book. I can't believe how many Amazon "reviewers" are getting their facts wrong, or dragging politics, or other issues into this simple, straightforward ode to one's father.

One reviewer says Tim does a disservice to mothers everywhere by writing a book about his father. If you didn't check out the title of the book clearly before purchasing it, maybe you should go do that now: "Big Russ and Me: Father and Son--Lessons of Life." He mentions his mother reverently a few times in the text, but the book is mainly about his dad. Enough Said. I'm sure his mother knows how much he loves her. Maybe he'll write a book about her someday. But I don't see how he's disrespecting all mothers. That's ludicrous.

Secondly, a few reviewers have remarked about Big Russ blowing his paycheck on booze every week. Obviously these readers didn't read carefully. Tim was writing about another man in town who would take his paycheck to the bar every payday and drink it away. Tim contrasts this man with his father, who would enjoy a few cold ones every now and then, but knew that providing for his family was much more important. Big Russ was not a drunk. Maybe you reviewers should go back and re-read that chapter.

Another reviewer complains that Tim Russert's book is "full of errors," and backs up this claim by saying he got one word wrong when remembering a prayer from his youth. This reviewer says a half-decent editor would've caught this. I'd like to enlighten this reader by letting him know that not all prayers are taught or recited exactly the same way. It depends on the school or church, I suppose. To call it an error is wrong. It's a variation. I'm sure some people think the way you recite it is wrong. Whether it's "THROUGH thy bounty," or "FROM thy bounty," it hardly makes much difference, does it? Means the same thing.

I could go on, but for some readers there's no hope. It's a great book about a father's influence on his son's life. Read it. Pass it on. ... Read more

3. Take Big Bites: Adventures Around the World and Across the Table
by LindaEllerbee
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0399152687
Catlog: Book (2005-05-05)
Publisher: Putnam
Sales Rank: 127
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The celebrated journalist, producer, and bestselling author takes us on a remarkable culinary journey through "a life lived interestingly, if not especially intelligently."

Linda Ellerbee's first two books were instant classics: And So It Goes, a hilarious, unblinking look at television journalism that spent months as a bestseller; and Move On, a wry, intimate look at a woman in her time that became a milestone in autobiographical writing. Now she takes us both farther afield and closer to home in a memoir of travel, food, and personal (mis)adventure that brims with warmth, wit, uncommon honesty, inspired storytelling . . . and a few recipes as well.

In Vietnam, preconceptions collide with the soup. . . . In France, lust flares with the pbti and dies with the dessert. . . .In Bolivia, a very young missionary finds her food flavored with hypocrisy . . . while at the bottom of the Grand Canyon an older woman discovers gorp is good, fear is your friend, and Thai chicken tastes best when you're soaked by rain and the Colorado River.

From Italy to Afghanistan, from Mexico to Massachusetts, Ellerbee leads us on a journey of revelation, humor, and heart."What can you say about Linda Ellerbee?" Ted Koppel once wrote. "The woman is raucous and irreverent and writes like a dream." Take Big Bites proves it again.
... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars A spectacular tour de force
It is rare to stumble on a book that you know is going to be a classic. Linda's latest reminds me of A J Liebling's already-classic saga of Paris dining, Between Meals. Liebling, too, was a journalist-gourmet. But Linda's book is possibly greater than Liebling's (and his is one of my favourites). Ellerbee has been everywhere and tasted everything. A Texan who was "going large" long before it was fashionable, and who has probably the most interesting address book in the world, her amazing empathy for people and her eye, ear and tastebuds all become the grist for some exquisite writing. Her respect for others, self-mockery, love of adventure and occasional sharp tantrum makes Take Big Bites a genuine literary achievement. Dare I propose that Ellerbee should be taken more seriously as an important American writer(I write this as a Brit). If Ellerbee had not become a TV star, she would have made plenty of reputation for herself with words alone. The charm of her TV scripts was always her clarity and precision - something not common in that industry. This book shows Ellerbee once again in perfect command of her stories. It is a memoir, a cook book, a statement of love for the world and its people, toldin a unique voice. Buy this book and you will feel happier. This is not really a five-star book by the somewhat devalued standard of these evaluations, it is a perfect 10. Did I mention that I love this book?

3-0 out of 5 stars Small Bites Are OK, Too
I remember Linda Ellerbee on Overnight, a late-night TV newscast that was considered ground-breaking at the time, before CNN. The news was serious, but she and her co-anchor, Lloyd Dobyns, seemed to be taking it all with a grain of salt, enjoying their gig while all the grown-up anchors were asleep. It was fun to watch reporters who weren't taking themselves too seriously.

For the most part, Ellerbee maintains that attitude in Take Big Bites, but it's a bit difficult when you've been through a few marriages, breast cancer, and reporting from war zones. Take Big Bites isn't exactly a memoir, it's a collection of essays and memories of places she's been, people she's met, food she's eaten. You can take it in order, or skip around, as Ellerbee has done.

I suggest small bites, contrary to Ellerbee's advice. A little bit of Ellerbee goes a long way. Her first encounter with pho,Vietnamese noodle soup is amusing, and so is her reaction to Singapore. But there is a bit too much homespun philosophy for my taste, as well as James Taylor lyrics. I like JT as much as anyone who came of age in the Seventies, but quoting him this much seems like an odd 'blast-from-the-past'.

5-0 out of 5 stars A delicious must read!
Ellerbee's escapades as she dines her way around the world is hysterically funny. It is a laugh-out-loud read about the life of one of Amercia's great journalists and greater writer.Her personal observations and honesty touch your heart and give a compelling insight into what makes this woman an icon. ... Read more

4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas : A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
by HUNTER S. THOMPSON, Ralph Steadman
list price: $12.00
our price: $9.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679785892
Catlog: Book (1998-05-12)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 1684
Average Customer Review: 4.66 out of 5 stars
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Heralded as the "best book on the dope decade" by the New York Times Book Review, Hunter S. Thompson's documented drug orgy through Las Vegas would no doubt leave Nancy Reagan blushing and D.A.R.E. founders rethinking their motto.Under the pseudonym of Raoul Duke, Thompson travels with his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, in a souped-up convertible dubbed the "Great Red Shark." In its trunk, they stow "two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers.... A quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls," which they manage to consume during their short tour.

On assignment from a sports magazine to cover "the fabulous Mint 400"--a free-for-all biker's race in the heart of the Nevada desert--the drug-a-delic duo stumbles through Vegas in hallucinatory hopes of finding the American dream (two truck-stop waitresses tell them it's nearby, but can't remember if it's on the right or the left). They of course never get the story, but they do commit the only sins in Vegas: "burning the locals, abusing the tourists, terrifying the help." For Thompson to remember and pen his experiences with such clarity and wit is nothing short of a miracle; an impressive feat no matter how one feels about the subject matter. A first-rate sensibility twinger, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pop-culture classic, an icon of an era past, and a nugget of pure comedic genius. --Rebekah Warren ... Read more

Reviews (292)

5-0 out of 5 stars Grab a fifth and enjoy the ride
This isn't a book for the Disneylandified Vegas crowd. This is for the off-strip, I've been up for 72 hours, get me another beer, the light is too bright, let it ride crowd.

Hunter is at his best covering a race in the desert, attending a drug prevention convention (the irony!) and taking as much alternative substances as his body can handle. And then some. Lost in the world post-60s, he decries (with fear and loathing, of course!) what he sees happening as society backs off of "the high water mark".

It's a book about the falacy of the American Dream. Vegas - land of illusion - is the perfect setting for a story that pops the balloon that is the American Dream. Travel with Hunter, and you are there, parking the boat he calls a car onto the sidewalk. You're there chatting it up with the law enforcement officers from Podunk Illinois. You're hoping your ODing mammoth of a friend is calming down.

Sometimes runny, this gonzo journalism will surprise you with cutting observations of what is happening to society. Awesome read, that will poke holes in your view of Americana.

5-0 out of 5 stars More truer now than it was originally!
I personally live just outside of Las Vegas, and just about everything the good doctor wrote about is still true (especially Circus Circus). I can only imagine what he'd think of the quasi-Disneyland attractions that are there now.

The drug content was to be expected at that era. The world was still in a white picket fence mode and "creative chemistry" was seen as a tool to escape from it (or at least, take a different view).

The stream-of-consciousness writing style is a wonder to behold. You can practically feel your mind bob-sledding through the ether-induced haze, coming to a landing on both feet.

As for weither or not it was real, get over it. Just wallow in the genius of the work; how it dissects the "American Dream" and how we were so rudely woken from it.

And if you've seen the film, READ THE FREAKIN' BOOK AS WELL! You will discover a favorite quote or two that you'll find yourself using over and over again. I laughed so hard reading it the first time, my face hurt!

It's a classic document of the tail end of the "flower power" generation, and the beginning of the narcisism of the 1970's. Classic American literature with sheer outright BALLS that's so dearly lacking in today's pop culture.

I am certain that when Dr. Thompson reaches his final reward, he will have a never-ending orgy held in his honor, just for writing this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing at the very least!
This nonfiction account of Hunter S Thompson's search for the American Dream is a trip you won't soon forget. It is not for the meek or squeamish. The substance abuse is staggering. I imagine there is some degree of exaggeration. Thompson himself has admitted as much in interviews. I must warn that the consumption in this book will be shocking if not scandalous to many.

FEAR & LOATHING rocks with an unerring intensity. This book is written like a typewriter tanked on meth. The road trip, the hitchhiker, the booze and the drugs, spending an employers money destroying hotel rooms. It is a full force assault on the senses. It left me dazed and confused. It is hilarious at times but in that guilty way when you know that you really shouldn't be laughing. Raoul Duke is like Jerry Seinfeld in that you know he's a jerk but you can't help liking him.

Thompson was an extreme individual. He was notorious for missing deadlines. Reading this book makes it easy to see why. He was very absorbed in the moment. He seemed more intent on getting hammered than on writing the book. But in the end, his extraordinary talent allowed him to produce an amazing book.

The description of drug use will be disturbing to many readers. LSD, mescaline, cocaine, ether. Thompson doesn't seem to be very discriminant in what he'll introduce to his bloodstream. His consumption assumes staggering proportions here.

The writing is surprisingly good. Thompson is able to convey the sensation of being there as all this insanity unfolds. He had a fine grasp of the English language and a deftness at cutting a good sentence. The carefree excitement of youthfulness is captured here. I always feel more alive when I finish this book. It is also a book that I refer to a lot. It is fun to read a single paragraph and then put it away.

This book is for students of the 60s and for readers who like an intense, tumultuous trip into madness. It is shocking and even offensive to some but it is a great ride for those that like a bit of shock value in their entertainment. Truly great -- don't miss it! Along with FEAR & LOATHING, I also recommend THE LOSERS CLUB by Richard Perez, a book whose writing was obviously strongly influenced by Thompson

5-0 out of 5 stars OPPOSITES ATTRACT
The beauty of a free country and free artistic expression is that it allows polar opposites to find themselves. Bill "Spaceman" Lee once told a conservative political audience that "I'm so conservative I eat road kill" and "I'm so conservative I'm standing back-to-back with Chairman Mao." Funny? Doesn't seem that way, but you never heard such laughter as responded to Lee's delivery. The same goes for my love affair with the writing of Hunter S. Thompson. You could walk the fruited plain from California to the New York Island and not find somebody more different from Thompson than me. Thompson would read my opinions and pronounce that I am an "enemy of the people." If I spent a weekend at his cabin in Woody Creek, however, we'd find common ground. I'm an absolute Reagan conservative, a total Christian, a flag-waving American patriot, an admirer of the military (particularly George Patton), a devotee of law'n'order...and a giant fan of Jim Morrison and Thompson!

"Fear and Loathing" is so brilliant, so funny, so biting in its commentary, so revolutionary that I cannot do it justice herein. Thompson is just plain awesome. An insane writer, in the admirable as well as the literal sense.

How to describe this book? "The '60s meets the John Birch Society"? "The American Dream meets the American nightmare"? I don't have it in me to analyze Hunter. He's too good, too out there. Just admiration, that's all I have left for him. The only thing left is mystique, because Thompson, despite years of stories and in-depth analyses, is still very much unknown. Can he be the guy he describes and survive? The truth, or the Truth as Hunter might call it, is that he probably is putting on a little act, but it is just questionable enough to leave doubt, or Doubt!

I think Thompson is what Michael Moore wishes he was.


5-0 out of 5 stars Unescapble Excursion into the American Aorta
The movie is a good work. Hunter S. Thompson is an interesting man, but the novel is an entirely different world, a world where Don Juan and mysticism mesh with the concrete experience of conservatism.

The world which the protagonist Rauol Duke lives in is one where people are "pigs and creeps" and drugs are an integral part of the daily experience. Fear and Loathing is not a linear tale of reckless abandon in the City of Sin but a convoluted tale of the thin line that exists between sucess and failure in the aftermath of the Acid Culture. Although Thompson claims that this piece of work is non fiction the sheer absurdity and subjective dialogue makes it hard to accept the validity of that claim.

If you are an informant for the DEA, strong Christian, or live in the bible belt this book will only infuse anger in your soul, but if the world of chemical experimentation exposed through the use of masterful english and a corollary to the Great Gatsby expose then you are in for a treat. ... Read more

5. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375725784
Catlog: Book (2001-02-13)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 791
Average Customer Review: 3.55 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"Well, this was when Bill was sighing a lot. He had decided that after our parents died he just didn't want any more fighting between what was left of us. He was twenty-four, Beth was twenty-three, I was twenty-one, Toph was eight, and all of us were so tried already, from that winter. So when something world come up, any little thing, some bill to pay or decision to make, he would just sigh, his eyes tired, his mouth in a sorry kind of smile. But Beth and I...Jesus, we were fighting with everyone, anyone, each other, with strangers at bars, anywhere -- we were angry people wanting to exact revenge. We came to California and we wanted everything, would take what was ours, anything within reach. And I decided that little Toph and I, he with his backward hat and long hair, living together in our little house in Berkeley, would be world-destroyers. We inherited each other and, we felt, a responsibility to reinvent everything, to scoff and re-create and drive fast while singing loudly and pounding the windows. It was a hopeless sort of exhilaration, a kind of arrogance born of fatalism, I guess, of the feeling that if you could lose a couple of parents in a month, then basically anything could happen, at any time -- all bullets bear your name, all cars are there to crush you, any balcony could give way; more disaster seemed only logical. And then, as in Dorothy's dream, all these people I grew up with were there, too, some of them orphans also, most but not all of us believing that what we had been given was extraordinary, that it was time to tear or break down, ruin, remake, take and devour. This was San Francisco, you know, and everyone had some dumb idea -- I mean, wicca? -- and no one there would tell you yours was doomed. Thus the public nudity, and this ridiculous magazine, and the Real World tryout, all this need, most of it disguised by sneering, but all driven by a hyper-awareness of this window, I guess, a few years when your muscles are taut, coiled up and vibrating. But what to do with the energy? I mean, when we drive, Toph and I, and we drive past people, standing on top of all these hills, part of me wants to stop the car and turn up the radio and have us all dance in formation, and part of me wants to run them all over." ... Read more

Reviews (741)

2-0 out of 5 stars unstaggered
You've got to give Dave Eggers this, if nothing else, he knows how to market himself. First he wrote this memoir, loaded with irony to appeal to Gen-Xers, continually self-referential to appeal to postmodernists, and centered around his efforts to raise his little brother after their parents both died of cancer, a sure chick magnet. Then, having exposed most of his and his family members' lives to public view (at least in theory) he adopted a Pynchonesque/Sallingeresque reclusive pose, and feigned personal agony at having to discuss the book. All this while cashing in big time on the supposedly "tragic" events of his life. For these savvy ploys alone he deserves to be called a "staggering genius."

The book itself uses a host of postmodernist, ironical, satirical, etc., etc., etc...techniques, which are rather hackneyed and, given the ostensible topic of the book (his family tragedy), quite off-putting. A fairly representative passage comes when he's heaving his mother's ashes (or cremains) into Lake Michigan :

Oh this is so plain, disgraceful, pathetic--

Or beautiful and loving and glorious! Yes, beautiful and loving and glorious!

But even if so, even if this is right and beautiful, and she is tearing up while watching, so proud--like what she said to me when I carried her, when she had the nosebleed and I carried her and she said that she was proud of me, that she did not think I could do it, that I would be able to lift her, carry her to the car, and from the car into the hospital, those words run through my head every day, have run through every day since, she did not think I could do it but of course I did it. I knew I would do it, and I know this, I know what I am doing now, that I am doing something both beautiful but gruesome because I am destroying its beauty by knowing that it might be beautiful, know that if I know I am doing something beautiful, that it's no longer beautiful. I fear that even if it is beautiful in the abstract, that my doing it knowing that it's beautiful and worse, knowing that I will very soon be documenting it, that in my pocket is a tape recorder brought for just that purpose--that all this makes this act of potential beauty somehow gruesome. I am a monster. My poor mother. She would do this without the thinking, without the thinking about thinking--

Yeah sure, I get it, the way he's having this discussion shows that he understands what's going on, yadda, yadda, yadda... But unfortunately, the point he's making is more accurate than his style is clever. There simply is something gruesome about this kind of mannered irony and the way, throughout his life, that he seems to interpret his experiences through the filter of the book he plans to write.

At the point where every thought, emotion, and action in your life must be considered for how it will appear in print, you've become a fictional character rather than a real human being. And by creating so much distance between the character of Dave Eggers and the supposedly tragic events of his life, Eggers (the author) makes it really hard for the reader to care much. I finished the book unstaggered and heart unbroken, but grudgingly forced to admit that the literary world has a potential new genius, a writer with a genius for self promotion the likes of which we've not seen since Norman Mailer; and we all know how the Norman Mailer story has gone : badly.


3-0 out of 5 stars Bitter, Sad, Self-Obessed, Humorous....but not quite genius
Frankly, I felt this was a heartbreaking work of staggering genius that sputtered and stopped just shy of greatness.

The first half of the book was brilliant. The middle was torturous. The end (being that it followed so closely after the agonizing middle) just didn't feel as captivating anymore.

I disagree, however, with the reviewer who criticized Eggers for not caring about his mother and sister. There is tenderness and profound sadness there, you just have to perceive it underneath the facade Eggers constructs.

His brutal portrayal of the death of a loved one and the complication of family relationships afterward is, perhaps, too much for some readers. I found it to be honest (probably the most honest aspect of the book).

That said, I recommend this book to those with an open mind, an appreciation for ironic humor, and a tolerance for an unconventional approach to writing. It was mad. It was refreshing. But it was just a little too unedited to live up to the title completely.

1-0 out of 5 stars Lies, Lies, Lies, and more Lies
First off, the title is a lie.

The book is boring. The narrator does not care about the deaths of his parents nor the future death of his sister, so how is it heartbreaking?

Einstein was a genius. Shakespeare was a genius. Eggers is incapable of writing a book with a plot and characters.

Then, all the blurbs are lies, as they were all written my people on the McSweeney's payroll.

And then, all the insider tax and tuition snark-fests, held by pomo hipsters on college campuses are lies.

And then, all the creative-writing workshops which assign this book, as well as postmodern english classes which place it on the suggested reading lists are lies.

The sales numbers given by the corporate conglomerates are lies, aimed at bolstering their bottom line while Eggers aims to eradicate literature by spamming the bookstores with his crap, killing trees and displacing quality literature penned by indy presses.

Then, all the positive reviews here are lies, written by Eggers himself, as the New York Times reported.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Heartwrenching Display of Staggering Hubris
There are so many other good books out there, why waste your time with this one? The title is lofty and ambitious and creates expectations for the reader that this work fails to realize (Of course, Dave, you did ask for it). No question to me that Eggers has potential to be a decent writer, but his smug (oh, but I try to be self-deprecating, and I almost mean it, too!), cooler-than-thou, "Are you in on the joke?" style gets in the way of what could have been, if not a work of staggering genius, a well-told coming-of-age story.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Self-Indulgent Work of Staggering Verbosity
Have you ever had a friend who just couldn't stop talking about him or her self? They seem to have no other concern in life but to tell you how great, magnificent and important they are. It's as if they think they're the only ones who exist, or worse yet, matter. And after reading Dave Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius", I couldn't help but feel that's exactly who I had been listening to.

Alright, perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. Eggers is a very talented writer, with enough quirkiness to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool to brimming. The subject matter he attempts here is very "heartbreaking", and he manages to evoke strong emotions from his readers without becoming overtly sentimental. And in dealing with the tragic loss of two parents to cancer (in the same month), this would be easy to do. Eggers deftly keeps his memoir moving by utilizing humor, anger, and a jarring, schizophrenic leaping from story thread to story thread.

Eggers shows a clever and refreshing playfulness in his writing. Where else are you greeted with directions on how to read a book? Where else do you get the story notes "before" the story actually begins? The book is also filled with various other clever devices, such as diagrams which point out optimal areas on his kitchen's hardwood floor for sock-sliding, a chart which explains all of the symbolism in his book (for his less alert readers), and a number of formatting switches, such as to movie script format or interviews written in italics. Eggers has employed nearly every trick in the book to maintain his reader's attention.

The story, however, even as Eggers states in his "reading directions", is a bit uneven. The heart of the story, that of Eggers' coping with raising his young, orphaned eight-year-old brother, Toph, is rendered with tenderness and honesty. Simple acts such as throwing frisbee and sliding down a hardwood floor in one's socks take on a philosophic poignancy, and the remarkably realistic dialogue between the brothers is captivating.

However, true to his schizophrenic nature, Eggers is not content to merely talk of Toph. The middle of the book he fills with stories of his attempts to start up a (relatively pointless) satirical magazine, Might, and his attempt to get on MTV's even-more-pointless reality show, The Real World. These threads, while somewhat entertaining, tend to wear thin, especially when Eggers continually rants about how great and important he is. The worst part is a nearly fifty page "transcription" of his interview with the producers of The Real World to sell himself onto the show. Pages and pages of where he grew up, what his favorite food was, and why he is so gosh dang vibrant and beautiful and necessary to everyone on the planet. Energy is refreshing. But in Eggers case, it gets self-indulgent at times.

Still, there is something to be read here. The first 100 pages and the last 50 are fantastic, particularly his thoughts on his mother, and Eggers exuberance, as well as his ferocious anger, are marvelous to behold. Staggering? Yes. Masturbatory? Very. Genius? Not quite. Entertaining? You betcha'. ... Read more

6. Take the Cannoli : Stories From the New World
by Sarah Vowell
list price: $12.00
our price: $10.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743205405
Catlog: Book (2001-04-03)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 3654
Average Customer Review: 3.88 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Take the Cannoli is a moving and wickedly funny collection of personal stories stretching across the immense landscape of the American scene. Vowell tackles subjects such as identity, politics, religion, art, and history with a biting humor. She searches the streets of Hoboken for traces of the town's favorite son, Frank Sinatra. She goes under cover of heavy makeup in an investigation of goth culture, blasts cannonballs into a hillside on a father-daughter outing, and maps her family's haunted history on a road trip down the Trail of Tears. Vowell has an irresistible voice -- caustic and sympathetic, insightful and double-edged -- that has attracted a loyal following for her magazine writing and radio monologues on This American Life. ... Read more

Reviews (64)

4-0 out of 5 stars I LOVED THIS BOOK...
...but I will caution readers that they MIGHT find it more enjoyable to hear Consigliere Sarah Vowell read them herself. That's what I discovered. Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic book start to finish; my favorite This American Life essayist covers a wide and diverse variety of topics, from the Trail of Tears to growing up a gunsmith's daughter to going Goth for a day. Every essay in this book was a delectable morsel of Sarah Vowell's acid, accurate wit. This wonderful piece of insight made me laugh, made me think, and most of all, made me understand why I should leave the gun and take the cannoli. Thank you, Sarah Vowell, for continuing to grace the world of popular culture with your fresh, cutting perspective.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great, laugh-out-loud funny essays
This is my first experience with Sarah Vowell's work, having seen her on Letterman and Conan O'Brien, and I found it at a used book sale at the local library and decided to get it. I'm glad I did; this is one of the funniest collections of essays I've read in a while. Vowell's unique, almost Gen-X approach to life (though I hate to use the label "Gen-X", as that suggests someone much more mopey than Vowell really is). I'm perplexed by the reviews that cite this as being "boring" or "not funny", I suppose everyone's entitled to their opinion but I couldn't disagree more. Whether knock-down hilarious ("Take The Cannoli", "Shooting Dad", etc) or serious and well-thought historical and emotional ("What I See When I look at The Twenty-Dollar Bill", the Frank Sinatra-Hoboken essay), Vowell is excellent, and I look forward to reading more of her work. I highly recommend this to anyone who's looking for a good laugh, and hopefully I'll get a chance to hear her on NPR sometime. At any rate "Take the Cannoli" is a good primer for Vowell.

5-0 out of 5 stars Partly cloudy patriot
Read everything Sarah Vowell writes but possibly read radio on after partly cloudy patriot and take the cannoli.

3-0 out of 5 stars Fairly Decent
Take the Cannoli serves as a decent introduction to Sarah Vowell's writing, although it is not nearly as good as Partly Cloudy Patriot. The most appealing thing about her is the simple fact that one can disagree with her opinions without feeling argumentative. She has a way of presenting her opinions that does an excellent job of articulating why she feels the way she does without sounding like she is attacking any opposing opinion. Very civilized and enjoyable.

4-0 out of 5 stars Like a lively conversation at a bistro
...and speaking of a bistro, her take on the hidden meaning of your morning mocha is laugh-out-loud funny. This collection of essays deals with her historical, political, religious, and cultural experiences - and who could be more fun to wade through that with than a cynical, lyrical gen-X commentator?!

This book has a little something for everyone. Well, O.K., probably not everyone. If you're a big fan of the Left Behind series, you might not like her take on premillenial dispensationalism. If you have little appreciation for Frank Sinatra, you may need to skip a couple of the essays. It reads like a lively road-trip passenger, full of random opinions and witticisms. Having heard her recently in a live reading, I think we would be well served by an audio version of this book. ... Read more

7. My Fathers' Houses : Memoir of a Family
by Steven Roberts
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060739932
Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
Publisher: William Morrow
Sales Rank: 6522
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Book Description

Bayonne prepared me well for a larger life and a larger world. I knew who I was and where I was from. I was connected by innumerable little cords to people and places that gave me strength and identity. On The Block I was safe, secure, loved. I even had a number, 174, the address of our house, but the number wasn't a badge of anonymity. To the contrary, it marked my place, where I belonged.

As moving as Russell Baker's Growing Up and Calvin Trillin's Messages from My Father, My Fathers' Houses is the story of a town, a time, and a boy who would grow up to become a New York Times correspondent, television and radio personality, and bestselling author.

In this remarkable memoir, Steven V. Roberts tells the story of his grandparents, his parents, and his own life, vividly bringing a period, a place, and a remarkable family into focus. The period was the forties and fifties, when the children of immigrants were striving to become American in a booming postwar world. The place was one block in Bayonne, New Jersey, and the house that Roberts's grandfather, Harry Schanbam, built with his own hands, a warm and reassuring home, just across the Hudson River from "the city," where Roberts grew up surrounded by family and tales of the Old Country.

This personal journey starts in Russia, where the family business of writing and ideas began. A great-uncle became an editor of Pravda and two great-aunts were originalmembers of the Bolshevik party. His other grandfather, Abraham Rogowsky, stole money to become a Zionist pioneer in Palestine and helped to build the second road in Tel Aviv before settling in America. Roberts returns his saga to Depression-era Bayonne, where his parents, living one block apart, penned love letters to each other before marrying in secret. His father, an author and publisher of children's books, and his uncle, a critic and short story writer, instilled in him a love for words and a determination to carry on the family legacy, a legacy he is now passing on to his own children and grandchildren.

Roberts, too, would leave home, for Harvard, where he met Cokie Boggs, the Catholic girl he would marry, and later, for the New York Times, where he would start his career -- across the river and worlds away from where he began. An emotional, compelling story of fathers and sons, My Fathers' Houses encapsulates the American experience of change and continuity, of breaking new ground using the tools and traditions of the past. ... Read more

8. Ogden Nash : The Life and Work of America's Laureate of Light Verse
by Douglas M. Parker
list price: $27.50
our price: $18.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 156663637X
Catlog: Book (2005-04-25)
Publisher: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher
Sales Rank: 42649
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

For years, readers have longed for a biography to match Nash's charm, wit, and good nature; now we have it in Douglas Parker's absorbing and delightful life of the poet. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars I recommend it - get Amazon to send it!
I was delighted to find this book.Rather than quoting Nash's verse at length, Parker uses quotes quite judiciously to illustrate various points he's making.This made me want to read more of Nash's collections, which I feel is an indicator of a good biography.
I thought the book was well-paced and engaging.I'm not a big fan of biographies (I tend to find them overwrought and melodramatic), but enjoyed this quite a bit. ... Read more

9. When All the World Was Young : A Memoir
by Barbara Holland
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1582345252
Catlog: Book (2005-03-02)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Sales Rank: 32869
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The author deemed "a national treasure" by the Philadelphia Inquirer finally tells her own story, with this sharp and atmospheric memoir of a postwar American childhood.

Barbara Holland finally brings her wit and wisdom to the one subject her fans have been clamoring for for years: herself. When All the World Was Young is Holland's memoir of growing up in Washington, D.C. during the 1940s and 50s, and is a deliciously subversive, sensitive journey into her past. Mixing politics (World War II, Senator McCarthy) with personal meditations on fatherhood, mothers and their duties, and "the long dark night of junior high school," Holland gives readers a unique and sharp-eyed look at history as well as hard-earned insight into her own life. A shy, awkward girl with an overbearing stepfather and a bookworm mother, Holland surprises everyone by growing up into the confident, brainy, successful writer she is today. Tough, funny, and nostalgic yet unsentimental, When All the World Was Young is a true pleasure to read.
... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Delightful
An absolutely delightful book that brings back so many memories. I've often wondered how any of us survived child hood. I had about as much trouble with school as she did, as she called it "The Long, Dark Night of Junior High School." We didn't have a junior high school, but I certainly thought high school was a bitch.

I was struck by her story of wanting to ride on the back seat of a bus. She was in the South at the time, and this forced the African American women to stand. But she didn't know. There weren't any signs, just 'everyone' knew.Where I lived there were signs. I remember riding on a bus with our "negro" (the word at the time) baby sitter. She sat behind the sign, my brother sat just in front of her, with the sign in the middle. My brother and I played with the sign until the ultimate authority in the world, the bus driver came back and said, "leave the sign alone kid." We sat perfectly still for the rest of the trip.

This book is not a typical autobiography. It's a series of little stories from a time when the world was different. It wasn't as easy a world as one would have liked, but she made it through.

My life was much the same, I wish I could write like she does.

5-0 out of 5 stars Memoir of the times as well as the person
A misfit, bookish, lonely child beset by terrors and bewilderment, Barbara Holland grew up to look back on her pre-mid-century childhood with wicked hilarity and affectionate humor, but not a shred of sentimentality. Growing up in the Washington DC suburbs during World War II, graduating high school in 1950, Holland, author of 14 non-fiction books, reanimates a bygone world when "the Father's chair" was sacrosanct and mothers never sat at all but fussed endlessly over their families. Except for her mother, who belonged in a category all her own: "Mothers and my mother."

Holland's mother is brilliant, attractive, talented, and about as unmaternal as a mother of five can be. A skilled carpenter and artist who believes her place is in the milieu she's least suited to - the home- she emerges as a complex, sympathetic character with dozens of quirks (not all of them endearing), who shuns housekeeping for murder mysteries.

Holland's stepfather, on the other hand, receives no such complex attention. He's a monster with only two dimensions, cold and brutal, and at long last Holland has her revenge on him. She calls him " `Carl,' since that wasn't his name." "Just thinking his name brings him back too vividly and I can even remember his smell, not noxious but sharp and distinct like a whiff of danger in the forest." Her real father was lost to divorce early on and nobody explained things to children in those days. Lucky for her, her grandmother anchored her childhood, a constant, if undemonstrative presence, with whom she spent most of her weekends.

Holland, writing as an adult, with an adult's horror and sympathy, appears comfortable with the elasticity and vagaries of memory. She conveys the immediacy of the child's world - the acuteness of perception, vulnerabilities and emotion - and accepts the large blurry patches from which islands of vividness emerge, inking the spaces with evocations of the daily round. Her chapter headings evoke the past with Dickensian humor, beginning with: "In Which the Chairs & Domestic Habits of Fathers Are Explored, & Nick Is Born."

She was five when Nick, her younger brother, appeared. "I was horrified....He howled when Carl was trying to read his paper; he howled at night when Carl needed his sleep. He fouled his diapers and made outrageous demands on Mother's time and attention, even during dinner. He was totally ignorant of the danger he was in; how could he know? He just got here." It was her job to save them both from being cast out of the house into the street. "Apparently Mother didn't understand the danger either. She had, as I said, a great capacity for refusing to notice."

School was the bane of Holland's existence, second only to Carl: "School & I Struggle with Each Other, Plus Hard Times with the Old Testament." The social maneuvering baffled her, numbers were a threatening mystery, each day was a looming dread. Reading, however, was a miracle, and she read voraciously, "shucking the self gladly like a shirt full of fleas."

In elementary school she was called on to read the Bible to her class each morning. A methodical child, unfamiliar with the Bible, she prepared herself by starting at the beginning. The "sheer meanness of God" shocked her. She cried hardest at the fate of Lot's wife: "Struck down for a moment's homesickness." "I wanted no more of God. He was Carl on a cosmic scale. When He put His foot down, everyone died."

Then came war, a time of change. A girl from California came to class wearing Bermuda shorts, a Northern family descended with a white housekeeper, Republicans moved into the neighborhood. Food deteriorated but children, just as they had before the war, "ate what was put in front of them, without comment, and barely noticed." Mother went to work. "Fathers, by definition, came home from the day's work exhausted and surly. Mother came home sparkling all over as if from a light fall of snow."

In school there were air raid drills and in Florida, where she spent summers, German submarines prowled the waters, sinking oil tankers, and fighter planes practiced offshore. "In Washington the war, though great fun, was largely imaginary; on Florida's east coast it was actually happening."

After the war there was Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, which put the fear of State into many of their friends and neighbors, though not Holland's socialist grandmother, who resigned from teaching rather than sign the loyalty oath. There was also polio and the nuclear threat, which progressed from backyard shelters to evacuation to the end of life on earth.

"The Long Dark Night of Junior High School," ended with the blossoming of a wonderful, intense friendship, her first with a soul mate, and high school brought a succession of bad-boy boyfriends, then after graduation she fell into a stultifying depression. But Holland leaves us on a high note, "In Which I Am Saved Again & Live Happily Ever After:" saved by a job - nothing special about it, except the independence of a paycheck, no small thing, then or now.

Holland draws us into a time when big families were the norm, mothers stayed home and had black household help, children roamed at will, and people ate creamed chicken and pineapple upside down cake. In school history was male, girls weren't expected to do math or allowed to take shop and Latin was still offered. Funny, poignant, even savage, Holland's memoir will inspire you to seek out her other books, which cover a wide range of subjects from the irreverent presidential short takes of "Hail to the Chiefs," to "They Went Whistling," a wry and lively account of history's forgotten females, and "Gentleman's Blood," a sharp-witted history of dueling.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Cultural Reflection
My sister Sally H. S. says, "Had Barbara Holland stayed at BCC high school, instead of leaving as a sophomore because she flunked gym, we would have been in the same home room. . . she writes about sledding down Meadow Lane, and she went to Rosemary School.She does a great job of capturing the atmosphere of suburban Washington in WWII."

5-0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!
What a terrific read! Here is a girl who slayed many a dragon, surviving to become a brave, funny and rocky-smart lady who writes like a dream. The fascinating personalities who people Barbara Holland's world are portrayed with precision and compassion. A noble work, highly recommended. ... Read more

10. Paris to the Moon
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375758232
Catlog: Book (2001-09-11)
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Sales Rank: 7971
Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Paris. The name alone conjures images of chestnut-lined boulevards, sidewalk cafés, breathtaking façades around every corner--in short, an exquisite romanticism that has captured the American imagination for as long as there have been Americans.

In 1995, Adam Gopnik, his wife, and their infant son left the familiar comforts and hassles of New York City for the urbane glamour of the City of Light. Gopnik is a longtime New Yorker writer, and the magazine has sent its writers to Paris for decades--but his was above all a personal pilgrimage to the place that had for so long been the undisputed capital of everything cultural and beautiful. It was also the opportunity to raise a child who would know what it was to romp in the Luxembourg Gardens, to enjoy a croque monsieur in a Left Bank café--a child (and perhaps a father, too) who would have a grasp of that Parisian sense of style we Americans find so elusive.

So, in the grand tradition of the American abroad, Gopnik walked the paths of the Tuileries, enjoyed philosophical discussions at his local bistro, wrote as violet twilight fell on the arrondissements. Of course, as readers of Gopnik's beloved and award-winning "Paris Journals" in The New Yorker know, there was also the matter of raising a child and carrying on with day-to-day, not-so-fabled life. Evenings with French intellectuals preceded middle-of-the-night baby feedings; afternoons were filled with trips to the Musée d'Orsay and pinball games; weekday leftovers were eaten while three-star chefs debated a "culinary crisis."

As Gopnik describes in this funny and tender book, the dual processes of navigating a foreign city and becoming a parent are not completely dissimilar journeys--both hold new routines, new languages, a new set of rules by which everyday life is lived. With singular wit and insight, Gopnik weaves the magical with the mundane in a wholly delightful, often hilarious look at what it was to be an American family man in Paris at the end of the twentieth century. "We went to Paris for a sentimental reeducation-I did anyway-even though the sentiments we were instructed in were not the ones we were expecting to learn, which I believe is why they call it an education."
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Reviews (123)

4-0 out of 5 stars Reflections on the city of light
I enjoyed Gopnik's book, primarily due to the mixture of personal reflection and careful observation that make up these essays. The essays about French cooking were certainly confirming in that the history of cooking is grounded in peasant fare and a return to those roots is a central theme in understanding good cooking foundations. I was most impressed however not by the essays on French government and culture but by the soft personal loving sections of the book on Gopnik's young son. Gopkik and his son swim at the Ritz pool in Paris where they meet two young girls. Gopnik's son's playful love for one of the female children was written so well and so transparently that I was amazed. The boy responds like a puppy, abaze with attraction and energy, swimming fearlessly in the deep end of the pool, like a magnet, a duckling, a male. Gopnik, the wise father, perfectly reads the situation, seeing eros engulf his little child, and supports the situation so that his son fully experiences this first taste of the honey and sting of the beautiful other.The children order expensive hot chocolate every day after swimming, which Gopnik endulges. It is Gopnik's wife upon discovering the VISA card balance that brings reality back into the picture. I would say to Gopnik "Your choices were correct, as you yourself know. The good father allows a child to experience the pull of beauty in the world, aware of the risks, aware of the rewards." I expected thoughtful essays because I have been a New Yorker/Gopnik fan. However, the passages on his relationship with his young son were sublime.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fin de sicle finery
Humor! Pathos! Sports! Food! Shopping (or not)! Wine, women (the heavenly Cressida) and song!

Not to mention, just plain life a la Parisienne.

This book is a modern sentimental sojourn through Paris which is not only a delight for the senses, but truly captures the essence of the French in all their guises. Having recently fallen completely in love with Paris on a short visit, I was longing for more and this book gave me that "You Are There" feeling I sought. Not only does M. Gopnik bring the Paris of today alive, but in the storyline dealing with all things human- his family, his adopted community, and the costume of French nationality which he endeavors to don- we see a glimpse into the Paris that generation after generation has attempted to make its own.

This book was so enjoyable that while reading, I was overcome with the desire to return and have already booked another trip. How lucky is this man to have had 5 years in this most sublime city!

Tres charmant! Merci beaucoup, M. Gopnik!

4-0 out of 5 stars A Must If You Love Paris
This book is a wonderful memoir of a New York family that moves to Paris for a period of 5 years with a young son in tow.

Adam Gopnik writes this book in a style of short stories or essays that weave into one great book. He offers a well thought out idea of what must be said from an American in Paris. His comparisons are very real, some light-hearted, some blatantly profound. Gopnik shows his vulnerability many times as a fish out of water, but he tries harder than the average American to blend into his surroundings and take on some of the easier characteristics of becomming French like developing a fondness for a life of profound beauty, a taste for well prepared food, relaxing into the dining experience of the cafes and brasseries, showing his son the art of the carousel rather than the brainlessness of "Barney", and eventually creating another child born a Parisian.

The best chapters in this book are the ones that Gopnik writes about his son discovering himself in Paris. His favorite food becomes croissants rather than ketchup fast food burgers, his puppy love with a young French girl in the Ritz pool, how he would rather play at the Luxembourg Gardens than with a television and most importantly how he adapts to becomming a childish little Frenchman. With this said the one chapter I would skip is "The Rookie" a portion in the book that somehow just dosen't fit. From the elegance of the French life back to the world of baseball? Personally I would have just left the entire chapter with an editor and walked away.

Gopnik shows how well he has adapted to French life in the portions of the book that he dedicates to the cafe Balzar. This cafe becomes the victim of a corporate buyout and is almost lost until a band of dining brothers glue themselves together and form a secure fortress in pure French flair to save the cafe in its original form, garcons and all! It is an interesting look at how easy and yet how complicated life can be in Paris, all that French discussion can lead to something good.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Paris and craves a walk down its Rues. Gopnik makes little things seem absolutely important and accurately describes all of the large and small nuances between the French and Americans. His wife, Martha, says it best, "We have a beautiful existence in Paris, but not a full life, and in New York we have a full life and an unbeautiful existence." This must be why Paris remains in the minds of most Americans who walk along its streets but slowly find themselves returning home, to the rush and bustle of America with an over-inflated heart.

3-0 out of 5 stars If You Like The New Yorker Sensibility...
...and think that "The New Yorker" slant on everything is the apex of Western thought, then you'll love this book because you're the kind of person who goes to Paris and experiences it and notices it the way Mr. Gopnik does. If you detest "The New Yorker"/"New York Times" Manhattan-centric provincialism, you'll hate this book. If you're somewhere between these two extremes, well, you'll love and hate "Paris to the Moon."

Gopnik is a fine writer and observer it's always gratifying to read well-written expatriate tales. (I lived in Asia for years and am still looking for competent contemporary expat memoirs of Southeast Asia). Some of what he writes is engaging--he takes you inside the national library, demystifies the Ritz, describes everyday rituals that become something else overseas. Some is mundane--if you're not a parent or you loathe (your) children, your eyes might glaze over reading about his son and daughter and wife's pregnancy. Some is excruciatingly precious--the occupation of a restaurant (such revolutionary, soul-shaking activism!), the explanation of how super-expensive French restaurant cooking really is about peasant roots, one person's outrage over a perceived misuse of curry powder.

In short, my reactions to Gopnik's book were pretty much my reactions to Paris. It's hard to tell sometimes if Gopnik is just reporting or really finds all he writes about momentous, but it's refreshing to read contemporary accounts of urban life that aren't layered in irony or polemics.

A good companion piece is Lawrence Osborne's "Paris Dreambook", a fantastical account of Paris's underworld that is feverish and lurid where Gopnik's book is measured and polished.

5-0 out of 5 stars A father in Paris
Paris to the Moon follows the relationship of a new father with an old city. The book's anicdotes describe Parisians and the awkward curiosity that Americans have with the Gallic personality. Gopnik is a Paris romantic, but doubts that the city remains the international capital of culture.

Gopnik is a New Yorker at heart, but has a tremendous desire to understand and to fit into Paris. This dilemma never resolves itself, but Gopnik's struggle is a journey that is unique to contemporary America (and Paris). The desire to be separate from New York, a romanticism for Paris, and the uncertainties that come with being a father mix for a touching description of an American abroad.

As a casual speaker of French, a new father, and a lover of Paris, I found the book insightful and meaningful. ... Read more

11. All over but the Shoutin'
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679774025
Catlog: Book (1998-09-08)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 10981
Average Customer Review: 4.36 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This haunting, harrowing, gloriously moving recollection of a life on the American margin is the story of Rick Bragg, who grew up dirt-poor in northeastern Alabama, seemingly destined for either the cotton mills or the penitentiary, and instead became a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times. It is the story of Bragg's father, a hard-drinking man with a murderous temper and the habit of running out on the people who needed him most.

But at the center of this soaring memoir is Bragg's mother, who went eighteen years without a new dress so that her sons could have school clothes and picked other people's cotton so that her children wouldn't have to live on welfare alone. Evoking these lives--and the country that shaped and nourished them--with artistry, honesty, and compassion, Rick Bragg brings home the love and suffering that lie at the heart of every family. The result is unforgettable. ... Read more

Reviews (253)

5-0 out of 5 stars Midwest Book Review
Rick Bragg understands poverty. He knows intimately the taste and smell of being dirt poor, has experienced the chill that settles deep into a person's marrow. When it comes to the haves and have nots of life, he's walked both sides of that line and knows first hand the strengths and weaknesses of both. He witnessed from an early age the deprivation that can drive both the strong and weak to violence and desperation. And he by God knows determined courage when he see's it because he grew to manhood watching true fortitude in action. In this book, courage and cowardice, violence and devotion, poverty and triumph are found in equal measure.

Bragg's mother was a pretty southern girl who married young. When her husband went away to war in Korea, she waited loyally for his return. The young man who loved music and laughter did not return to her from Korea. In his place, she got an irresponsible alcoholic given to drunken rages and abuse who abandoned his growing family with regularity, leaving them to scrounge their way without him. To feed her three sons, the author's mother worked long hours picking cotton and ironing the clothes of those who could afford such luxury. Much of this memoir is a testament to his mother's strength, as well it should be. The people and places he decribes are also memorable, whether Bragg speaks of them with bitterness or pride. And he cuts himself very little slack in the telling.

Whether sharing memories of Alabama, Africa, or Afghanistan, Rick Bragg sees life with his heart's eye, and documents prosaically his visions. He writes of times and places few of us have seen, and does it with compassion. All Over But the Shoutin' is a gift to those of us who love to read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Rick Bragg
Rick Bragg describes his journey of life through a collection of childhood memories. His writing releases his emotions that should be captured by all. This book is a wonderful novel for those who havedealt with a troubled childhood.
"When God Blinks" is a great chapter due to his southern home style of life. He gives full detail in the house on the hill. you can close your eyes,and see exactly what he describes.
Bragg's weakness of this novel would be the age of the audience.This novel is suited for an "older" generation or an open minded person willing to read about a southern broken family.
I would recomend this novel to people who are eager to learn about southern living in the 1970's. People from broken homes or people raised by a single parent could grasp a hold of this novel and recollect on their memories.

4-0 out of 5 stars just another good read
All Over but the Shoutin' is a memoir written by Rick Bragg. He wrote it in honor of his mother who had a great presence in his life. The book starts early in his life, when he was still just a toe-headed little boy. He grew up in poverty with his mom and two other bothers in a box house just barely big enough to live decently in. He didn't remember much of his father except for how every now and then he'd get drunk and beat his mother. Rick had a blessed life in a sense. He survived a car crash that should have killed him, he came close to death in riots, became a famous journalist for the New York Times and he even won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing.
I'll admit, I first choose this book by its cover. The pictures on the front for some reason told me it was going to be a good book. Little did I know the author had won the Pulitzer Prize and was a writer for the New York Times. I thought the book was great. The author did a good job of honoring his mother for all that she had helped him achieved, even if it was in small ways. I also liked the fact that the author had a lot of respect for the way he grew up. He didn't think his childhood was horrible because he grew up poor.
There was nothing I really didn't like about the book. I think Rick has had quite an extraordinary life, better then most people. The book was good and I would recommend it if you want a great read.

5-0 out of 5 stars A reader from Nebraska
I checked this book out of my local library, and was gald I did.

Rick Bragg's mother reminded me of my own. Another rviewer said Mrs. Bragg should have gotten a job. The lady already picked cotton from daylight til dark, then took in ironing which she worked at half the night. Rick Bragg's family lived in a different time, when southern poverty was far worse than it is today. Picking cotton and ironing are not jobs for the faint of heart. Bragg made it quite clear in his book how hard his mother worked at horrible jobs to make a life for her children. She was the glue that held this book together and gave it a shine. If you love your mother, love or have a certain curiosity about the south, you need to read this one.

2-0 out of 5 stars Grossly overrated
I do not get it. He writes an ode to his mama, who, it seems to me, could have made all their lives a lot easier if she had just gotten a job. ... Read more

12. A Matter of Opinion
by Victor S. Navasky
list price: $27.00
our price: $17.82
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0374299978
Catlog: Book (2005-05-11)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 27849
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Book Description

Victor S. Navasky is the renowned editor, writer, and teacher who has been at the helm of The Nation for almost thirty years.A Matter of Opinion, a scintillating reflection on his journalistic experiences, is also an extraordinary political document-a spirited, provocative argument for independent journals of opinion as vital to the health of democracy.

Whether at the satirical magazine Monocle (which he founded when he was in law school), or at The New York Times, or finally at The Nation, Navasky's commitment to political engagement and to the social and intellectual values of independent cultural activity has always been front and center.In a wonderfully entertaining narrative, he tells of his innovative efforts to find money to keep The Nation afloat and to keep its pages lively, honest, and relevant, and he embellishes it with unforgettable stories-about his colleagues and opponents, from E. L. Doctorow to Bill Buckley; his heroes, from I. F. Stone to Jürgen Habermas; and his precedessors, from Daniel Defoe to Carey McWilliams.

Navasky's accomplishments have been legion, despite the threats of revenue-driven multinational media corporations, and despite the sometimes ugly, sometimes hilarious problems that fearless muckrakers face in any culture.A Matter of Opinion is a passionately written, irresistibly charming account of a great journalistic tradition.
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13. Omaha Blues : A Memory Loop
by Joseph Lelyveld
list price: $22.00
our price: $14.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0374225907
Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 23802
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The profoundly moving family history of one of America's greatest newspapermen.

As his father lies dying, Joseph Lelyveld finds himself in the basement of the Cleveland synagogue where Arthur Lelyveld was the celebrated rabbi. Nicknamed "the memory boy" by his parents, the fifty-nine-year-old son begins to revisit the portion of his father's life recorded in letters, newspaper clippings, and mementos stored in a dusty camp trunk. In an excursion into an unsettled and shakily recalled period of his boyhood, Lelyveld uses these artifacts, and the journalistic reporting techniques of his career as an author and editor, to investigate memories that have haunted him in adult life..

With equal measures of candor and tenderness, Lelyveld unravels the tangled story of his father and his mother, a Shakespeare scholar whose passion for independence led her to recoil from her roles as a clergyman's wife and, for a time, as a mother. This reacquired history of his sometimes troubled family becomes the framework for the author's story; in particular, his discovery in early adolescence of the way personal emotions cue political choices, when he is forced to choose sides between his father and his own closest adult friend, a colleague of his father's who is suddenly dismissed for concealing Communist ties.

Lelyveld's offort to recapture his family history takes him on an unforeseen journey past disparate landmarks of the last century, including the Scottsboro trials, the Zionist movement, the Hollywood blacklist, McCarthyism, and Mississippi's "freedom summer" of 1964. His excursion becomes both a meditation on the selectivity and unreliability of memory and a testimony to the possibilities, even late in life, for understanding and healing. As Lelyveld seeks out the truth of his life story, he evokes a remarkable moment in our national story with unforgettable poignancy.
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Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars american jewish diaspora
my confession first, since this book is a quasi-memoir (the author calls it a memory loop, though it reads like a mobious strip of guilt, pain, poignancy, and truth-seeking), i was attracted to this book because joe lelyveld's father was my rabbi growing up in cleveland. i really didn't enjoy going to fairmont temple as a youngster, not on sundays and certainly not twice a week for hebrew school when around 4:30 p.m, once a week, we filed into the chapel, and the rabbi would lead us through the standard prayers.i rarely, rarely, rarely go to temple these days ( six months on a kibbutz in the negev when i was 19 did wonders for my belief in cultural judaism at the expense of religiousity). but this book is a confrontation between memory and loss in the attempt to untangle destiny from fate. the battleground is the uneasy relationship between father and son, arthur and joe, with his mother providing the drama that sets things spinning off-kilter. the pages are thick with loss and regret; there is none of the philip roth's comic shtick that jumps at the reader in his autobiographical writings (or thinly veiled fictional renderings.) i applaud mr. lelyveld for having the courage to confront his past, especially as he must look far back in time, decades, to pry loose shards of recollection.know thyself, socrates counseled. this book satisfies the author's need to know, though it would be foolish to expect a complete and full answer.

so just how close were father and son?not very. towards the end of the book, the son lets fly this awareness: "we seldom quarreled and we were never close."nor did they engage in much shop talk; rabbi lelyvled was one of the most prominent rabbis inamerica, and his sonrose to become the man in charge at the ny times. but they steered clear discussing their jobs or careers. which to me, is, frighteningly pathological. perhaps the need to avoid conflict at all costs was what drove this arrangement, but as a reader, i wanted to know about the schisms that had to exist, especially in matter of political coverage that the times devoted to the arab-israeli saga.

naturally, with an emotionally distant father, joe needed another father figure to project his hopes and desires as he entered his adolescence, and the figure who emerged is a complicated rabbi/communist/friend of his father who occupies the moral center--and about 50 pages--of this slim book. it's here that joe's reportorial skills are in full display as he pieces together the mysterious life of ben goldstein/ben lowell.

as for my own recollection of rabbi lelyvled: I remember the newspaper photo of him in his blood-soaked shirt following a vicious beating by white thugs in the south in the early 60s. I was seven or so when this occured. and i rememberhis rather stiff and aloof demeanor during religious services. anyway, i was too young to make sense of any of his sermons. but every time he stood in front of the congregation, I would keep picturing the rabbi, with the bandage over his eye and the blood soaked shirt. he achieved a somewhat heroic stature as a result of this constant visualization

this book, alas, by his son, brings the rabbi down to earth. not maliciously, but in a careful, circumspect way, we see a man defined by his son who, in his seventh decade is still trying to define himself as a welter of repressed memories surfaced. one walks away from this sad, sad book hoping to have read these words from rabbi to son, " I love you, son."joe does tell his father that he loves him, but by then, the rabbi is lying in a vegetative state as a result of a brain tumor. the father can't hear the son. or respond to him. now, that's a painful memory loop.memories, after all, are for the living.

5-0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, warm offering
Joseph Lelyveld's "Omaha Blues", a recollection of his growing up years, is a book that touches all emotions. Having only known the author through books like Seth Mnookin's "Hard News" and his (Lelyveld's) appearances on programs such as Charlie Rose, I felt a certain draw to read "Omaha Blues". I was not disappointed.

Had the term "dysfunctional" been around in the 1940s and 1950s, Lelyveld's family could be described as such. Uprooted every few months it seems, Lelyveld spent much of his childhood with different family members (other than his parents) and with total strangers (the Jensen family in Nebraska). One wonders how this nomadic life can affect the maturity of any child, but he seems, somehow, to have taken much of this in stride. It certainly gave him a foundation for his own independence, to which he alludes.

A large section of the middle of the book is devoted to his boyhood "friend", Ben Goldstein, (aka Ben Lowell, aka George B. Stern) who seems to have served as the author's mentor or avuncular presence. While Lelyveld and Goldstein appeared to have known each other for only a brief few years, the older man certainly played an enormous role in the life of the budding foreign correspondent. That so much of this relationship is left to the imagination of the reader, Lelyveld nonetheless fills in the pieces of how Goldstein was connected to his own family...that story, in itself, is worth the read of "Omaha Blues".

I appreciate the author's candor regarding his own recollections of these formative years. While he was nicknamed "the memory boy", Lelyveld is not above letting us know that his own memory is sometimes very faulty. This admission adds to the charm of the book and allows him to be as human as possible.

"Omaha Blues" is told straight from the author's heart. I highly recommend it to any reader who wishes to explore the depths of his or her own family relationships. Joseph Lelyveld has given us his remembrances in a most affective way. ... Read more

14. Faded Pictures from My Backyard : A Memoir
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0345438566
Catlog: Book (2005-04-26)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sales Rank: 24766
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Backyard To Remember
Sue Carswell's Memoir Faded Pictures From My Backyard was a profound read. It touched my heart, my soul and made me realize how much my family means to me. When I picked up this book I can honestly say I didn't put it down until the very last page. I became engulfed, intrigued, enveloped into a little girls world so different from anything I could imagine.Faded Pictures will take you by surprise and maybe by wonder, too. A defininate book club winner that I am sure will be well known in a very short time.Trust me... Read it...And feel the beauty within.A Memoir worth every picture........

5-0 out of 5 stars Perception lies in eyes of the beholder
The father, John Carswell, is portrayed as man, and a father, who was well aware of "love", in the most innocent sense of the word, and allowed its power to lead his life's paths.This memoir of a child's perception of life, dictated by that father's aspirations, very quickly engulfs its reader with a childhood commonness. In some ways, even though Sue's life, growing up within the confines of an orphanage, was very different, the experiences which take place within the house are ones which tightly grab hold of the heart of all who lived with brothers, sisters or both. While continuing to read, the clearer it becomes how unique a story it is. The history of The Home, its orphans with their unique life history, all of its effect and relations upon the author, the one perceiving, experiencing and learning some of life's hardest lessons of reality.It is a wonderful, self-enlightening story, to say the least, which in the midst of it all, causes its common reader to reflect upon the appreciation of that same love which inspired both her and her father.The love of family.

5-0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put this book down, I read it in two days flat.
Faded Pictures from My Backyard" is a compelling memoir of what it was like for a young, inquisitive and caring girl of a family of seven to live in a house on whose backyard sat an orphanage, a riverbank teeming with unruly life, where her father worked as its administrator and her mother its nurse.
This is a gripping and heartrending work, because Carswell has captured what often can't be captured or communicated later in adult life, the psychosomatic feel of what it's like to live among orphans. This book is tailor-made for a movie.
Especially forceful are scenes of how the orphans' fears were made manifest.
That includes scenes depicting an orphan who, day and night, breaks windows desperately trying to escape, but has no place to go. Scenes of orphans setting off fire alarms in their bedrooms every night, jolting everyone out of sleep miles around. Scenes showing a young, terribly burned, suicidal boy, whose mother tried to kill him in a house fire, who desperately wanted to join his mother in heaven--I know, I couldn't stop crying here--and who could only find value in his own life after the orphanage's administrators helped him enact his own wake.
Especially heartrending are the scenes where, every year at Christmas, Carswell would stare out her backyard window as orphans trekked across the snow in hand-me-down clothes to celebrate in the orphanage's gym with donated toys under a donated tree, alone, none of their parents in sight. Touching too are scenes about orphan Bob Wygant, who overcame painful obstacles to find success and love with his vivacious and kind wife Sally.
All of this is anchored by two powerful moral presences, Carswell's father, John, who selflessly and tirelessly gives of himself daily to the orphans, all the while running his own brood of five towheaded, rambunctious, loving children, including Carswell's bighearted, kind sisters Mandy and Sarah. Helping him along were Carswell's loving, smart Aunt Mary and fun-loving cousin Laurie.
And who really comes shining through is Carswell's mother, Elaine, a selfless woman who tirelessly gave herself totally in the clarity of love. Elaine is the heart of the book. Carswell deftly shows how her mother's life was simply about one, little three-letter word: Joy.
As Sue's mother's illness advances, as her body is hollowed out by cancer, you'll cry from the pain that echoes throughout these pages, a pain that feels much like a voice echoing in a house without furniture and curtains.
Carswell has accomplished quite a feat. She's carefully woven the stories of orphans in with her own feelings of what it was like for a young girl to absorb their pain and emotion. In so doing, Carswell showed how her genetic makeup of depression and sleep disorder was ignited by her backyard, conditions which were only dealt with as an adult living in New York City.
There's a timeless lesson here for parents, especially to be aware if their child needs help. And there's a lesson here about the value of showing children love every day, not just once a year at Christmas.
In the end, Carswell has written a book that is animated with those first visions of childhood in their original freshness and vigor.
It's hard to find in any work of fiction, much less a memoir, anything that's quite like the pure emotional punch of this book.
It's true, what someone once said, that the effect of intense, heartfelt emotions feels like going down two steps at a time. You feel as if you're drawing on the very source of life itself. That's what this book accomplishes.

5-0 out of 5 stars Publishers Weekly in my opinion is wrong
I am the author of this memoir.Although PW has every right to slam my book if they so feel, they also have a responsibility to get their facts right.This is not a thinly veiled memoir of my deceased mother but rather my love letter to her in the eight years since she has been gone.As I write in my book, her life story is richly textured and full of lessons on how to be a decent and caring parent.This is not a book about my hair-dos over time but a story of a family growing up with an unusual backyard, an orphanage.This is not a book that details the life of a "quasi orphan" it details the life of an orphan -- there is nothing quasi about that. Nor is it the the story of an orphan who becomes an "artist"...It is the story of a little boy who never once had a Sunday visitor throughout his entire childhood growing up on the grounds of the Albany Home for Children and who would later become a football star and esteemed school administrator.That orphan never painted a picture in his life.All said, please read what others have written about my book, but don't let PW whose cowardly reviewers never sign their names be your guiding source for me or other writers works. Thank you - Sue Carswell

5-0 out of 5 stars A unique memoir about family relationships
"From childhood's hour, I have not seen as others were. I have not seen as others saw."

-- Edgar Allen Poe, "Alone"

A family is the bricks with which we are all built. They define us; they give us structure and something to cling to, or something from which to rebel. The family we grow up with stays a part of our lives forever.

In FADED PICTURES FROM MY BACKYARD, Sue Carswell reflects back on her own families --- the one she grew up with, and the one she would watch every day through the window looking out onto the backyard. Carswell grew up in a house bordering the Albany Home for Children, where her father worked as the Administrator and her mother was a nurse. Fearing the influence the troubled orphans could have on them, Sue and her four siblings were not permitted to play or really interact much with the residents of the Home. As the author grows up watching the orphans from the distance across her backyard, she beings to go through developmental troubles of her own --- suffering from insomnia, panic attacks, and depression. Sue and her own family become increasingly distanced by her troubles, and she begins to wonder if she doesn't fit in better with the lives she imagines the orphans must have, across the backyard.

Carswell's unique story is made up of pieced-together fragments, reflecting in some ways the fragmented lives of the Albany Home's residents. She skips back and forth through time in her own life story and interweaves her tale with stories of the Home's orphans. Carswell is a gifted storyteller with an eye for detail, although in early chapters dealing with her young childhood, the first-person narrative from the point of view of a young child does get a little tediously cute. She interweaves the stories of other orphans, growing up in the Albany Home during its different stages (when it was a more traditional orphanage, for example, during the Depression), but because Carswell could never really interact with those orphans, the stories feel somewhat impersonal. Kept, like many things, at a distance.

At its core, FADED PICTURES FROM MY BACKYARD is really about the family relationship Carswell knows and misses the most --- the relationship she shared with her own mother, who died in 1997. It's also the story of the strained relationship with her father, a man who --- like the orphans across the backyard --- she doesn't seem to be able to ever really understand.

Through FADED PICTURES FROM MY BACKYARD, Carswell shows us the many meanings of the word "orphan" and teaches us that it may never be too late to find our way home.

--- Reviewed by Lourdes Orive
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15. Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media...
by John Stossel
list price: $24.95
our price: $15.72
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060529148
Catlog: Book (2004-02-01)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Sales Rank: 1294
Average Customer Review: 4.06 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Ballooning government?
Millionaire welfare queens?
Tort lawyers run amok?
A $330,000 outhouse, paid for with your tax dollars?
John Stossel says, "Give me a break."

When he hit the airwaves thirty years ago, Stossel helped create a whole new category of news, dedicated to protecting and informing consumers. As a crusading reporter, he chased snake-oil peddlers, rip-off artists, and corporate thieves, winning the applause of his peers.

But along the way, he noticed that there was something far more troublesome going on: While the networks screamed about the dangers of exploding BIC lighters and coffeepots, worse risks were ignored. And while reporters were teaming up with lawyers and legislators to stick it to big business, they seldom reported the ways the free market made life better.

In Give Me a Break, Stossel explains how ambitious bureaucrats, intellectually lazy reporters, and greedy lawyers make your life worse even as they claim to protect your interests. Taking on such sacred cows as the FDA, the War on Drugs, and scaremongering environmental activists -- and backing up his trademark irreverence with careful reasoning and research -- he shows how the problems that government tries and fails to fix can be solved better by the extraordinary power of the free market.

He traces his journey from cub reporter to 20/20 co-anchor, revealing his battles to get his ideas to the public, his struggle to overcome stuttering, and his eventual realization that, for years, much of his reporting missed the point.

Stossel concludes the book with a provocative blueprint for change: a simple plan in the spirit of the Founding Fathers to ensure that America remains a place "where free minds -- and free markets -- make good things happen."

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Reviews (123)

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing, a real life clear thinking journalist!
No doubt that the liberals and socialists in this country will name call and rant and rave over this book. Mr. Stossel attacks large government programs for the waste that they are, and the liberals depend upon these programs to control the lives of people. I'm sure he'll be called a racist, right-wing nut, but let's not forget who's calling him these things.

Stossel takes an objective look at not only big government programs, but the limiting of free speech, the drug war, lawyers, and some hypocritical filty rich. How anybody can say Stossel is a neo-con after reading this book is either a moron or a liar in saying they've read this. Stossel advocates stopping the drug war, decriminalizing prostitution, and legalizing assisted suicide, hardly a Republican agenda. He rightly recognizes that you own your body, not the government, therefore they should not have the power to control what you do to it. Certainly a libertarian position.

However, that same intrusive government that shouldn't tell you what to do with your own body shouldn't be telling companies how to run their business. He demonstrates how government programs, rules and regulations on a whole kill more people than they save. Poverty kills, and rules and regulations cause companies to move offshore and fire workers where jobs are needed most. Is it any wonder that, as he showed, the more free the country, the better off it's population is?

5-0 out of 5 stars Give Me A Case of These Books: Everyone Should Have One
In the same relaxed style that has made his Friday night 20/20 broadcasts "must see TV" for open-minded Americans, interested more in truth than partisan politics, ABC co-anchor John Stossel delivers a book every citizen should read.
Far from partisan, Give Me A Break leaves no sacred political cows untipped as Democrats and Republicans alike are toppled to the ground in this truly remarkable breath of fresh air. In breezy, easy-to-read prose, Stossel recounts example after example of how a risk-phobic, nanny government threatens to strangle the very creativity and innovation that have made America the envy of the world.
Here you'll read about the $300,000 outhouse you paid for, the victim industries that profit from the misery of others, why trial attorneys and their lawsuits are more than a nuissance, among other hot topics.
Give Me A Break is somewhat predictable (but no less valuable) if you consider Stossel's libertarian bent. However, what is truly admirable -- not to mention, radically bullet-proof- about his writing is his willingness to not only admit to errors, but to recount them in detail. Instead of giving his detractors ammunition to blow up his arguments, Stossel freely admits to his short comings and past mistakes and explains forthrightly where his thinking went terribly wrong.
While I am not completely convinced that trial lawyers are the devils of democracy, reading this book opened up the subject for me as none of the regular broadcast or cable journalists ever have. Give Me A Break is a highly recommended book by a heroic journalist. -- Regina McMenamin

5-0 out of 5 stars A tour de force of intellectual honesty
John Stossel is one of the few reporters to emerge from the stupor of mindless media liberalism to rational observation. In many respects 'Give Me A Break' is a textbook on systems thinking. Stossel destroys a multitude of liberal and conservative paradigms by demonstrating the second and third order consequences of self-serving governmental, social and economic positions. Stossel understands, like few others in the media, that there are trade-offs, and often-unintended consequences, with every decision. Stossel's book is balanced, humorous and irreverent; it relentlessly unmasks the uncomfortable realities underlying the massive clouds blue smoke generated by special interest groups. If you are looking for a great read that will expand your understanding of contemporary social issues, then by all means purchase this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This is a well written book that explains the media's liberal bias as well as tells how the news media distorts the truth to get a big story. This is a must read for anyone that watches the news.

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
One of my favorite reads. Very interesting and enjoyable. A lot of common sense... I agree with 99% of what he says. Highly recommended. ... Read more

16. Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue
by Jane Pauley
list price: $25.95
our price: $15.57
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 140006192X
Catlog: Book (2004-08-24)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 2555
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17. Taking Heat : The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House
by Ari Fleischer
list price: $26.95
our price: $17.79
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060747625
Catlog: Book (2005-03-01)
Publisher: William Morrow
Sales Rank: 31538
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The early years of the twenty-first century were a tumultuous time in America. The country faced a hotly contested presidential election, the largest terrorist attack in the nation's history, and the early stages of war. Through it all, President George W. Bush surrounded himself with a handful of close advisers. During this time the man beside the President was Ari Fleischer, his press secretary and one of his most trusted confidants. In this role, Fleisher was present for every decision and became an eyewitness to history.

In this riveting account, Fleischer goes behind the scenes as he recalls his experiences in the West Wing. Through the ups and downs of this time, he took the heat, fielded the questions, and brought the President's message into living rooms around the world.

In Taking Heat, Fleischer, for the first time, gives his perspective on:

  • The 2000 election, from the recounts to the transition to power
  • September 11, 2001, its aftermath, and the anthrax scare
  • The pressure-filled buildup to the war in Iraq and the President's thoughts as the war began
  • Life in the White House, from learning to adjust to the pace of the West Wing and his early briefings to his relationship with the press
  • The White House press corps, who they are, and how they report the news
  • The factors that led to his decision to leave Washington behind.

This is the story of the men and women of the White House press corps and the cornerstones of democracy: freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Fleischer presents an in-depth, insider's view on the Washington political arena from a perspective few have seen.

Fleischer writes of his belief that the press has a bias in Washington. It's not a question of partisanship or press-driven ideology. Instead, it's a focus on conflict, particularly if it's a conflict they can attach to the President. It's the nature of the White House press corps, regardless of who's in power. The members of the White House press corps are masters at being devil's advocate, able to take with passion the opposite side of whatever issue the President supports. Fleischer's job was to calmly field their questions, no matter how pointed.

Taking Heat is an introspective exploration of the top political events in the first half of the Bush administration, as well as the candid observations of a professional who stood in the bright lights of the world stage.

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Reviews (21)

1-0 out of 5 stars You Can Take the Spinner out of the WH, But He Still Spins
The book was a huge disappointment. I'd suggest that it was ghost written by Karl Rove, but Rove would surely be craftier about his unadulterated Bush-envy. Rather than insight and introspection, the book's main purpose seems to be to dismiss criticism of Bushand then explain it away with syrupy words of praise for the author's former boss.

The chapter about the day of September 11th, should have been the most insightful and telling about what happened at the epicenter of power...instead it was spiced with explanations of why President Bush sat reading My Pet Goat, while America was under attack..."Under inconceivable pressure, Bush maintained his composure and sent an image of calm to the nation." (page 140). - I'm not making this stuff up. That was a direct quote from the book explaining Bush's deer-in-the-headlights look that we've all seen as he was reading to the kids in Florida.

I was looking forward to reading this book and again, it was just a disappointment. Maybe Fleischer is hoping to run for office or needs to ingratiate himself even more in certain circles.Or maybe he really believes what he wrote, but to me the book is just nonsense. Sorry. Two thumbs (or maybe 'goat paws') way down.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent insights on the pressures of the media
Ari Fleischer was the White House Press Secretary for 2 1/2 years (January 2001 to July 2003) and now writes to tell about his experiences. Ari does a great job giving us a sense what the daily pressures were like, facing the media day after day. The point Ari makes time and again is that the media try to trick him into saying things he doesn't mean or aren't accurate, trying to stir up conflict, because "without conflict, there is no news".

One of the other points Ari focuses on is how slanted the 'mainstream' media are towards the Democratic viewpoint, and I couldn't agree more. I mean, how believable is CBS, NBC, ABC, the Washington Post and the New York Times (just to name those as an example) when you realize that 90 percent or so (as found when surveyed) of those journalists vote Democratic...

Ari tells great inside stories such as what it really was to be with the President when 9/11 happened. Missing, though, is more insight into Ari's background growing up (he describes his Democratic upbringing until he became a Republican shortly after finishing college in a mere couple of pages). Hilarious are his tellings about Helen Thomas, the notorious "dean" of the White House press and self-admitted anti-Bush all the way. Turns out that Ari actually has a lot of respect for her and a great personal relationship outside of the media spotlight.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ari give a presentation last Fall here in Cincinnati, and was really impressed with the man. That was before this book came out, and having read his book, I am even more impressed with him. This is a terrific book, and I highly recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well written account of the media covering important events
The job of being Press Secretary for the President of the United States is complex and it essential for both the Presidency and the Public that the person holding that position perform the duties of that office well.Ari Fleischer did a great job during very difficult times.He was there in the 2000 campaign and recount, when the new Bush administration took office, during the intense national sorrow and anger surrounding 9/11, the launch of the War on Terror in Afghanistan, and its continuance in Iraq.No wonder he felt burned out and wanted to leave before the 2004 campaign began in earnest.After all, he had a new wife and they wanted to begin a family.I think he did a great job and made a good choice to leave when he did.

What is particularly interesting about this book is that the events it describes are still fresh in our memory.Nearly all of us experience these events through the media of television, newspapers, weekly magazines, opinion journals, and so on.Here, Mr. Fleischer provides his perspective on these events from the inside versus how the media reported the events.The contrast is illuminating.He does debunk some of the popular myths about these events and makes clear what was really said by President Bush and the administration.He is also very clear that the Administration's certainty over the Weapons of Mass Destruction was held by everyone around the world, but was wrong.

He also has several amusing anecdotes about interactions with this or that reporter over various events.Sometimes he gets off the witty line and other times he is the butt of the joke.He was serious about doing his job well, but under such serious circumstances humor was required to keep things approximately sane.

While some who hate the Bush administration have taken after this book, largely without reading it, I can tell you that I have read it.This book is written engagingly and provides a fresh perspective on recent events that are now becoming a part of history.It is important to get a deeper understanding of our time than the varying and often contradictory news reports.Historians, especially those covering politics and media, will consult various sources for these events to write their books, and I am sure one of them will be "Taking Heat" by Ari Fleischer.

Good job.

5-0 out of 5 stars There is much to learn from this book.
Notice the trend in how people who gave this book 1 star use a whole mess of generalities in their reviews or bash Fleischer's writing skills. He only claims to be a man with a story to tell here, people, never does he claim to be any more of an author than you or me. You can take comfort in the fact that those reviewers are wrong about that also, as Fleischer stays clear and cogent throughout.

1. If you actually read the book, you find that he does explain many of the controversial issues of GWB's term in great detail. He shows where there were misunderstandings, and usually lays out step by step how that came to be from the White House's perspective.

2. To the person who posted the Helen Thomas review of the book: You might have remembered that Helen Thomas was a senior member of the press corps who showed her steadfast bias in the briefing room with evermore persistant and leading questions. That is, again, had you actually read the book.

And if you want to see her ignorance in action:

MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has not dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --

MS. THOMAS: That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.

MS. THOMAS: I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- INCLUDING US.

Bias, in favor of conflict. That is what plagues our media. Fleischer saw it and confronted it on a daily basis. That is what this book is about.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Lost Opportunity
I read this book hoping to get some insight as to what happened in the first Bush Administration and the way the White House sold the war in Iraq. Instead Ari Fleischer, a man so close to these events, comes across as a Bush loyalist who supports and justifies Bush's policies.It was a waste of time and a lost opportunity to give us some insight and help give us some historical information and honest reflection.

There is no discussion of how they used the press to manipulate the public and sell the war. For example, he claims the President was careful never to link Iraq with 9/11. But he never addresses why 70% of the American people in 2003 believed otherwise. How did that happen?

After leaving the White House, he is still spinning the President's position and blaming the liberal media. Too Bad....

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18. Personal History
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375701044
Catlog: Book (1998-02-24)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 12205
Average Customer Review: 4.12 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women, Personal History is, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history.

It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and restore the down-and-out Washington Post, and the formidable, self-absorbed mother who was more interested in her political and charity work, and her passionate friendships with men like Thomas Mann and Adlai Stevenson, than in her children.

It is the story of how The Washington Post struggled to succeed -- a fascinating and instructive business history as told from the inside (the paper has been run by Graham herself, her father, her husband, and now her son).

It is the story of Phil Graham -- Kay's brilliant, charismatic husband (he clerked for two Supreme Court justices) -- whose plunge into manic-depression, betrayal, and eventual suicide is movingly and charitably recounted.

Best of all, it is the story of Kay Graham herself. She was brought up in a family of great wealth, yet she learned and understood nothing about money. She is half-Jewish, yet -- incredibly -- remained unaware of it for many years.She describes herself as having been naive and awkward, yet intelligent and energetic. She married a man she worshipped, and he fascinated and educated her, and then, in his illness, turned from her and abused her. This destruction of her confidence and happiness is a drama in itself, followed by the even more intense drama of her new life as the head of a great newspaper and a great company, a famous (and even feared) woman in her own right. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance -- a success story on every level.

Graham's book is populated with a cast of fascinating characters, from fifty years of presidents (and their wives), to Steichen, Brancusi, Felix Frankfurter, Warren Buffett (her great advisor and protector), Robert McNamara, George Schultz (her regular tennis partner), and, of course, the great names from the Post: Woodward, Bernstein, and Graham's editorpartner, Ben Bradlee. She writes of them, and of the most dramatic moments of her stewardship of the Post (including the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the pressmen's strike), with acuity, humor, and good judgment. Her book is about learning by doing, about growing and growing up, about Washington, and about a woman liberated by both circumstance and her own great strengths.
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Reviews (113)

5-0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down!
From the opening page, I was hooked. Graham chronicles most of the 20th century from the unique perspective of her family and her own life. It was a life of privilege but not necessariy an easy one. The research that went into book was remarkable. Each paragraph reads like a diary entry of people, places and conversations. It is just gossipy enough to really be deliciously personal as well as very funny at times. She seems to have met every important person alive from 1930 forward and has fascinating relationships with many - including the many powerful men and women who shaped the course of history and the world we live in today. Graham became self aware enough to see her faults and strengths and her the book is a tribute to a woman who grew with her times and circumstances into an example for women and men alike. She is often brutally honest, but in a nice way, revealing her unique style of interacting with others. It was like reading a novel. It is dense, fascinating reading. I highly recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Katie, We Hardly Knew Ye...
Few passings have effected me in the manner in which Ms. Graham's did and I went back to my audiotape of her book to revisit the life of the most powerful woman in American journalism. There are so many reviews, it seemed silly to add another, but loyalty drove me to add my two cents. Born to wealth, shy and reserved by choice, controlled by marriage and the societal pressures of the day, this woman broke out of the preset mold after the long mental illness and eventual suicide of her husband to take the Washington Post to the people and to the Fortune 500 list. She gave the order to run with the Watergate story, to publish the Pentagon Papers, and lived through the pressman's strike. I reveled in her story as read by the woman herself. I cried when her voice broke as she retold the death of her life partner and her regrets about her sometimes limited parenting skills. Katharine Graham crows about her successes and openly admits her failings. Not the usual celebrity self worship and well worth hearing. I'll miss you, Katie.

Today I finished Personal History by Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of the Washington Post.

It's interesting, because Kay Graham is such a legendary figure in Washington, lauded for having stuck it out as the only woman in a man's world (business executives in the 60s/70s/80s).

But yet, she is not the steadfast person that everyone believes her to be. She has to deal with a husband with manic depression, and his eventual suicide. Her one son volunteers for Vietnam, the other gets arrested for protesting it.

She basically suddenly finds herself CEO after Phil (Graham's) death, and almost drowns under the pressure, but somehow manages to stick it through. Even when she does the right thing, she often second guesses herself and is extremely sensitive to criticism.

The book seems to unfold as a butterfly emerges from a cocoon; at first she can hide behind her father and then her husband, but eventually must learn to make things fly on her own.

Towards the end it gets more business-y, with some CEO jargon and discussions about the Post company. I thought it was kind of boring how she seemed to name every single person she ever hired or fired.

But some parts are really interesting. Especially the bits about her childhood, the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate.

I would really recommend this book as a good read. Kay Graham is like Forrest Gump- she's done a little of everything.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This is a very personal autobiography of Katharine Graham, one of the most influential women of the Twentieth Century. Graham begins her story with the tale of how her parents met at an art exhibition, and relates the events of her early childhood. She explains how her father came to purchase the Washington Post, and how she alone amongst her siblings was truly drawn to the paper from her teenage years. She goes on to describe dating and eventually marrying Phil Graham, and how her father came to pass the management of the newspaper on to him. Later, she details Graham's descent into mental illness leading to his suicide, and how it finally fell onto her shoulders to lead the paper. Her most fascinating stories, however, come from her tenure as publisher of the Post, covering the turbulent period from the release of the Pentagon Papers, to the uncovering of the Watergate scandal and to the lengthy pressmen's strike against the Post in the 1970s.

The story is indeed a personal one, in which Graham documents events from her own point of view. As I read this book, I was constantly aware that Graham may have chosen to leave out some details and emphasize others in order to show herself in the best light. But since this is an autobiography, such a subjective account is perfectly reasonable. This is history as Graham would have it told.

5-0 out of 5 stars Helped me view historical incidents differently
Enjoyed the taped version of PERSONAL HISTORY by Katharine
Graham . . . this is the story of how she struggled to make the
WASHINGTON PRESS a success . . . her recollections of the
Pentagon Papers and Watergate helped me see these incidents
from a different perspective . . . but I was most moved by her
account of Phil Graham, her husband and lifelong partner in the
newspaper business . . . his plunge into manic-depression
and eventual suicide were made even more touching by his wife's
excellent job of narration.

I also liked what Katharine Graham had to say at the book's conclusion
about there being "some positives about being old" . . . namely:

Worry, if not gone, no longer haunts you in the middle of the night; and

You are free or freer to turn down the things that bore you and [able to]
spend time on matters and with people that you enjoy. ... Read more

19. More Than Money: True Stories of People Who Learned Life's Ultimate Lesson
by Neil Cavuto
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060096438
Catlog: Book (2004-06-01)
Publisher: Regan Books
Sales Rank: 652
Average Customer Review: 4.64 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Neil Cavuto's world was turning in his favor: joining the nascent Fox News Channel in 1996, he was set to establish himself as one of business journalism's most important players. Ten years after being diagnosed with cancer, though, misfortune touched him again: He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As those closest to him -- and many he didn't even know -- gathered to offer their support, Cavuto became attuned at the same time to the stories of others in the business world who had struggled with serious obstacles of their own. Now, in More Than Money, he offers portraits of the many people who have motivated and inspired him -- and whose stories can inspire us all.

The men and women Cavuto profiles have faced setbacks of all kinds -- from illness to catastrophic acts of God. But every one of them has gone on to achieve great things in spite of the odds -- reclaiming their own lives, and, just as important, taking time out to better the lives of others along the way. Among Cavuto's subjects:

  • Evelyn Lauder, the cosmetics executive who pioneered the pink ribbon campaign after her own battle with breast cancer

  • Jon huntsman, who survived two bouts with cancer to build one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world and found one of the most prominent cancer research centers

  • Richard Branson, the irrepressible (and dyslexic) entrepreneur whose outrageous sense of humor helped him build the Virgin brand into the epitome of cool

Throughout, Cavuto weaves their stories and countless others into a compelling, uplifting tribute to the human spirit and the attributes that help us triumph over the obstacles, big and small, that life puts in our way. Moving, sincere, and wise, More Than Money reaffirms that true wealth is measured not by the sprawl of our bank accounts, but by the grace in our hearts.

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Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars More than Money, More than heart, Truly Inspirational!
More than Money, More than heart, Truly Inspirational!
Reviewer: cathy ellis from orlando, fl United States
Neil Cavuto always seems to speak the truth with his no-nonsense business centered television, but his words go far beyond traditional corporate America in this truly inspirational book. Cavuto has had to deal with some very challenging problems in his relatively young life. He faces each hurdle and continues to take on what life may bring, stronger because of his faith, family and friends. There could never be a better time for a warm, fuzzy, feel-good book about "Corporate America," especially in light of the deceptive scandals and greed of some CEOs in the past few years. Cavuto captures the true spirit of American worker, the loyalty, the drive, the integrity that once was and hopefully will be again. This is a must read for everyone that wants to see greatness in the workplace restored. These are the true stories of people that should be known as no less Corporate Saints. Cavuto is proving to be a role model, again! This book is one that's time has truly come.

5-0 out of 5 stars Will Use This Book With My Coaching Clients
I was drawn to this book because I'm a Coach who specializes in Professional Development and Business Success, helping others succeed despite tough challenges. I often recommend that my clients read books on optimism because optimistic individuals generally achieve more than pessimists. What I like about Neil Cavuto's book is that it presents case studies on how people achieve great goals in part by maintaining their optimism. Also, I know a great deal about the achievements of Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher and British entrepreneur Richard Branson and can vouch that Mr. Cavuto did an excellent job in summarizing their stories. The sections on Kelleher and Branson give me every reason to trust that stories on the others are accurate, too. Finally, since one of my friends is afflicted with MS, and has managed to keep a positive outlook (I am in awe of her), I have some sense of the health and psychological struggles Mr. Cavuto is facing. It is a testament to his strength that he has written this type of book. I will recommend this work to my clients when I believe case studies will reinforce the coaching process.

5-0 out of 5 stars Only in America...
A great book, Cavuto tells some great stories. It doesnt slam the left, it doesnt pimp the right, it just gives great stories about people rising to the top and living the American dream. The trick is these people he profiles did it without backstabbing and corporate hijinks. You'll be glad you read it, I promise.

5-0 out of 5 stars Compassionate, humble and inspiring
At a time in our country's hsitory when we look at every successful CEO and wonder "on whose back did he make his money" - comes this collection of examples of the so many who struggled to overcome what most would say are impossible odds to pursue and attain their dreams. I am fortunate to know Mr. Neil Cavuto personally and each and every day, when I think things are getting too much for me, just thinking of the focus and dedication with which he has overcome his many challenges in life to achieve his lifelong goal and how humbly he compares himself to others like him, who would let no challenge go unmet to attain their goals, allows me to realize just how much I have going for me. Neil is an inspiration to everyone whose life he has touched and I am truly grateful he took the time to give us all a glimpse into the personal lives and sacrifices that so many "heroes" make to attain their dreams. Truly worth the read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
What an inspiration Neil Cavuto and all of his heros are! I left a successful "job" to start a business and this book has helped me tremendously. ... Read more

20. Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400030250
Catlog: Book (2001-11)
Publisher: Vintage Books
Sales Rank: 18574
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

First time in paperback, with a new Introduction and final chapter

World affairs expert and intrepid travel journalist Robert D. Kaplan braved the dangers of war-ravaged Afghanistan in the 1980s, living among the mujahidin—the “soldiers of god”—whose unwavering devotion to Islam fueled their mission to oust the formidable Soviet invaders. In Soldiers of God we follow Kaplan’s extraordinary journey and learn how the thwarted Soviet invasion gave rise to the ruthless Taliban and the defining international conflagration of the twenty-first century.

Kaplan returns a decade later and brings to life a lawless frontier. What he reveals is astonishing: teeming refugee camps on the deeply contentious Pakistan-Afghanistan border; a war front that combines primitive fighters with the most technologically advanced weapons known to man; rigorous Islamic indoctrination academies; a land of minefields plagued by drought, fierce tribalism, insurmountable ethnic and religious divisions, an abysmal literacy rate, and legions of war orphans who seek stability in military brotherhood. Traveling alongside Islamic guerrilla fighters, sharing their food, observing their piety in the face of deprivation, and witnessing their determination, Kaplan offers a unique opportunity to increase our understanding of a people and a country that are at the center of world events.
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Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars An invaluable book
Kaplan, D. Robert, Solders of God (Vintage Books, New York, NY, November 2001). xxi+254. 1 map. Index. ISBN 1-4000-3025-0.
In his own personal account, Robert D. Kaplan, international affairs expert and war-time journalist, chronicles his journey with the mujahidin ' 'holy warriors' - through the forbidden and vicious landscape of Afghanistan. In Solders of God Kaplan attempts to unravel the sheer chaos of Afghanistan through an inter-personal level of analysis, first by gaining access to some of the most important tribal/resistance leaders, and then accompanying them on their Jihad ' or 'holy war' ' against the Soviet Union. Kaplan purposely uses his experience with the mujahidin to help explain the chain of events over the past 30 years which left the door open for the fanaticism of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.
In the 80's 'war-time' reporting was largely focused around the civil war in Lebanon or apartheid in South Africa. Rarely was their a first-hand report from the front lines of Afghanistan, which is what makes Kaplan's accounts of what some journalists call, the 'forgotten war', an invaluable tool in understanding present day international affairs.
During his time with the mujahidin, Kaplan details the lives of these mainly young, devote, and incredibly resistant solders who portray almost superhuman like qualities. As the Sherpas of Nepal have essentially evolved to conquer the highest of altitudes, the mujahidin of Afghanistan have evolved to become some of the world's best guerrilla fighters. Insidious and intolerant as the mujahidin might seem, Kaplan exposes a fissure between the modern day authoritarian Islam of the Arabic world and the more introverted democratic, and egalitarian Islam of the Afghani tribes, specifically the Pathans in the north. Kaplan finds that while they were fanatical, many Afghani Moslems were incredibly tolerant of 'non-believers' and women journalist (who many times felt safest with the mujahidin).
Some of the most shocking pieces of Kaplan's account shows the ferociousness, relentlessness, and brutality of the Soviet invasion. Kaplan describes how the miscalculated and misguided Soviet war of attrition has left the 'footprint' of war on Afghanistan to this very day. Riddled with Soviet landmines, Afghanistan has become a country of amputees, disabling a majority of an already diseased population.
Kaplan's relationship with renowned leaders such as Abdul Haq (Pathan leader; known as the 'Lion of Afghanistan'), Ahmad Shah Massoud (Tajik leader; known as the 'Panshir Lion'), and Hamid Karzi (current Afghan interim leader), allows the reader to better understand the incoherence and complexity of the ethnic and tribal codes that rule Afghani politics.
Because of his intimacy with the Mujahidin, one might criticize Kaplan for romanticizing the bravado and machismo of these Afghan guerrillas. However, rather than romanticize, Kaplan delivers a telling and respectful account of a people and a country 'orphaned by war'.
In Kaplan's final analysis he shifts focus to neighboring Pakistan where the majority of Afghani refugees reside. Combined with past support (financial and political) for the Taliban and a fevering wave of fundamental Islam, seen coming directly from the Saudi sponsored Madrassas (religious schools); an explosive cocktail of factionalism is predicted on the horizon. In a chilling conclusion Kaplan warns of potential Balkanization in Pakistan. However unlike Yugoslavia, Pakistan has a Nuclear Arsenal.

Scott Shadian

5-0 out of 5 stars I hope my Senator has read this book
Kaplan's book should be mandatory reading for every single elected official in the Executive and Legislative branch as well as all of our military leaders. Kaplan's understanding of the forces at play in Afghanistan and Pakistan (which are inextricably linked) is second-to-none. As an Infantry Officer with 6+ months experience in Afghanistan, I can say that reading Kaplan's book gave me great insight into the enemy we are fighting and the relationship that exists between them and their Pakistani neighbors who routinely provide them safe haven outside the reach of the Coalition Forces.
Chock-full of insight that few Westerners have ever been exposed to, Kaplan delivers a phenomenal account of the Mujahideen from the inside-out. I highly recommend this book.

3-0 out of 5 stars The author missed the most important point
Even though Mr. Kaplan goes deeper into the recent Afghan history, he missed the most important point. He does not understand the profound meaning of the life of Ahmad Shah Massoud and the impact of this great leader, with great spirituality and a great vision, in the 23 years of Afghan Resistance. But who does? Very few as always when an important event happens in the world. Good book. Not a great book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, if biased, account of what was up pre 9/11
As an American living in several parts of the world in which Islam has a strong influence, I have always had a bit of a problem with the mainstream categorization of Islam as a fanatical approach to solving normal human problems.

Kaplan, once again, gets beneath the surface of things to discover that all is not what it seems. As he himself freely admits in the new introduction to this edition, he was somewhat biased by his visceral experiences on the front lines in 1980s Afghanistan, in which he shared life and death with the mujahidin. His square placement of blame on the US for its blind reliance on Pakistan to provide intelligence and diplomacy on the war in Afghanistan is probably a bit short-sighted.

Nevertheless, if anyone has any curiosity about how Bin Laden and his ilk came to find Afghanistan a safe-have, they should read this book. The updated intro and new last chapter are good additions in light of the prescience which lies beneath the surface of the original prose.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superb Account of a Forgotten War
The title of Robert Kaplan's Soldiers of God made me pick this book up and buy it and I was not sure exactly what to expect from it. What I did not expect was a magnificent account of the mujahedeens' long battle against the Soviets, a clearer picture of the geography of Afghanistan, its relationship with Pakistan and the dark years of Soviet invasion.
Kaplan's description and stories about the Mujaheedeen commanders as well as warlords and pro-Soviet leaders of Afghanistan brings the reader into a tumultuous period of the country's past. His proximity and access to some of them makes me feel like I know something about them that readers of newspapers or articles on Afghanistan don't.
His trips into Afghanistan and how he crossed the tough terrain made me marvel. Anecdotes of fellow travellers, photographers, translators, and hosts of the camps where they stopped at pulled me further into this riveting book. Superb work by Kaplan, he shares with us the face of a war that many did not bother to cover. ... Read more

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