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21. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
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22. The Jew Store
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23. The Thread That Runs So True:
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24. Daughter of Heaven : A Memoir
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25. This House of Sky: Landscapes
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40. Arctic Homestead: The True Story

21. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
by Kathleen Norris
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0618127240
Catlog: Book (2001-04-06)
Publisher: Mariner Books
Sales Rank: 30847
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"A book of stories, a book of prayer, a book to be read meditatively and well," DAKOTA offers a timeless tribute to a place in the American landscape that is at once desolate and sublime, harsh and forgiving, steeped in history and myth. From the award-winning author of AMAZING GRACE, DAKOTA is Kathleen Norris at her most thoughtful, her most discerning, her best. She gives us, once again, a rare "gift of hope and balance, a place to begin" (Chicago Tribune) and assurance that wherever we go, we chart our own spiritual geography. ... Read more

Reviews (39)

5-0 out of 5 stars This book rings true
My grandparents live about 30 miles from Lemmon, SD (the setting of Norris's memoir). I was overwhelmed at times while reading Dakota: A spiritual Geography. She has portrayed the people as only an insider/outsider can -- seeing both the faults and the strengths of a small midwestern town. What touched me more than anything, however, was her portrayal of the land. This beautiful, striking, and awe inspiring landscape is brought to life by Norris. I had tears in my eyes while reading and felt pangs of homesickness. Dakota can be a slow read, but it is a beautiful book.

5-0 out of 5 stars a beautiful, deliberate book of faith
Kathleen Norris is the author of Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, and The Cloister Walk. She is a poet. Dakota was her first work of nonfiction/memoir. Having read both Amazing Grace and The Cloister Walk, I had an idea of what to expect from Norris's work. She writes deeply personal and deeply spiritual books. Dakota has the same type of feel to it, but the location and the subject is different.

Kathleen Norris's past lay in western South Dakota, but for twenty years she had abandoned both her faith as well has her history. She went to school in New York but decides to move back to Lemmon, SD with her husband. Her book is subtitled "A Spiritual Geography". She writes early on that geography comes from the words for earth and writing, and so knowing that this is a spiritual geography we immediately know that this is a spiritual discussion of the Dakotas, as well as also being about Norris herself.

Norris writes about small town life and small town church, and a semi-history of the town of Lemmon. Since most of the details are told in anecdote, it makes things easier to read. One thing that struck me was how she was comparing monastic life to small town faith and how much things tied together like that. The focus on monastic life and on monks is a theme and a topic that will run throughout the book as well as into her subsequent books. Kathleen Norris may not have a mainstream Christian faith, but she has a deep reverence and respect for the Christian tradition and faith, especially that which has come from the monasteries.

This is a slow moving, peaceful book. It is thoughtful, intelligent, and moving. It is filled to the brim with a steady faith in Christ and in some ways, it moves like time spent in a monastery. I don't know if this sounds like a recommendation, but it is meant to be. I found Dakota to be very interesting and along with Dakota, I would recommend Norris's later book: Amazing Grace.

4-0 out of 5 stars Slow But Steady
I wasn't sure I'd like Dakota because my spirituality leans toward activism rather than asceticism. Kathleen Norris, however, in her elegant, steady way, encourages reflection and thinking, not just about the geography of the land but also about the geography of a spirit-led life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wide open spaces
We have read of the emptying out of the population in selected areas of the prairie states. We have also read of the demise of the family farm because of competition from industrial-style farming operations and consequent over production. We have also read of the destruction of the habitat and other kinds of environmental abuses resulting in the near disappearance of the actual prairie eco-system. Some or all of the factors noted above have resulted in the creation of a new frontier. Kathleen Norris provides a subjective account of the same phenomena in her book, Dakota.

In immediate and human terms she identifies the economic causes and cultural consequences of a broad regional trend. In places her commentary is caustic as she quotes someone who opines that now the farmers are becoming Indians, too, that is to say that everyone in the western areas of North Dakota and South Dakota is becoming marginalized. She describes well the defensiveness of the remaining people who question the motives of professionals who seek to settle in their midst, deeming that such individuals must be second rate or failures of some sort.

Another related characteristic is the inwardness and the creeping parochialism of the community subject to population loss. It would seem that there is a loss of connection to the values of the greater society. She finds that in the course of her observations she has seen instances where families overvalue the children who manage to leave the region and undervalue those who remain to care for family members and to farm. It seems as if the children who stay in the region are seen as losers, diminished beings, who did not cope well in the competition of life.

In addition to the bitterness imposed by psychology and economic circumstances, Norris leads the reader to a position of hope and opportunity in the creation of new American deserts suitable for personal artistic and spiritual growth. For example, deserts make people slow down and take stock of one's surroundings. They may heighten awareness as limitation of sensory input opens out to attention to detail and wonder.

5-0 out of 5 stars A full spirit in the stillness of emptiness
'Nature, in Dakota, can indeed be an experience of the holy.'

From the earliest days of Christianity (and indeed, since the earliest days of religion, period!), women and men have sought understanding in the the large, unpopulated expanses of the earth, far from the madding crowds of urban life. Moses discerned his call from God in the desert wanderings after fleeing Egypt, only to return as the Deliverer; Jesus' first act after baptism was to wander the desert; Mohammed had his desert experience; prophets, sages, wise women and men have always found in the solitude and magnitude of places such as Dakota a spirituality hard to express.

Kathleen Norris, however, does an admirable and enlightening job of putting words to that very ephemeral concept. Combining personal stories with prayerful reflections and mediations, Norris weaves together a book whose riches slowly unfold only for those who give particular attention; however, it yields treasure to even the most cursory of readers, too. Neither Kathleen Norris nor her husband were natives of the land, both having come from vastly different places than the sparsely populated, silent and enigmatic plains. Yet Norris has become a spokeswoman of sorts for the spirituality that is found in a place such as this, the modern equivalent of the early Christian Desert Fathers.

Like those early fathers (alas, not much is recorded about the women who made such decisions in favour of isolation), she has attached both a meditative and monastic framework to her searchings. Being a protestant by upbringing, Norris brings a critical, outsider view to the understanding of monastic practice and the spirituality inherent therein. One of the particular vows of a Benedictine monastic, the variety with which Norris has become most familiar, is the vow of stability--i.e., to remain in one place.

Remaining in one place is important, for in the modern world (as in past times) there is a tendency to see residence in any given place as impermanent and transitory; it is only by becoming wedded to a place that one can get to understand the hidden and secret aspects that are crucial to forming the fabric of life in such places. Dakota is one such place. Those of us who are more urban cultured (and, chances are, 92% of you reading this are urban- or suburban-cultured) tend to regard the plains as empty.

'Everything that seems empty is full of the angels of God.' - St. Hilary

The Plains have become for Norris, quite simply, her monastery -- her place to be apart and to be set apart, so that she may thrive and grow. There is room to move and grow. There is silence to grow into, without the problem of being caught by the noise and stunted. There is an emptiness to contemplate, to fill, to deplete, and to marvel at as it continues its vast expanse.

How much more of a spiritual awakening can one have than to witness the passing of a storm, seen rolling in from miles away, to fill a vast expansive sky, and then to dissipate, leaving the wideness free again to its original stillness? In the contemplation of such natural events, the wonders of all creation become present.

Of course, Norris points out the advantages of this kind of isolation.

'Living in a town so small that, as one friend puts it, the poets and ministers have to hang out together has its advantages. We raid each other's libraries and sustain decent arguments on matters of science, politics, and religion. ...There is a wariness on both sides: poets and Christians have been at odds with one another, off and on, for two thousand years. There is also trust: we are people who believe in the power of words to effect change in the human heart.'

Norris intersperses weather reports with her narratives and essays -- weather being a crucial and vital elemen to the life of the plains. After all, one might get wisked off to Oz by the upcoming twister. Alas, this happens all to often in spiritual development -- one becomes mesmerised by the storm, the power and awesome force, the elegance, or one becomes terrified; rarely does one have a neutral response. How one responds to the internal storms makes all the difference. One spiritual director of mine used to start our discussions with the 'weather report', by which he meant for me to report simply what is happening spiritually, with a minimum of interpretation (saying a cloud looks like Mickey Mouse may be well and good, but is that cloud just floating by or is it turning into a tornado?).

Life on the plains, life on the farm, is earnestly cyclical, as is the pattern of the rule of monasticism. The cycle is never ending, regardless of any events or crises that may arise--the community carries on, and life carries on, always with the long-term in view. The storm will pass, the seasons will pass, the harvest will come, and come again, and again. And still it all remains.

Thomas Merton wrote:

Love winter when the plant says nothing.
Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall
Be silent, they try
To speak your
Name.
Listen
To the living walls.
Who are you?
Who
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Dakota is a place to find the answers. Come find treasures beyond rubies in the empty fullness of Norris' Dakota. ... Read more


22. The Jew Store
by Stella Suberman
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1565123301
Catlog: Book (2001-09-01)
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Sales Rank: 34833
Average Customer Review: 4.73 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Bronsons were the first Jews to ever live in the small town of Concordia, Tennessee-a town consisting of one main street, one bank, one drugstore, one picture show, one feed and seed, one hardware store, one beauty parlor, one barber shop, one blacksmith, and many Christian churches. That didn't stop Aaron Bronson, a Russian immigrant, from moving his young family out of New York by horse and wagon and journeying to this remote corner of the South to open a small dry goods store, Bronson's Low-Priced Store.

Never mind that he was greeted with "Danged if I ever heard tell of a Jew storekeeper afore." Never mind that all the townspeople were suspicious of any strangers. Never mind that the Klan actively discouraged the presence of outsiders. Aaron Bronson bravely established a business and proved in the process that his family could make a home, and a life, anywhere. With great fondness and a fine dry wit, Stella Suberman tells the story of her family in an account that Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, described as "a gem...Vividly told and captivating in its humanity."

Now available for the first time in paperback, here is the book that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said was "forthright. . . . not a revisionist history of Jewish life in the small-town South but . . . written within the context of the 1920s, making it valuable history as well as a moving family story." ... Read more

Reviews (33)

5-0 out of 5 stars You don't have to be Jewish to love this book!
The Jew Store is a wonderful, absorbing memoir, rich with detail about a Jewish family's experiences in a tiny, "dot on the map" southern town. Stella Suberman's vivid descriptions of her Russian immigrant parents' adjustment to this life include unflinching examinations of the prejudices and imperfections of the community they join as well as those the couple bring with them. So much happens to the family in the course of this memoir that the narrative is as compelling as a good novel. The dilemmas the family faces are so convincingly rendered--Where will Joey get the training necessary for his bar mitzvah? Will Miriam marry a gentile?--that I was occasionally moved to tears. By the time you reach the end of the book, you will miss some of these people, as if they have become part of your own story.

5-0 out of 5 stars A POIGNANT REMEMBRANCE
"For a real bargain, while you're making a living, you should also make a life." That was Aaron Bronson's motto. Well, Russian Jewish immigrant Bronson did both, "in spades," as he would say. His daughter, Stella Suberman, has now written a book, and she's done it "in spades."

This warm memoir of her family's experiences as the first Jews to live in Concordia, Tennessee, is vibrant with wit and cogent with commentary about 1920s life in a small Southern town.

Rather than a pejorative title, Ms. Suberman says "the Jew store" is what people really called such shops, businesses owned by Jews who catered to farmhands, share croppers, and factory hands, offering them inexpensive clothes, piece goods, and linens. "They didn't know about political correctness in those days," she said, "that is just what it was called."

Seeing opportunity in the South, Aaron Bronson, his wife, Reba, and their two children, Joey and Miriam (Stella was not yet born) set out from New York City to open a dry goods store. Upon arriving in Concordia, population 5,381, the family was taken in by voluble, independent Miss Brookie.

Reba, who came with a mood that was "like a thing on her chest," was ill-at-ease, fearing the Ku Klux Klan, and people who believed Jews had horns on their heads. Later, she faced what she considered to be an even greater terror: Joey might not have a bar mitzvah and Miriam might be in love with a Gentile.

On the other hand, Aaron took to the town immediately and opened "Bronson's Low-Priced Store," so identified by gilt lettering on the windows. His elation at having his own business knew no bounds; Reba described him as "Flying with the birdies."

Aaron's shop flourished, as did he, becoming the first to hire a black as a salesperson. In years to come, he would make invaluable contributions to his Depression wracked community.

Detente preceded affection as the townsfolk overcame their initial skepticism of Jewish people and grew to view the Bronson family as neighbors and friends. Miss Brookie gave Miriam piano lessons and attempted to enlist Reba in a battle to do away with child labor in the local shoe factory.

Nonetheless, In 1933 Reba held sway and, although Aaron thought of Concordia as home, he agreed to take their three children and return to New York City, where he would open a garage and each child would eventually marry within the Jewish faith.

Stella Suberman has turned a poignant family remembrance into a rich, sometimes funny, always touching story. In addition, she has shed light on a little known facet of Jewish/American history.

5-0 out of 5 stars an unusual childhood
I read "The Jew Store" after seeing author Stella Suberman on Booktv. I was impressed with her, as she is young looking and quick thinking into her ninth decade.

  Her story relates an unusual childhood, growing up in a small Tennessee town in the 20s and 30s where her immigrant parents ran a dry-goods business that catered to the lower income residents. They were the only Jewish residents, occupying a unique niche in the life of the area. Her sunny-natured, optimistic father flourished there, becoming southern in speech and outlook. The adjustment was harder for her sensitive, traditional mother. For Stella and her older sister and brother, there was no question of adjustment, as life in Tennessee was the only life they knew, and they were generally accepted and able to take root.

Suberman is a wonderful writer, as one might expect for a "retired editor" of many years experience. Her style is vividly descriptive, with a perfect balance of the characters' inward and outward lives. "The Jew Store" is a joy to read. Suberman's book deserves the highest recommendation and will appeal to readers of all ages.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great History !!
Stella Suberman is sixteen years older than I am, and much of the action in this narrative takes place before she was born. Call it a full generation before me. My recollections are not hers. I conjecture that the differences are perceptual although it is possible that the sociology changed that much in a generation. My town was in Mississippi, although I went to high school in Gibson County Tennessee not far from "Concordia."

I don't recall a single dry goods store in my small town (5000 people), and there were several, that was not owned by Jews. They were not ever called "Jew Stores" to my recollection, and until this book set me to thinking, I had never remarked the fact that no goyim were in the dry goods business in small town Mississippi.

Maybe that says more about my "raisin'" than about the sociology of my town, but I can recall no overt discrimination *against* jews until I grew up and moved to New York. Years later, it came to my attention that there was a "jewish discount" among the merchants in Mississippi that was not extended to goyim, but that is another investigation for another time.

I am intrigued with the fact that the Bronson family encountered such intense discrimination so shortly before I became sentient. Stella Suberman's account, although filtered through the perception of her parents, rings true, and reads like a novel. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. Assuming that assimulation is our goal.

5-0 out of 5 stars For young adults, wannabe adults, and real adults
Imagine being raised in rural Tennessee in the 1920s, the child of a Jewish storekeeper. Imagine this child, quiet and observant, watching, always watching and listening. She listens to family stories well enough to begin her tale prior to her own birth. It's a different tale of anti-Semitism, one that only someone who lived it on intimate terms would be in a position to tell.
Engaging writing and a believable narrator contribute to the book's value. ... Read more


23. The Thread That Runs So True: A Mountain School Teacher Tells His Story
by Jesse Stuart
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684719045
Catlog: Book (1950-01-01)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 31307
Average Customer Review: 4.55 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

First published in 1949, Jesse Stuart's now classic personal account of his twenty years of teaching in the mountain region of Kentucky has enchanted and inspired generations of students and teachers. With eloquence and wit, Stuart traces his twenty-year career in education, which began, when he was only seventeen years old, with teaching grades one through eight in a one-room schoolhouse. Before long Stuart was on a path that made him principal and finally superintendent of city and county schools. The road was not smooth, however, and Stuart faced many challenges, from students who were considerably older -- and bigger -- than he to well-meaning but distrustful parents, uncooperative administrators and, most daunting, his own fear of failure. Through it all, Stuart never lost his abiding faith in the power of education. A graceful ode to what he considered the greatest profession there is, Jesse Stuart's The Thread That Runs So True is timeless proof that "good teaching is forever and the teacher is immortal." ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Thread That Runs So True
The book was first copyrighted in 1949. The author, Jesse Stuart starts out as a teacher in a rural Kentucky school house. His sister was not able to finish the school year because of some bullies. Jesse, even though he was not of age, was determined to teach in that community. He did and proved himself by fist fighting the school bully in order to get respect from the bully. Jesse soon became principal and then went on to be superintendent of schools. The book weaves the struggles of educators with trustees and boards. Some with little education were controlling the teachers. Read the book to find out what it was that makes the thread that runs so true.

5-0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable Autobiography
The Thread That Runs So True was a marvelously written autobiography with much meaning. Jesse Stuart wonderfully depicted his life as a school teacher. Somewhat near the beginning of the book, the written meaning of the title is revealed when Stuart is singing a song containing the words. The thread that runs so true is play, which is emphasized throughout the book. Yet, there is a more meaningful lesson taught. Contextually, it is evident that the thread is also the teaching profession itself. Stuart's thread would most likely be the country life. After being a successful teacher and administrator, traveling abroad, and numerous other ventures, he returns to his Kentucky home and farms sheep. This is fantastic for almost any audience, students, teachers, and those who were once either or both. It is filled with unbelievable experiences from Stuart physically fighting his students to him being shot at for dating a particular lady. In the case of good fiction, you must remind yourself that the events didn't actually happen. In reading this book, I learned that with the most interesting non-fiction, you must realize that the events actually did occur.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Book
This is the autobiography of a school teacher in Northern Kentucky, he comes across different obstacles some of those 2 churchs that have divided the county almost like opposing armies, violent students and many other problems. Be he still runs a successful country school.

"The Needles Eye That Does Supply'
"The Thread That Runs So True!"

4-0 out of 5 stars The Thread That inspires lives
I read this book while preparing to do the play based from it, and I must say that it is an amazing piece of literature..... each student in the book is so lifelike that when it came time for my friend and I to play the parts of Guy Hawkins and Vaida Conway, we knew just what to do. It is a heartwarming tale....... Jesse has so many experiences with so many people in the book that it makes the story easy to follw and believable..... I would recommend this book to anyone!

5-0 out of 5 stars Classic book on teaching
I first read this book in jr. high and it has always stayed in
my mind. Probably the most important part of Stuart's autobiography is when he finds the key to teaching--make it play, not work. When he realized this, he had very few problems with his students--and these were kids from the hills who were
having such fun at school they would walk there barefoot, or in
the winter. Anyone who wants to be a teacher--or is even mildly
interested in teaching--should read this extraordinary book. ... Read more


24. Daughter of Heaven : A Memoir with Earthly Recipes
by Leslie Li
list price: $25.00
our price: $16.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1559707682
Catlog: Book (2005-04-04)
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Sales Rank: 158826
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ!
Leslie Li's memoir is nothing less than astonishing! Beautifully written, it is a true gem, a heavenly memoir, subtle, mythical, evocative and strong, the real deal so to speak. Li is a writer of extraordinary talent, don't miss out on this one, it will give you pleasure and food for thought!

5-0 out of 5 stars Daughter of Heaven : A Memoir with Earthly Recipes
Author, Leslie Li, guides us through her life as a Chinese-American. You will journey through her ancestry, her relationships with her family and growing up in New York with the strictness of the Chinese beliefs.Well written and easily read, this work gives you insight into the author's life and way of life.This work also includes stories from her grandmother, Nai-Nai and recipes from her heritage.Four stars for Li, a novelist writing her family story. ****

4-0 out of 5 stars Circular Odyssey
I liked Daughter of Heaven and would definitely recommend it to other readers.I enjoyed getting to know Li's paternal grandmother, her father, her grandfather's second wife, her mother, and the food, and significance of Chinese life here andin China.

On occasion I found the juxtaposition of a recipe after an emotionally wrenching chapter a bit jarring.I have yet to try the recipes, but I plan to.And I am curious about the significance of the title.Did I miss something?

The book helped me understand Li and what it meant to be a Chinese-American in the United States, Europe and China.The episode involving Li's buying two bamboo flutes in New York's Chinatown and being told by the clerk that she was like them -- empty inside, with no Chinese culture -- was especially powerful.

Her odyssey has been a circular one -- away from Chinese culture and then back to it for an understanding and an appreciation.And I understood how important her father had been in shaping that journey.His verbal cruelty when she were growing up was hard to take, but somewhat mitigated by Li's travels with him to China and learning of his own odyssey.

Li's book brought home once again how long a parent's reach is and how we, no matter how old, are looking for approval or deliberately challenging them. It's how most of us achieve our own identity. Few of us can simply walk away, but dealing with one's parents
often forces us into a response that we then have to resolve at a later date, as Li has attempted, successfully, I'd say, by writing her memoir.

For future projects, I hope Li will continue to use her own stories. They are compelling -- the conflict between two cultures and the search for self.




5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book about family, life and food!
What initially attracted me to this book in a shop in Zurich was the cover. The title, colors and images made me pick it up. Then there was the inner sleeve, a quick read told me - Hmmm - meeting this person Nai Nai, some recipes, and listening to Leslie Li describe her life sounds like a fun read - but it was so much more.

Daughter of Heaven takes you deep into Leslie's life - that of her wonderful family, of their interaction with each other and the changing world around them. Leslie gives you insight to her world as a child, where she is a little bit spoiled, a little bratty, and somewhat annoyed by her grandmother - Nai Nai and her conservative father. She then returns to these images as a woman, and in realizing what a treasure her family had become to her, finds answers to many questions that have followed her for decades.

Nai Nai - we have the pleasure of enjoying the life (in pages) of this incredible woman - #1 wife of Li Zongren - Chiang Kai-shek's choice for vice president. You get to enjoy Nai-Nai's food (with sumptuous recipe's at the end of each chapter), hear about her subtle yet carefully planned undoings of wife #2, and are witness to her departure from life after age 100 (I was quite sad during this part of the book). You also get to meet Leslie's father, a caring and sensitive man, caught between his stoic traditional Chinese upbringing, his American wife and their children, who are a constant source of challenges and discovery for him.

Leslie has such a colorful family, and does a magnificent job of making the reader a part of her family - it's as if you were Leslie's best friend and she was imparting these experiences to you first hand and inviting you to dinner. I know I want to meet Nai Nai (unfortunately she has passed away), her father, and Leslie herself to probe for more stories.

This is an honest take on the discoveries of life, one which I am certain we can all relate to in some way, as well as getting `a lovely parting gift' at the end of each chapter of a recipe, which brings this book into another dimension - the universal language of food.

5-0 out of 5 stars heart and soul of a Chinese family
"Daughter of Heaven" is a charming and wildly useful book that allows one into the heart of a family and the soul of a Chinese kitchen. The recipes are complex in taste but easy to follow! ... Read more


25. This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind
by Ivan Doig
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156899825
Catlog: Book (1980-02-19)
Publisher: Harvest Books
Sales Rank: 31149
Average Customer Review: 4.95 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This work introduced a major modern author to the reading public. Doig’s life was formed among the sheepherders and other denizens of small-town saloons and valley ranches as he wandered beside his restless father. New Preface by the Author.
... Read more

Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars A loving gift
This House of Sky is an incredible gift to Doig's (the author) father and grandmother. Doig writes with grace and beauty in remembering his life with them in Montana when life was sometimes something to be physically endured. For example, his picture of a small town after a blizzard: 'In the fresh calm, wood smoke climbed straight up from chimneys, until it appeared as if the fat gray ribbons were dangling all the town's houses down into a bowl of snow.'

You must read this book. Then, give copies as gifts to everyone you love.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written!
This House of Sky chronicles the early years of a boy growing up in Montana under circumstances that to others might appear difficult - his mother died young, his father and grandmother bring him up, poverty is never far. The author is a remarkable man whose tale that describes a way of life gone by and people whose spirit and determination are hard to find. This is one of the few books that I have read more than once - even after four or five reads it remains fresh. This is also great book to give as a gift, and the recent hardcover version has a special forward by the author

5-0 out of 5 stars Growing up in Big Sky Country
As a writer, Ivan Doig is something of a favorite son in Montana, and for good reason. His memoir is a rhapsody of affection for the land where he grew up -- the small towns, homesteads and ranches in the Smith River Valley, along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, extending north to the Blackfeet Reservation on the Canadian border. It's also a wonderful and often touching story of a father and son. Born in 1939, Doig begins his tale with the emigration of his forebears from Scotland to Montana. At the end, in the 1970s, he has emerged as a writer with a graduate degree, living in Seattle, with rich and deeply felt memories of the people and the land he has known -- the house of sky.

An only child, his mother dying when he is six years old, Doig is raised by his father, Charlie, who works various jobs, sheepherding, haying, moving from place to place, and for a while leasing a small ranch of his own, his son in tow. Charlie is a hard-working man, with a big heart and tender love for his son. Concerned by a turn of bad health, he is reconciled to his mother-in-law, who did not approve of her daughter's marriage to him, and the three of them become a family that remains together until Charlie's death at age 70.

The book captures and preserves in detail a way of life that has almost vanished from America. Doig tells of growing up in wide open spaces among livestock and wildlife, learning from his father the skills of making a living off the land and surviving against the odds. He attends small town schools, spending the winters in rented rooms, seeing his father and grandmother only on weekends. Much of his time spent with adults or alone, he grows up more quickly than his peers and learns to love solitude.

At 300+ pages, this is not a long book, but it's no page-turner. You find yourself reading it slowly, relishing the rich prose style that captures the poetry in this landscape of mountains, valleys, and plains, as well as the people, with their personal quirks, habits, ways of talking, and often eccentric behavior. In fact, the book reads much like a novel, full of stories, colorful characters, humor, pathos, suspense, and adventures. The vividness of Doig's writing reflects his training as a journalist, and I suspect that he may have been influenced more than a little by the novels of Thomas Wolfe. I recommend "This House of Sky" to anyone with an interest in the West, nature writing, books about growing up, family sagas, ranching and rural life. As a companion volume, I recommend Wallace Stegner's "Wolf Willow," about his boyhood in southwestern Saskatchewan.

5-0 out of 5 stars Through the Eyes of a Master...
Ivan Doig has captured my heart. I felt that he took my hand and led me to this magnificently rugged and sometimes brutal place, and shared all the joys and sorrows he shared there with the people he loved.He tells of his father's great inner strength, his father's love of the grandeur of those wild mountain ranges, deep-notched valleys, and the prairie fields that go on forever. He tells of his mother, whom he lost at the age of six, and the people who come into his life to get him through those tender years of loss, each one a rich, full-bodied character of the West, who leaves an indelible mark on Ivan's life. This is not a tear-stained narrative. This is a proud son of the West, with a deep love of his heritage and the people who made him the man he is today.I'm so grateful he was willing to share his story with us.If you love beautiful,richly-descriptive prose, great narratives, histories of the people who settled the West, please enjoy this fine portrait painted by a master of the art.

5-0 out of 5 stars A special book for us all
Read this in the company of someone else. Every five minutes or so you'll call attention to something in the text -- a choice description, a picturesque flow of words, a bit of hilarity that will reduce you both to laughter. This is a book to be shared.

Doig is a gifted writer with the facility of a James Agee in his choice of words and phrasing. On the page he presents a constant wild, vivid sensory impression, as if you were riding on horseback with him through his beloved Montana hills, sharing the terrain, people and history in ways you hadn't experienced before and couldn't experience anywhere else.

His descriptions show keen insight and attention to detail through carefully chosen, apt simile and metaphor. "I had noticed at Jordan's," he writes about a situation he experienced as a child, "...the boarding child is something like a stranded visitor that people get accustomed to half-seeing at the edges of their vision -- and no one, least of all me, seemed to think there was much unusual about my alighting here and there casually as a roosting pullet."

As a young boy, exploring: "For by greatest luck a silvered ship, high-hulled and pinging with emptiness, rode at the far end of the ranch buildings. A ship, at least to my imaginings. In the years when the machine chomped broadly through grainfields, it was called a combine. Now this dreadnaught stood, in its tones of dulling metal and cluster of idle gearwheels, for me to climb into..."

Here's the epitome of fine writing. You won't find more vivid images anywhere and he doesn't stint at all with language. Like this description of a teacher: "She was buxom, much like Grandma with a half more plumped all around; her mounding in front and behind was very nearly more than the lackadaisical dresses wanted to contain. Leaning forward from the waist as she hurried about, she flew among us like a schooner's lusty figurehead prowing over a lazy sea."

To read Doig's books is to experience Montana and a world long past. This is a book to be savored, treasured and read again and again. ... Read more


26. Good Morning Midnight: Life and Death in the Wild
by Chip Brown
list price: $24.95
our price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1573222364
Catlog: Book (2003-04-01)
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Sales Rank: 105668
Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Award-winning literary journalist Chip Brown tells the story of the life and death of a brilliant, complicated man-an outdoorsman with a troubled soul, a pioneer of the New England wilderness, who sought rebirth in nature only to end his own life on a snowy mountaintop in a gesture of chilling premeditation.

Guy Waterman checked out of his former life as a Capitol Hill speechwriter and father of three at midlife to pursue the passion that promised to deliver him from his demons: mountain climbing. Along with his second wife, he built a cabin nestled in the mountains of Vermont, without modern conveniences of any kind, in order to live purely on the land and for the land, and thereby to redefine himself in the extremes of frontier life. An accomplished jazz pianist who could recite hours of poetry, a genuine eccentric beloved by many, Waterman became the dean of the homesteading movement and the foremosthistorian of the mountains of the northeast. So when he methodically carried out his mountain suicide, those who loved him were left to wonder whether it was the action of a noble man, painfully aware of the encroachments of age and determined to die with dignity, or that of a tragic figure doomed by the code of the Hard Man-a man who could not find the strength to be weak and forgive his own limitations.

Chip Brown writes with exhilarating clarity about the thrill of mountain climbing and with compassion and intelligence about the mystery that begins when a life ends. Good Morning Midnight is a gripping story of survival in nature, with an existential heart.
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Reviews (15)

2-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing biography of a fascinating man
I had read an article about Guy Waterman some time ago and was anxious to know more about him. So, when I learned of Chip Brown's book, I was eager to read it. At the end, I was frustrated. I wanted to know how Waterman LIVED his life; Brown was intent on focusing entirely on why he chose to DIE. Brown makes clear that Waterman was enormously respected and loved by many people. But he fails to explore his relationships with anyone other than his family. Waterman was the legendary man of the mountains in New Hampshire, but Brown tells us very little of why that was true - other than telling us how many times he climbed all the 4,000'+ peaks and writing some books about them, books he describes only very cursorily.
Waterman and his second wife, Laura, chose to live, like Helen and Scott Nearing, a very basic, really primitive lifestyle back in the woods in Vermont, but again Brown describes their lives only minimally.
I love mountains and forests. I love hard physical effort (I was a serious, competitive long distance runner for more than 40 years until arthritis stopped me.) Like the Watermans, I hate the materialistic way of life favored by almost all Americans. And, like Guy Waterman, I completely believe that a person should have the choice of when to exit this world, if old age and decreptitude make life not worth living.
In short, this should have been a made-to-order book for me. But I became weary of Brown's endless psycho-analyzing of Waterman, and in time I skimmed the psycho-babble, looking for the occasional passages which provided information about how he - and Laura - actually lived.
Ironically, Brown failed in the one task he assigned himself - to give a clear explanation for Waterman's suicide. Yes, he couldn't do all he had once done, but he still was very fit, fit enough to climb to the top of that mountain in brutal winter cold to end his life. And he left behind - DESERTED - a woman he seemed clearly to love greatly. Why did so many love such a man?

5-0 out of 5 stars A well-penned epilogue
This very artfully told tale was truly page turner for me. Thick with literary references, Brown's story of Guy Waterman reflects the complexity of a multi-talented individual, appreciated by many, but omniouly least of all by himself.

I came away with a very strong feeling that Guy Waterman was truly a unique individual. His successes far outweighed his failures. But his ultimate failure was to recognize that hardmen mature into wisemen. Old Men of the Mountain types, who regale their friends and cohorts with lessons and values of challenging and living amongst the mountains. No matter how far flung the challenge, a mountaineer's ultimate objective is to return from his/her adventure to share the experience; the cold, the hard breathing, the colors, the wind and their intimate feelings of wonder or survival. Regretfully, Guy's inner-self, his demons, contested his own outwardly generous, steadfast and friendly personality.

For me, Brown's story reacquainted me with several names and places familiar in mountaineering circles. It also cleard my long held confusion between John Waterman the highly acclaimed, albeit daring alpinist, Guy's son and Jonathan Waterman the prolific author of Alaskan mountaineering.

HOWEVER, as an end note the publisher editorial and Author INCORRECTLY stated that Krakauer wrote about John Waterman. The book Into the Wild was the story of Chris McCandless, by J.Krakauer.

5-0 out of 5 stars A beautiful glimmer of a man's interesting life
After just finishing the book I found myself wanting to write the author and thank him for letting the reader into another world, a very personal one, of a man who had experienced so much in the ways of life, love, and death. The book flows with it's constant references to Guy Waterman's own writings as well as great literary works. I felt a part of the waterman clan ,without intruding, after reading the book. It has been a long time since a book made anything so real with out being too heavy handed. The adventures are amazing, both in the outdoors and with the human emotions. A fantastically orchestrated work; Chip Brown has proved himself as an outdoorsman and writer.

1-0 out of 5 stars Total disappointment
I can only hope that Guy Waterman's final freezing hours atop Mt. Lafayette were less painful than trying to get through this book.

If there's a good story in here somewhere, it will take a search and rescue party to find it among Mr. Brown's endless rambling and superflous language. Here's an example, lifted randomly from the third chapter: "Although the Farm was only eight miles from downtown New Haven, where Professor Waterman taught physics at Yale, it seemed a world apart, a kind of Connecticut Shangri-la exempt from the privations of the Great Depression and far from the portents of the Second World War, and impossible, really, to separate from the enchantment of childhood itself, part place, part time, part the memory of that theater of spirits where Mother is forever calling you home from the woods with a silver whistle and Father is ushering you to bed with a lullaby on the grand piano."

Despite his impressive credentials, Brown writes like a novice who is more concerned with constructing elaborate sentences and displaying vocabulary than capturing the reader's interest and telling the subject's story. Shame on this book's editor for not hacking it to shreds.

4-0 out of 5 stars Deadly Silence?
Chip Brown's biography of Guy Waterman is a depressing read. It is also a fascinating, well written biography. Overall, I agree with the review posted here by Lawrence Hauser, which is excellent. In particular, I concur with Hauser's praise of the chapter on Waterman's son John.
What most captivated me about Guy Waterman's story was his refusal to seek help, his belief that somehow his life was uniquely different. He seemed to live with all kinds of denial, including his alcoholism, even though he did manage to stop drinking. His ultimate denial had to do with his reason's for killing himself -- the argument that impending old age would be unbearable. 67 and in perfectly good health? Of course, the only health Waterman had was physical. His deep depression and inability to communicate emotionally with his wife suggest a gravely ill man. But Waterman, an otherwise very intelligent person, refused to seek help. As Brown tells it, Waterman's life was truly tragic. ... Read more


27. Fifty Acres and a Poodle: A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm
by JEANNE MARIE LASKAS
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 055338015X
Catlog: Book (2002-01-02)
Publisher: Bantam
Sales Rank: 20336
Average Customer Review: 4.69 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Jeanne Marie Laskas had a dream of fleeing her otherwise happy urban life for fresh air and open space — a dream she would discover was about something more than that. But she never expected her fantasy to come true — until a summer afternoon’s drive in the country.

That’s when she and her boyfriend, Alex — owner of Marley the poodle — stumble upon the place she thought existed only in her dreams. This pretty-as-a-picture-postcard farm with an Amish barn, a chestnut grove, and breathtaking vistas is real ... and for sale. And it’s where she knows her future begins.

But buying a postcard — fifty acres of scenery — and living on it are two entirely different matters. With wit and wisdom, Laskas chronicles the heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of the colorful two- and four-legged creatures she encounters on Sweetwater Farm.

Against a backdrop of brambles, a satellite dish, and sheep, she tells a tender, touching, and hilarious tale about life, love, and the unexpected complications of having your dream come true.
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Reviews (45)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Dream Come True
I loved this book. Written with warmth and humor, it is the most original and enjoyable material I've read in months. Jeanne Marie Laskas doesn't have to try too hard to be funny. She just is. There are certain repetitions regarding her inner princess, her husband's all pants half-off joke, stupid sheep, etc. and the roo, roo, roo and woof, woof, woof that give voices to her beloved dogs, Betty and Marley, that make the story come alive. She is also not afraid to show her serious side and reveal her vulnerabilities. Mostly Laskas had me laughing, but sadly, there are elements that aren't so funny. Believing at first this would be a "fish out of water story"-city couple tries to make dream of farm living a reality and everything goes wrong-it is quite the contrary. This is a love story-love between a couple, their extended family (family members, city friends, country friends, their fifty acres of farmland, and lots and lots of animals. Bravo!!! I highly, highly recommend.

From the Author of "I'm Living Your Dream Life"

5-0 out of 5 stars A rich and charming story!
The author and her boyfriend Alex decide to jointly purchase a fifty acre farm in western Pennsylvania. After living in the city their whole lives, they take their three pets--her dying cat named Bob, her dog named Betty and his "standard" poodle Marley--and begin country life on their newly acquired property.

Here's a story that's easy to read yet captivating because of its delicious deadpan humor, appreciation of country folk's cameraderie, and deep unabashed love of animals. The reader is drawn so strongly into the narrative that the characters become real people. How wonderful to look at the way in which one person's dream becomes reality even though this particular situation may well be out of the fiscal reach of the average single woman. The strength of the story lies in the fact that it deals with problems common to everyone---the impending death of a beloved pet, the fear of a cancer diagnosis, the whirlwind journey of wedding preparations. Its conversational tone is almost like that of a telephone chat between women friends, ultimately bringing bouts of laughter, tears of sadness, and whoops of joy. This kind of story should never end and definitely merits another book to find out what happens next.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fun & Easy Read
I really enjoyed this story. It was a very fast read. Not the type of book you just CAN'T put down, but the kind that you just don't WANT to put down. The author does an excellent job in describing scenes so you can really picture them in your head while reading. She also evolves the characters quite well which makes the entire story very believable which just draws the reader in even further. It's not a book of surprises and twists, but it will make you laugh out loud!

4-0 out of 5 stars Farm Life From a City Perspective
Having recently bought a farm in the country I had to read this memoir in order to prepare for what I had gotten myself into.

Laskas writes with humor and reality about uprooting herself and her city man to the country. Many stories are humorous like mule buying, tractor trading, weed wacking, and the concept of a fancy French poodle who gets car sick becomming a country dog. Sadly some stories are tragic like when Laskas loses her loyal pet cat and when her neighbor battles cancer. Good and bad all part of real life and written well. So sit back and enjoy your work has only just begun!

5-0 out of 5 stars An honest story of love & self discovery.
I absolutely loved this story, I'm sending a copy to my mom & best friend!! Such a sweet and funny tale of love & life!
Excellent read!! ... Read more


28. Where I Was From
by JOAN DIDION
list price: $23.00
our price: $15.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679433325
Catlog: Book (2003-09-23)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 33022
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours. Where I Was From, in Didion’s words, “represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became that I can still to this day confront them only obliquely.” The book is a haunting narrative of how her own family moved west with the frontier from the birth of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother in Virginia in 1766 to the death of her mother on the edge of the Pacific in 2001; of how the wagon-train stories of hardship and abandonment and endurance created a culture in which survival would seem the sole virtue.

In Where I Was From, Didion turns what John Leonard has called “her sonar ear, her radar eye” onto her own work, as well as that of such California writers as Frank Norris and Jack London and Henry George, to examine how the folly and recklessness in the very grain of the California settlement led to the California we know today–a state mortgaged first to the railroad, then to the aerospace industry, and overwhelmingly to the federal government, a dependent colony of those political and corporate owners who fly in for the annual encampment of the
Bohemian Club. Here is the one writer we always want to read on California showing us the startling contradictions in its–and in America’s–core values.

Joan Didion’s unerring sense of America and its spirit, her acute interpretation of its institutions and literature, and her incisive questioning of the stories it tells itself make this fiercely intelligent book a provocative and important tour de force from one of our greatest writers.


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Reviews (10)

4-0 out of 5 stars Geography, Genealogy, Generations and the Great Divide
Californians think they're special. There is no doubt about that. The first thing a native will tell you upon introduction is how many generations their family has been here. They don't do that in Boston -- where old families know they're old families and don't really give a damn if you know it or not. They don't do that in DC, New York or Toronto. But they do it in California. Those who have been here awhile will tell you exactly how many generations a long while is.

Didion's book is filled with that brand of smugness - the one-upmanship of who's been here longer.
Personally, I don't care.
I don't mean to be too harsh on the book, though, for on another level this is a story not of geography or genealogy but of a generation - the generation born in the mid-to-late 1930s - too young to remember the Depression but old enough to remember the way America "used to be."

My parents are from that same generation, and Didion bears a resemblence to a cousin. My grandparents are of the same generation as Didion's parents. Like them, we also have a family graveyard (ours is still in the family, still accepting members). And my father was an aerospace worker who lamented how things changed in his 42 years on the job, happy to now be retired.

I mention all this because "Where I Was From" had its greatest impact on me not as a depiction of the changes in the Golden State, but as a depiction of how a family ages, of how the older generations pass over the Great Break of the grave and the Great Divide of death. While it may feel true that the land is yours only after you bury your dead in it, underlying much of this book is a sadness that this may not be enough, that not even the graves of the elders shall be respected with the passage of time - that graveyards will be sold, driven over, dug up. That progress will efface all markers.

In retrospect there appears to have been no redemption for passing over the Great Plains. Perhaps there will be or will not be a redemption after passing through the grave. There is here an acceptance of the possibility that all is meaningless; and I was left with the impression that the title is facing the wrong direction. Perhaps it is not so much "Where I Was From" but "Where I Was Going." The promised land of the Golden State may prove to be nothing other than a hustler's illusion, there for the masses to devour only to enrich those who in turn will become the Disillusioned.

4-0 out of 5 stars more about Didion than about California
I think most of the reviewers have missed the point -- this book is not about California, it's about Didion. If you read her novels, the central character is always a woman looking for home and safety and innocence -- Maria in "Play it as it lays" dreams about "the way light strikes filled Mason jars on a windowsill" and brushing her daughter's hair, and Lily in "Run, River" likes to remember waking early on a summer morning and running barefoot through the sprinklers, etc. This longing for home/safety/innocence is the lifetime obsession of certain people (usually women, but not always), and this obsession is EXACTLY the same, whether you're from Sacramento or St. Louis or Syracuse. But the people who lose their home/safety/innocence are the ones who ruthlessly jettison the past (like the California pioneers she denigrates), who abandon people and places without a backward glance. Like Didion did, when she left California and moved to New York City and became a famous journalist. If she had stayed in Sacramento and married a local boy and spent years canning peaches in Mason jars and brushing her daughter's hair, she wouldn't have a subject to write about. Her novels and her nonfiction always tell the same story: I had a sweet innocent life, I ruthlessly left it, now I'm adrift in the big bad world, and I can't get back. It's about her lost innocence, not California's.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book for a Summer read
As a California historian and author of "Southern California Miscellany" I am particular about books written from an insider's point of view. This book fills the gaps often left by writers who do not know of which they speak. The author is definitley an insider who has all the best details down in print along with an entertaining story. This is a wonderful book to read while on vacation.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not the whole picture
Didion writes in her characteristic style -- the clear, hesitant sentences that are reminiscent of James Baldwin. And, as usual, she tells a story behind a story, here about how the golden promise of California was often based on illusion, on schemes that enriches outsiders at the expense of the suckers who came to the state looking for a better life. Mixed in with all this is the story of her own family (the sophisticated New Yorker started life as a Sacramento girl).

So why only three stars? For me, as is often the case with this writer, I felt that she was straining to make a negative point, putting the worst spin on everything. Any time you devote a good chunk of a short book to the story of kids who turn to gang violence and drugs you're going to make a place look bad. Her limited focus on prison construction and other ideas that fail to bring in the promised wealth to locals overlooks the industries that have helped make the state rich, such homegrown enterprises as the wine growing of Napa, the silicon and software farms of Silicon Valley and, oddly enough, Hollywood (odd, because Didion has written so many screenplays herself).

All of these industries -- along with the state's once-vaunted school system, the University of California, the highways, etc. -- may be shadows of their former selves. But Didion refuses to find reasons for hope even in the natural beauty of the place, which is surely without rival in this country. The book is instructive about some of the underlying reasons for California's tough times and surely helps to deglamorize the place, but it ain't the whole story.

5-0 out of 5 stars Where I Was From
The latest from Didion is a complex and challenging memoir, difficult to enter into but just as difficult to put down. It manifests Didion's continued interest in social disorder and unrest, the "telling detail," and how the personal and the social intertwine. On one level, this is a very personal story of Didion's family's history that starts with the birth of her great-times-five grandmother on the Virginia frontier in 1766. On another, it is a critique of American ideals of independence and the story of how the settling of California-and the character of the original settlers-led inexorably to the California of today. Didion is an acclaimed novelist, screenwriter, and journalist who has written numerous articles, essays, and reviews. Those who have long admired the clarity and precision of her prose will not be disappointed with this partly autobiographical, partly historical, but fully engrossing account. Suitable for academic libraries and most public libraries, this is of particular interest to genealogists and American history collectors and is essential for libraries in California. ... Read more


29. Bryson City Tales
by Walter L. Larimore
list price: $16.99
our price: $11.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0310241006
Catlog: Book (2002-04-01)
Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company
Sales Rank: 38800
Average Customer Review: 4.29 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A true story with the heart, the humor, and the humility of a raw young doctor in his very first days as a new family doctor in a little town in the Appalachian Mountains. ... Read more

Reviews (14)

4-0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming...
I have actually visited Bryson City, North Carolina, so this is what attracted me to this book. In addition, I like tales of small town life and I have heard of Dr. Larimore in connection with Focus on The Family.

Woven into the drama of practicing medicine in a community that does not welcome outsiders are glimpses of faith that carry Dr. Larimore through many trying experiences. Some of the characters in this book are hilarious (you will find yourself laughing out loud at the anal angina story).

Overall, a good read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bryson City Tales
Dr.Larimore's tales of his first year of medical practice was an enlightening, heartwarming, funny, most enjoyable read. Once I started to read it, I felt somehow drawn in by it & compelled to finish it overnight!!
I encourage any & all to experience this wonderful book. Dr. Larimore has truly been blessed with a gift for not only story-telling, but in the sharing of his gift of healing, in not only a physical, but spiritual realm.

1-0 out of 5 stars this book makes me angry!
Dr. Larimore's book is a gross misrepesentation of my home.. Bryson City. Making the residents seem to be back woods olfs and idiots! It may be based on a true place but the book is a work of fiction and should therefore be presented as such.

3-0 out of 5 stars For doctors and locals
I read this book because I'm familiar with its setting. (I even took a picture of Horace Kephart's grave about the time Larimore visited it.) Set in 1981-82 (the author is coy about dates), the book describes the accommodation of a newly minted, Duke University-trained physician to the people of Appalachian North Carolina. There are satisfying moments, but the book often bogs down in efforts to wring profundity from the commonplace. For instance, Chapter 24 is largely the description of a romantic dinner presented course by course. More than once I felt I was listening to a long-winded moralist or a jokester having difficulty reaching the punch line. Without economy and proportion, even interesting material loses its punch. The book's spirituality is religion-lite: some prayer in crisis and, in the presence of death, talk of a generic God. Nothing so ungentlemenly as Jesus'words that "no man comes to the Father except through me." Nevertheless, locals and doctors will find this memoir worth reading.

4-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful stories from this first-year country doctor!
This book appears in the fiction section of libraries, but it is really non-fiction, although the names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty!). I loved this book! The stories are often hilarious, sometimes poignant and always fascinating.

We traveled through the Bryson City area when whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River several years ago. It's a beautiful area of the country. I really enjoyed Larimore's description of the beauty of God's creation in the hills of North Carolina.

Why only 4 stars? I guess I wanted more from the end of the book. Now perhaps he could only write what he experienced, but I was dying to know what Dr. Larimore did after he left Bryson City. I also felt that I got to know his wife and daughter Kate and their new baby too.

If you liked this book, you might want to check out Phil Gulley's "Home to Harmony" fiction series about small town life. If you're interested in more small town medicine stories, check out husband/wife team author Hannah Alexander's books. There are two series - start with "Sacred Trust". These are fiction, and with a little suspense and a little romance.

Happy reading and I hope you take the time to check out my other reviews! God bless you! ... Read more


30. Making the Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story
by David Evanier, Farrar Straus & Giroux
list price: $24.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0374199272
Catlog: Book (1998-12-01)
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Sales Rank: 176676
Average Customer Review: 3.87 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The fascinating life of an Italian American icon.

The mob couldn't live with Jimmy Roselli and it couldn't live without him. Roselli is Hoboken's other great singer, and to a greater degree than Frank Sinatra, Roselli maintained his ties to his old neighborhood and its people--indeed, he made a career of those ties. He's their link to their cultural heritage and Italy, and continues to sing a good half of his repertoire in Italian. But this didn't stop his wiseguy following from getting angry at him from time to time.

"When I started singing big," Roselli told biographer David Evanier, "the tough guys were in the front row with the big cigars. They loved me so much they wanted to kill me. But their mothers and sisters and their wives wouldn't allow it." Roselli sang his best-loved song, "Little Pal," at John Gotti, Jr.'s wedding reception. Mobster Larry Gallo was buried with a Roselli record in his hands. "Hell of a guy," Roselli says of Gallo. "Nice, warm individual."

Hoboken's unsung singer feuded with Sinatra, stood up to shakedown artists, befriended godfathers, and now has thirty-six recordings in print. A captivating story of a brilliant entertainer, Making the Wiseguys Weep is also a colorful portrait of Italian American culture from the 240 saloons that lined Hoboken's streets to the bright lights of New York City. ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars The author speaks
I am the author of "Making the Wiseguys Weep." The reactions to my book have been extremely gratifying. Probably the most moving tribute came from the reader who called me the "Dante of the Italian-American community." I think that anyone interested in the Mafia or who loves "The Sopranos" would want to read my accounts of Gyp de Carlo, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana and John Gotti, among many others. Jimmy Roselli is not only the "sweetheart of the mob" but an amazing singer who is considered the soul of the Italian-American community. Martin Scorsese featured his voice in "Mean Streets." After writing the book I was told by a disc jockey in New Oreleans that Norjo's, the Italian grocery in New Orleans, features behind its counter pictures of the Pope, Sinatra and Jimmy, and CD's of Roselli and Sinatra. In addition, it's important to note that Frank Sinatra had only one true rival in terms of a great voice, and that was--and is--Jimmy Roselli. It was a joy to discover a great singer, someone who deserved far greater recognition, and who, thanks to my book and the movie planned about it, is finally receiving it. There are many great Italian-American singers: Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Louis Prima, Bobby Darin and Jerry Vale among them. No one is more unique than Jimmy Roselli. No one has more passion. Check out "Making the Wiseguys Weep" and some of Roselli's truly great albums: "3 A.M.," "The Best of Neapolitan Songs," "The Italian Album," "Jimmy Roselli," "When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New," and "What is A Song." You will never, ever, forget them. Vincent Patrick, critic of the book for the "New York Times," Sammy Cahn, Joe Pesci, who loves Roselli and wants to play him, Chazz Palmintieri, and John Gotti, among others, will attest to that.

4-0 out of 5 stars I am the author of "Making the Wiseguys Weep"
I'm the author of "Making the Wiseguys Weep." The reactions to my book have been extremely gratifying. Probably the most moving tribute came from the reader who called me the "Dante of the Italian-American community." I think that anyone interested in the Mafia and loves "The Sopranos" would want to read my accounts of Gyp the Collar, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana and John Gotti. Jimmy Roselli is not only the "sweetheart of the mob" but an amazing singer who is considered the soul of the Italian-American community. After writing the book, I was told by a disc jockey in New Orleans that Norjo's, the Italian grocery in that city, features behind its counter pictures of the Pope, Sinatra and Jimmy, and, beside the olive oil from Italy, CD's of Roselli and Sinatra. In addition, it is important to note that Frank Sinatra had only one true rival in terms of a great voice, and that was--and is--Jimmy Roselli. It was a joy to discover a great singer, someone who deserved a far greater recognition, and who, thanks to my book and the movie planned about it, is finally receiving it. CNN's "Newstand" and ABC's "Good Morning America" have featured the book with profiles of Jimmy. Check out "Making the Wiseguys Weep" and some of Roselli's great albums: "3 A.M.," "Best of Neapolitan Songs," "The Italian Album," "Jimmy Roselli," "When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New," and "What Is A Song." You will never, ever, forget them. Sammy Cahn, Joe Pesci, who loves Jimmy and wants to play him in the movie, Chazz Palminteri, and John Gotti, among others, will attest to that.

5-0 out of 5 stars Where's the movie?!
I read Making The Wiseguys Weep 4 times. It had me captivated from beginning to end. I was not aware of Jimmy Roselli's music before reading it, but picked it because I am Italian-American and wanted a compelling mafia story. This book paints a picture so vivid of Italian-American culture, the life and times of the "good ol' days" and the amazing experiences of Jimmy Roselli. It made me track down some Roselli albums for his talent is amazing.
I read that this would be adapted into a movie starring John Travolta called Standing Room Only directed by Gus Van Sant. As of now, it has not been made, and I read an interview with Mr. Van Sant from mid-2003 saying that it is a possibility that the film will indeed be made. I want to know any information about this movie! I am unaware of it being in production and if it is, I absoloutly cannot wait to see it! Travolta would be terrific as Mr. Roselli.

3-0 out of 5 stars like casino profits, best used by skimming
This book has much to recommend it. It provides insight into the aftermath of the profliferation of rock in the '60s---the virtual banishing to the wilderness of talented performers committed to, in my opinion, songs on a much higher level than those penned and sung by many of the musically less-than-literate '60s icons. Both songs crafted by Berlin, Porter, et al and the performers who delivered them with depth of feeling and well-honed craft were suddenly visciously shunted aside by both kids caught up in rebellion (somewhat understandable given the times, hell, I was one of them) and profit-driven record companies (sickening and unforgiveable). Gifted singers like Tony Bennett, Roselli, and many others were pretty much hung out to dry as American culture took a nose dive it has yet to recover from ... . This phenomenom, the steamrolling of America's great song book and its interpreters, is well documented in chapter 6 here.

Evanier also casts the light well on Roselli's sentimentality toward wiseguys as family that supplanted that of his biological family, and does a good job of explaining why Roselli kept coming back for more punishment, exposing and analyzing his frailties and rationalizations. He also does manage to take us into the Copa or other saloons and relive the excitement, the raw emotional power, the connection with his audience which made Roselli special. All commendable.

But I must confess disappointment. ... In the book ... the reminiscences of his wife and running buddies get repetitive and old awful fast. The key points are made, and made well early in the book, and after that there's some coasting and page filling. It goes on longer than it has to. As for Roselli himself, what at first reads like admirable [bravery] in standing up to the "boys", blowing off Ed Sullivan, etc., soon turns into tiresome tirades of self-justification and egotism. Ironically, he comes off as petty, mean, and self-important at times as his purported hated arch-rival, Sinatra. (This is not, of course, Evanier's fault) ... I have to hear Roselli sing (which the book did make me want to, a definite plus).

Pay close attention up to chapter 6, then skim like you were a boss controlling the slots in a classy joint in Atlantic City.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Five more stars to David Evanier for writing a great story on Jimmy Roselli. After reading the reviews, some people feel that Jimmy is not the greatest person in the world, but I think we can all agree that he is one of the best singers who's story is a story of interest and it was superbly told by David Evanier. ... Read more


31. WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR: A MEMOIR
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684847957
Catlog: Book (1998-06-02)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 18179
Average Customer Review: 4.65 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Set in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s, Wait Till Next Year is Doris Kearns Goodwin's touching memoir of growing up in love with her family and baseball. She re-creates the postwar era, when the corner store was a place to share stories and neighborhoods were equally divided between Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans.

We meet the people who most influenced Goodwin's early life: her mother, who taught her the joy of books but whose debilitating illness left her housebound: and her father, who taught her the joy of baseball and to root for the Dodgers of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, and Gil Hodges. Most important, Goodwin describes with eloquence how the Dodgers' leaving Brooklyn in 1957, and the death of her mother soon after, marked both the end of an era and, for her, the end of childhood. ... Read more

Reviews (105)

5-0 out of 5 stars Wait Till Next Year Review
....

WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR is a story about a girl growing up in the suburbs on Long Island. What could be a boring life story, Doris Kearns Goodwin makes everything exciting, and a story worth telling. The book is an autobiography of her life. One story of hers that I especially liked is the author explaining her plan for her neighborhood to be safe if they got bombed by Russia. She explained that underneath the local stores were connected basements, large enough to fit her whole neighborhood to fit it. She would bring Monopoly, so she wouldn't be bored, and most importantly, her baseball cards.

The main character, the author, was a girl who thought differently than most young girls. She had many questions on religion, current events, and her family history, all at a young age. She explained things with comparisons like how when the Dogers left Brooklyn and Jackie Robinson retired, a chapter in her life closed.

I would recomend this book to almost anyone. Many people can relate to it. If you either grew up in the suburbs, lived with a sick loved one, or had a love for baseball, you should read WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR.

5-0 out of 5 stars A must read for all!
Doris Kearns Goodwin is famous for her biographies, especially the Pulitzer Prize winning, NO ORDINARY TIME. Her new book, though, is not about someone else's life, it's about her own. "When I was six, my father gave me a bright-red score book that opened my heart to the game of baseball." Goodwin begins to recall the game that was her childhood into this "score book". Although the cover of her memoir, WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR, is not bright-red, it serves it's purpose well. Goodwin writes a "play by play" account of her life from the time she first recieved that score book till the end of her childhood at age fifteen. Underlying it all is her passion for baseball and the New York Dodgers and her hope that they will win the World Series. The author attributes her love of narration to baseball. Every day, Goodwin would recount to her father, using the system he taught her, that day's game as he got her ready for bed. As well as a sign of her father's love, this ritual introduced her to the art of storytelling. "It would instill me in an early awareness of the power of the narrative, which would introduce me to a lifetime of storytelling..." This book is filled with poignant stories about the relationships between the author and her family and friends. It also draws on the many experiences of Goodwin's from her first trip to Ebbet's Field, to her hero, Jackie Robinson. There are stories about her religious experiences as a Catholic, her obsession with James Dean and how, at first, television brought her neighborhood together. The significance of the era is portrayed well. For me, this book was particularly interesting because of my own love of baseball. Just reading it made me long for those hot summer days when major league baseball is played. I can also simpathize with Goodwin over how many times her team came close to winning the World Series. As a Cleveland Indian fan, I have been waiting my whole life for the Indians to be crowned champions. They have not one a World Series since my Dad was born, in 1948. This theme of resulted in the title of her book, a popular saying among Dodgers fans,"Wait till next year". Not only did the story amaze me, Goodwin is an extraordinary writer. Her writing clearly and smoothly tells her story. I could almost hear her narrate the book while once in a while two characters would have a conversation. I could visualize it all too. WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR is a passionate, well written, captivating book. A must read for all!

5-0 out of 5 stars For Baseball lovers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. She paints a picture of her childhood home Rockville Centre that is wonderful. She describes the baseball games with such detail. I honestly could not put the book down. I liked the way she discussed historical events throughout the book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly delightful!
Memoir of Doris Kearns' younger years, as an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Although baseball was her obsession, the story is about much more than baseball - it's about life in the 50's, childhood spent outside or at the corner soda shop, the importance the community had at that time, and the troubles and changes that adolescence brings.

Great memoir, and incredibly well written and told. I thought the book was excellent, even though I glossed over the baseball parts of it! Read this for my library book group, I never would've picked this one up on my own.

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful treat
I enjoyed this book the first and second time I read it. Doris Kerns Goodwin writes about her early years in post-war Long Island with grace.
This memoir reads like a charming novel - the details are wonderful, the characters are people we come to care about, and young Doris is someone you will smile with and cry with.
I've recommended this book to friends and students (I teach adult ed creative writing workshops). Everyone thanks me. If you want a good book by a good author check this one out. If you're considering writing your own memoir study WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR to see how it should be done! ... Read more


32. A Charge to Keep
by George W. Bush
list price: $23.00
our price: $15.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0688174418
Catlog: Book (1999-12-01)
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Sales Rank: 7439
Average Customer Review: 3.21 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

The political biography, complete with life-altering turning points and a political philosophy for leading the United States into greatness, has become obligatory for those running for president--just one more thing to check off the "to do" list on the way to the Oval Office. A Charge to Keep is George W. Bush's offering: a light and breezy book mixing personal and political remembrances that proves heavy on chatty anecdotes and light on policy prescriptions. If you read the last chapter you'll sort of learn where George W. stands on most things, but still not really discern how he would actually run the country. There are no revelations, either personal or political: Bush's wild side and youthful indiscretions, like stealing a Christmas wreath from a New Haven hotel for his Yale fraternity, are touched on lightly when he discusses them at all. A Charge to Keep is so upbeat and positive, in describing the Houston woman to whom he was engaged in college and from whom he "gradually drifted apart," Bush says simply: "I still think the world of her, and our parting was friendly. We were very young, we lived in different places, and we gradually developed different lives."

George W. has been labeled a lightweight by some; A Charge to Keep will do nothing to dispel that notion. It features lots of Bush family memories and numerous mentions of George W.'s famous parents, including letters from his president father. George W. has followed closely in his father's footsteps, attending the same prep school and college. He even belonged to the same secret society at Yale, Skull and Bones. From college it was on to flight school and the Texas Air National Guard, Harvard Business School, and then (again, like his father) the Texas oil business and politics. George W. seems mostly in sync with his father on policy issues as well. "A thousand points of light" is transformed slightly to become "compassionate conservative," which pops up in the final chapter more than 10 times. Readers will come away knowing many of the experiences and events that have helped shaped George W., but his future is still an open book. --Linda Killian ... Read more

Reviews (104)

2-0 out of 5 stars Simple
Like many another left-leaning moderate (or right-leaning liberal, or whatever the hell I would call myself these days), George W. Bush wasn't my choice for president, but with smarmy Al Gore his only serious opponent, his victory (if that's what you'd call it) didn't distress me too much. After all, if the lesser of two evils (Gore) is still evil, the greater of two evils (ahem) is almost comforting. If Forrest Gump's famous observation is correct ("Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get"), one could argue that the greater of two evils is preferable. You know exactly what you're gonna get, and if you get something you didn't expect, chances are you'll be pleasantly surprised rather than bitterly disappointed at having been betrayed.

It's a tradition of sorts to give any newly elected leader the benefit of the doubt, and in that spirit, I read Georgie boy's book (albeit three years into his presidency). Why not? After all, it's a quick read.

Of course, it's a "quick read" because, like all "books" supposedly written by presidential candidates prior to seeking the presidency, it's really not a book at all. It's campaign material, propaganda meant to paint the candidate in the flattering colors of his own choosing, and it's no surprise that Bush's tract does not challenge the established formula of this peculiar genre. It's also no surprise that Bush probably didn't write his book. He doesn't strike me as much of a reader, much less a writer, and one can take it for granted that he spent most of the four years preceding his "election" working on his 2000 campaign, not writing drafts of any memoir.

This is the work of Karen Hughes, the credited co-author, and, in one sense, she does a brilliant job. Even though it's unlikely Bush spent even one moment behind a word processor or typewriter, Hughes nontheless captures his spirit in her prose, creating a book very much like the one Bush would write if he were to bother with such things. The sentences are all short and to the point, never complex enough to require a comma, all reinforcing the image of Bush as a very simple man. Simplicity has its virtues, but one can argue whether it's the best virtue for a man whose job requires day-to-day decisions regarding enormously complex life or death matters, but, like Reagan, his simplicity is part of whatever charm he has.

The prose never reveals much, certainly nothing that would indicate Bush was anything other than what he claims to be (which is?), and is as instantly forgettable as similar books by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and other seekers of the highest office in the land. This is political propaganda and nothing more, but who would think it was anything but?

1-0 out of 5 stars Bush is more intelligent than a turnip
That's about all that one will conclude upon finishing this book. When I was done, I felt like I had consumed solid air, or fat-free cream cheese.

5-0 out of 5 stars bush rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think presadent Bush is the best presadent this county had ever had! In this book he tells how he made ot to be the govener of texas, after he was the owner of the Rangers even though they didn't do no good when he owned them even though they had Arod Pudge, and Juan Gonzalez, but it don't matter none compared to him as a presadent! HE is the best we ever had maybe except for Regan; I exspechially like the discusion about the painting he has in his offise the one of the old west battle seen that that one president had with the mustash, Roseavelt i believe. That was cool and very inspring! I think Bush is going to win again because he gave us that $400 last time, and noone else ever did that, I am glad becuase I was able to pay of my tv from rentacenter because of it I am greatful. I don't know why anyone would be against him anyways, exspecialy is you are a Christian, the world is a better place on acount of his being presadent and people should look at that. the only thing I did'nt like was that there was'mt enouf pitchers of him and his family, especially his cute girls, but they dont look like they take after him. He is a great man as this book showed and should be read by all Americans God bless the USA, love it or leeve it!

5-0 out of 5 stars Classic
While some former members of the Army Reserves will be quick to apologize for Bush going AWOL - likely they, too, shirked their duties and made a mockery of our proud military - this book goes to great lengths to outline why many of the other less deserved criticisms of our esteemed president are invalid. In Bush's own words, we see that he has a lot to say, and he offers us much to think about.

An interesting and intelligent read (even those unable to understand Ulysses should be quick to grasp this), Bush offers logical arguments and sound examples to counter the "dumb" accusation. Bush is not dumb. His experience speaks for itself. He, like some ex-Reservists, was not a respectable member of the United States Armed Forced, but dumb he wasn't. Bush earned everything he has, and he should be praised for it.

Bush is the greatest American president of the 21st Century.

5-0 out of 5 stars BUSH IS AN UNDERRATED TOP GUN FIGHTER JOCK
I finally read this book, and did so in light of the mounting criticism of Bush as "dumb," along with attempts to discredit his military career. My sense at this point is to look at the available empirical evidence. George W. Bush was admitted to Yale and graduated in four years. He was a legacy, so getting in was assured, but many students do not graduate in four years, as he did. This is to his credit. His grades have not been released, but most of those who were there say he was about a B- student, which is quite respectable.

Next, he entered the U.S. Air Force, their version of the Reserves, which in his case was the Texas Air Guard. Perhaps he received some favoritism over others in getting a slot, but the evidence is he did not. The fact is, he was willing to "go jets," which few were willing or qualified to try out for. Bush went through a series of rigorous tests and passed them. He entered flight school, where the "wash out" rate is about 80 percent. He passed. He entered flight test, where the wash out rate is quite high. He passed. He qualified and flew jets. Here is the thing: People make movies and write books about this experience. "The Right Stuff", "Top Gun", "An Officer and a Gentleman" are all about exceptional young men who walk this trial by fire. Bush is one of them. He is a Top Gun - no, not the actual guys who are selected for Miramar by the Navy, not a Blue Angel, not Chuck Yeager, but he is one of an elite group of awesome Americans.

When Fleet Week comes around, and I see these pilots walking around town, my first reaction is that by virtue of having those wings they are top flight individuals, outstanding people. I do not ask whether they flew in combat or missed some drills. I know if they are wearing that uniform and have those wings they are studs. Bush was one of those men.

Apparently Bush missed a few drills in 1973 after five years in the Air Force. I was in the Reserves and missed some drills. Everybody misses drill occasionally, for a million valid reasons, none of which means we were AWOL. Bush was never AWOL.

One other thing. Bush never flew in Vietnam, but I bet he is glad of this. Had he, no doubt his detractors would say he dropped napalm on villages and killed civilians.

Bush applied to the University of Texas Law School and was turned down. So much for having every door opened to him because of his "daddy," who had been a Texas Congressman and two-time Texas Senate candidate. Bush applied to the Harvard Business School. Guess the percentage of people who are not accepted. 80 percent? 90? Point made.

Bush was accepted. He was not a Harvard legacy. It would appear he got in on merit, being a Yale grad of good grades and a fighter pilot. Their conclusion: This guy has an impressive background. He studied the courses, and graduated with an MBA. How many enter the MBA program and wash out? Many do.

Accordingly to the not-Republican Atlantic Monthly, Bush has never lost a political debate. He has squared off with some tough characters, like Ann Richards and Al Gore.

Dumb? This issue has has been studied and analyzed. The conclusion? Bush is no dummy.

STEVEN TRAVERS
AUTHOR OF "BARRY BONDS: BASEBALL'S SUPERMAN"
STWRITES@AOL.COM ... Read more


33. How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
by Toby Young
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0306812274
Catlog: Book (2003-05-01)
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Sales Rank: 20265
Average Customer Review: 3.13 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again meets The Bonfire of the Vanities, as told by...a male Bridget Jones? And it all really happened. In 1995 high-flying British journalist Toby Young left London for New York to become a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Other Brits had taken Manhattan--Alistair Cooke, Tina Brown, Anna Wintour--so why couldn't he?

But things didn't quite go according to plan. Within the space of two years he was fired from Vanity Fair, banned from the most fashionable bar in the city, and couldn't get a date for love or money. Even the local AA group wanted nothing to do with him.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is Toby Young's hilarious and best-selling account of the five years he spent looking for love in all the wrong places and steadily working his way down the New York food chain, from glossy magazine editor to crash-test dummy for interactive sex toys. A seditious attack on the culture of celebrity from inside the belly of the beast, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is also a "nastily funny read." (USA Today) ... Read more

Reviews (70)

2-0 out of 5 stars How to lose interest and return a book
When I first browsed through this book, I thought it should be an enjoyable expose on the more ridiculously aspects of the New York publishing\party scene - something rich in insight and satire. Toby seemed the stuff of the always struggling, but always failing, guy that I know that I can definitely relate to (at least the always failing part). I was thoroughly disappointed. As much as I wanted to like this book, I found it extremely repetitive and not particularly interesting. Toby, for as much as he bemoans the lack of a meritocracy in America, seems to complain mostly about success not being simply bestowed upon him. This ironic twist seems completely unintentional and grows tiresome very quickly. Whether he's talking about his social life or his professional life, it's the same theme. Having said that, there are some very amusing points to the book (the dating focus group is worth a novel in itself). Toby is at his best when he turns his talent outward and describes the world in which he lives, rather than himself. Unfortunately, there's not nearly enough of that to hold my interest. Worth a read if you have an extra gift-certificate to burn.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bitter, sad, occasionally hilarious but never boring
It is very rare these days that I find a book engrossing enough to read in one sitting and which also makes me laugh out loud. Toby Young, who has an unerring ability to focus on his own shortcomings, does an excellent job of explaining exactly how not to get on in New York. His waggish personality, a healthy appetite for drink and a large stock of off-colour jokes -- all attributes which would serve you well as a journalist in London -- ensure he makes a total mess of pretty much everything he does in Manhattan, the mothership of all that is politically correct in the United States. Indeed, when Vanity Fair boss Graydon Carter fires Young, he tells our hapless hero that he has a brown thumb. "Everything you touch turns to ****," he explains with a laugh. Young is the squarest of pegs in a world where all the holes are round and to make matters worse, a friend of his who went to Los Angeles at the same time strikes immediate and lucrative success. Young is also very funny about his total lack of success with American women, largely because they quickly realise he is broke (and has quite a few complexes, as well as an impressively large collection of appalling pick-up lines). Two-thirds of the way through, the book suddenly becomes more serious as Young realises he has hit rock bottom and starts groping for a way out. To say much more would give too much away but it's well worth sticking through to the end.

1-0 out of 5 stars Get it from the libary to bypass author's royalties!
I guess it's easier to like a memoir if you like the writer, but unfortunately, Toby Young appears to be 1) shallow as hell, and 2) harboring delusions of grandeur. Not an attractive combo. Remind me again why I would want to read about him?

3-0 out of 5 stars a fun read
This is an enjoyable book, although I take issue with Young's obsession with the good old days of New York journalism. Miniver Cheevy, anyone? On the other hand, by most accounts the Vicious Circle was full of self-absorbed, backbiting alcoholics, so he would probably fit right in.
One funny thing is that he seems to think he has skewered Graydon Carter but Carter actually comes off looking good, like a relatively decent human being, given the context.

5-0 out of 5 stars Truth is ugly
I hadn't read this book for a while, and I saw it laying on the floor, and I picked it up. I read the whole thing agian. It was brilliant. For anyone who has wroked in New York and worked in publishing, these stories have a ring of truth to them. Lizzie Grubman is a creep. Tina Brown is a creep. Most of these shady magazine characters have very little redeeming qualities. They have no soul. They will have to deal with their empty lives down the road. Toby Young is funny because he believed in the myth of America. Sure there are rags to riches stories all the time. More often there is not. Toby Young is a valid writer. This book should be read over most of the crap that is being published right now. ... Read more


34. Home and Away : Memoir of a Fan
by Scott Simon
list price: $14.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0786886528
Catlog: Book (2001-06-13)
Publisher: Hyperion
Sales Rank: 518101
Average Customer Review: 4.55 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The #1 Los Angeles Times bestseller from the host of NPR's Weekend Edition -- "absolutely spectacular-wise and intimate, often funny, always touching" (Scott Turow) -- now in paperback.

In a beautifully written narrative that runs from childhood to adulthood through times of war and peace, Scott Simon movingly tracing his life as a fan -- of sports, theater, politics, and the people and things he holds dear.

Sports Illustrated columnist Ron Fimrite says of Home and Away, "Rarely do you find in books of this genre a clearer look into mysteries and confusions of childhood . . . moving and often amusing portraits . . . insights into the complex and often corrupt world of Chicago politics, the city being this book's true protagonist. There are compelling scenes from Simon's years as a war correspondent, roving reporter, and political operative . . . There is also an emotional account of Michael Jordan's last championship season with the Bulls that is a book within a book . . .

"The writing is uniformly superb. This is, in fact, a memoir of such breadth and reach it compares favorably with another book that is allegedly about the nature of sports allegiance, Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes. And that, believe me, is saying something." ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars A gem!
I'm not a sports fan and I absolutely LOVED this book. I've been an avid listener of Scott Simon's Weekend Edition for many years and have always enjoyed his view of the world. When I heard he had a book coming out, I trotted out to buy it (locally, not on Amazon where I could have saved some money - groan!) and read it on a beach vacation. I couldn't put it down. I so thoroughly enjoyed this book! It was a delight to read. (Hey - when I was in Chicago last week for business, I called up an old college friend and convinced him to go with me to a Chicago Cubs game - and had a blast!) Thanks, Scott, for the book, and hurry up and write more!

5-0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, lives up to the hype and more!
The reviews are starting to come in now and I don't want to hyperbolize. I picked up Home and Away because I had heard some good things about it and liked the few pages I read in the bookstore. I'm in a big baseball reading mode right now and Home and Away seemed to be definitely up my alley. After finishing it last night, I can say without hesitation that this is the best book I've read in a long time. Yes, it is a memoir of a fan but much much more. Simon is a gifted writer and his stories: the heartbreak of the Cubs, decline, ascension and decline of the Bears and the once in a lifetime experience of rooting for the Michael Jordan Bulls are all beautifully crafted - Simon puts you there, at Wrigley, Comiskey, Soldier Field, Chicago Stadium and the United Center, but he does so much more. He tells about the many setbacks suffered as boy, living in a loving but dysfunctional family, he brings the misery of Sarajevo and Grenada home through his experiences as a reporter in the same vivid detail as he describes the many games he has seen. He also writes about his transformation from 60s radical to 80s and 90s war correspondent. But he also, without gushing, illustrates how/why sports play such a seminal part in his and our lives. We meet fascinating people - Jack Brickhouse, Leo Durocher, Luc Longley, Mike Ditka, etc. Additionally, this book is great for its uniqueness. Somehow Simon brings all of these diverse elements together in a way where everything is connected. I'm not a Chicagoan but imaginine how moved one is when sharing Simon's memories. Above all, one does not have to be a sports fan to derive great pleasure - it is truly a human story without the cliche. We will be hearing a lot more about this book.

3-0 out of 5 stars Great Narration, Bad Facts
Any sports fan (especially from the Chicago area) will definitely enjoy this story of growing up as a fan in Chicago. The only thing that keeps me from giving this book 4 stars is the inaccuracies. In several instances, Simon gives incorrect scores, dates and places. You would think it would be easy for someone in his position to have the correct info, so this unfortunately distracted me from an otherwise fine read.

5-0 out of 5 stars For any sports fan!
I admit, as a transplanted Chicagoan and die-hard sports fan, its hard to be objective about this book. Scott Simon cleverly weaves his own personal remembrances of growing up in Chicago, into an historic timeline of sports and politics, which amounts to must read for anyone who wants a true glimpse into the soul of 'the city with big shoulders'.
I laughed hard and often at the family anecdotes, its easy to see where Simon gets his sense of humor, thrilled at reliving the Cub season of '69 and saddened, once again, at Brian Piccolo's courageous battle with cancer.
After finishing 'Home and Away', I was compelled to send copies to a few of my sports buddies...less fortunate souls having grown up in cities of less character.
I am a fan of the city, its teams (except the Sox...go Cubbies), and this writer ,who embodies it all so well in this book.
Bravo.

2-0 out of 5 stars Starts Superbly, Oozing with Sap by the End
I picked up Home and Away because I like to read books on sports by sophisticated minds. And initially, I wasn't disappointed. Scott Simon delivers a vivid depiction of his childhood and his childhood love for sports, offering touching and revealing personal moments in the process. When he discusses his father and stepfather, we see the fan in a context larger than just the game, which I appreciated and admired.

But after the stepfather's criminal conviction, the narrative transitions into the story of the recent Bulls dynasty. Here is where book's self-indulgent love for Chicago turns to insufferable, sentimental cheese. In addition to slathering extra layers of sentimental goo on the Bulls--more than Simon previously appropriated for either Butkus's or Ditka's Bears--Simon covers ground already covered expertly and thoroughly by David Halberstam in Playing for Keeps. Only unlike Halberstam, Simon all but kisses Michael Jordan's behind, assessing no blame and even offering excuses for the star's occasional bad behavior. To me, the blatant sycophancy (is that a word?) on the part of the author makes me wonder if he willfully compromised his journalistic integrity or if that occurrence was inadvertant. Either way, I was thoroughly disappointed and had to stop reading. As do most Chicagoans, Simon simply got unBearably self-indulgent in his love for his city. ... Read more


35. Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of the Baroness De Pontalba
by Christina Vella
list price: $34.95
our price: $34.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0807121444
Catlog: Book (1997-08-01)
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Sales Rank: 456838
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Against a richly woven historical background oftwo centuries and two vivid societies, Christina Vella unfolds the compelling story of the marital alliance between the Almonester and Pontalba families of Louisiana. Born into wealth in New Orleans in 1795, Micaela Almonester was married into misery in France sixteen years later. Intimate Enemies gives the amazing true account of this resilient woman’s life—and the three men who most affected its course: her father, Andrés, an illustrious New Orleans builder in whose footsteps she eventually followed with great distinction; her father-in-law, Xavier, who for more than twenty years tried to destroy her marriage and seize control of her fortune, eventually shooting Micaela in violent despair; and her husband, Célestin, whom, despite all, she compassionately supported until her death. Adapted as an opera in 2003 by the New Orleans Opera, Intimate Enemies has captured the imagination and admiration of readers everywhere. ... Read more

Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars an exhaustively researched work that remains easily readable
Vella brings to life with splendid detail the life in New Orleans and Paris in the 1800's. Vella is unquestionably a tireless scholar who has dedicated much time and passion into assimilating an astounding amount of archival materials to bring to life the realities and sensibilities of the different ranks of the aristocracies. Sophisticated, realpolitic, Machiavellian. A wonderful work and a great read. This is how history should be written (for non-academia). Well footnoted & bibliographed.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Detailed Account of a Dynamic Woman
Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of the Baroness de Pontalba, by Christina Vella, is one of the best books that I have ever read. I took Professor Vella's class at Tulane University in the Spring of 2000. This book was the basis of the class. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in thorough documentation of facts about a dynamic woman and her family, as well as two great cities, New Orleans and Paris.

5-0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read
This book has been recommended to me by a tour guide while I was paying New Orleans a short visit. I bought it together with Gwendolyn Midlo Hall's excellent "Africans in Louisiana", and, read one after another, starting with Hall, the books give a pretty cool picture of what New Orleans (and Louisiana, for the matter) were about during the 18th century. Although Gwendolyn Hall is by no means a bad writer (on the contrary), Christina Vella definitely is the more compelling read.

Her first few chapters rock, especially the ones about the old Almonester and his fights with the Cabildo, followed by the biography of the old Pontalba. Those are the best chapters of the entire book. Vella did a fantastic job with placing those characters in a broader historical setting. Beautifully written, she doesn't hesitate to give psychological explanations to those men's actions, and does so convincingly. Vella even allows herself to comment ironically on certain developments, or (dis)approve of the actions of her characters, which is pretty rare in modern historical scolarship. (Why?)

The scene then shifts from New Orleans to France, and the story becomes one of a superweird triangle relationship between Micael, Celestin, and Celestin's father, with a pretty dramatic ending. The broader historical perspective shifts accordingly, from the organization of a colonial society to a gender study of early 18th century France. What were the (im)possibilities of a unhappily married woman in this society? Micael, by her extraordinary personality, pushes the boundaries of the possible to the extreme.

The last few chapters of "Intimate enemies", where Christina Vella retraces the building activities of Micael in Paris and New Orleans, are the weakest. The organization of those chapters is sometimes sloppy and unfocused, and although much space is devoted to details regarding the architecture and construction of the Hotel Pontalba and the New Orleans buildings, one senses that Vella doesn't master these themes enough to present them to the reader in a comprehensive fashion. Also, the emphasis on the architecture unfortunately took away some of the focus from the biographical stuff, that in the later years doesn't get less interesting. After having given Micael's father a chapter, her sons would have deserved one as well, especially Celestin Jr. since he became quite an important public figure, but also the other two (How exactly did Micael's sons get in touch with their spouses? How did they relate to Micael after marriage? Why did Gaston remain single his whole life? Was he gay? etc.).

Notwithstanding, this book was a pleasant and thoughtprovoking journey. I'm recommending it to all my friends.

5-0 out of 5 stars A book in which 19th century New Orleans comes alive!
Growing up in New Orleans, I was always familiar with the name Pontalba and the row apartments flanking Jackson Square that bore the name. Pontalba, Almanester, de la Ronde, Miro, Pere Antoine: these were names that every student in New Orleans schools learn. Yet, now I feel as if I know each of them on a personal basis, as if I have actually met them. In the process, I have come to know the city of New Orleans in th 19th century, the same city which I have always known and loved in the 20th. Christina Vella brings to life people who have been dead and gone for over a hundred years. Only through the meticulous research that she has done can these ghosts be brought back to life. Vella has done a superb job in this endeavor. With her vivid descriptions of the city in mind, you can walk through the French Quarter today and literally see the muddy, murky streets of the previous century. You can see the ships on the river carrying the young bride and bridegroom to France. You can see the beloved cathedral as it looked back then. Read Intimate Enemies to learn about the people Vella is describing, but read it also to learn about the city which was their home, about the country that became their nation. Vella has done exactly what every historian strives to do: to bring the past to life in such a way that it is understood and therefore clearly explains why things are the way they are today.

5-0 out of 5 stars An intimate portrayal of an era and a remarkable woman
Too often history book are dry and historical fiction is not accurate. How refreshing it is, then, to find a book by a professional historian that reads like a novel and yet is meticulously researched and beautifully written. Intimate Enemies is a true story but the kind of story of which novels are made. It details the life, travails and (eventually) triumph of a remarkable woman, Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba. In tracing Micaela's troubled life from her birth in New Orleans, in 1795, to her death in Paris, in 1874, Christina Vella provides a rich historical mosaic of the times. One learns in detail about antebellum New Orleans in all its glory and squalor and about France in the first three quarters of the 19th century. We learn of inheritance laws, the treatment of dowries, and the rights of wives vis-a-vis husbands, in both France and Louisiana. And we see Micaela changing from a pliant, obediant wife to an astute woman, aware that her assets are being exploited by a money-grubbing husband and father-in-law. Much in the manner of Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, and Sheehan's A Bright, Shining Lie, Vella uses a single person to reflect the times, drawing the reader into a living, three-dimensional world. Indeed, one of the great virtues of this book is its corpus of notes, which provide the interested reader with additional subjects to explore. The author has even provided a list of New Orleans streets named for acquaintances of the Baroness! Micaela Almonester was an incredible woman, who survived poverty, illness, and attempted assassination by a father-in0law unable to bend her to his will. Vella has brought her to life in a way that makes the reader sorry to see the old woman die and the book end. It is almost too much to expect Vella to provide us with an encore but we may hope! ... Read more


36. The Tennis Partner
by Abraham Verghese
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060931132
Catlog: Book (1999-10-01)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 24398
Average Customer Review: 4.16 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

When Abraham Verghese, a physician whose marriage is unraveling, relocates to El Paso, Texas, he hopes to make a fresh start as a staff member at the county hospital. There he meets David Smith, a medical student recovering from drug addition, and the two men begin a tennis ritual that allows them to shed their inhibitions and find security in the sport they love and with each other. This friendship between doctor and intern grows increasingly rich and complex, more intimate than two men usually allow. And just when it seems nothing more can go wrong, the dark beast from David's past emerges once again. As David spirals out of control, almost everything Verghese has come to trust and believe in is threatened. Compassionate and moving, The Tennis Partner is a unforgettable, illuminating story of how men live, and how they survive.

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Reviews (50)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of how great gifts can't save a flawed life
Abraham Verghese is a physician, a deeply inquisitive student of human nature, and a dark, poetic writer. This book reminds me of another of my favorites, Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It," with tennis instead of fishing.

In the years that have elapsed since "My Own Country," Verghese's marriage has collapsed, and he has moved to a teaching hospital in Texas. One of his students is a young man named David Smith, who had briefly played pro tennis before beginning medical school. Verghese, an avid tennis player, hesitantly asks if they might play together.

Smith, like the younger brother in "A River Runs Through It," is charming, lovable, smart, and supremely gifted in his chosen sport; on the tennis court, he seems to be transformed into a different, and better, person. But his gifts aren't enough to save his life; he's an intravenous drug abuser, in and out of recovery and rehab. When the two men play tennis together, their support for each other, and their anger and frustrations, are all played out on the tennis court.

As in "My Own Country," Verghese reveals his fascination with people from all walks of life. His emotional inquisitiveness leads him to take risks, as when he accepts a junkie's offer of a tour of "his" world. Yet for all his curiosity and his desire to learn to see the world through the eyes of others, Verghese was unable to save his friend, and he was even unable to save his own marriage. Sadly, he wonders if his marriage might have survived if he had invested himself in it as deeply as he invested himself in the minutiae of tennis.

5-0 out of 5 stars For the Love of Tennis
For any student of the game of tennis who is madly in love with the game and its ability to completely take over your life, 'The Tennis Partner' will ring true in many ways. Verghese understands the passion behind the game and how it can draw two men together despite the difficulties in their relationship. Written with a lucid prose, the book sometimes feels a bit raw in its emotion, but you can hardly fault the author for baring his soul about his love for the game of tennis and his desire to share it with his friend, despite his friend's struggle with drug addiction. The book also treads fragile ground by venturing forth into intense relationships between heterosexual men. The book is risky in its integrity as well as its intensity in the author's descriptions of his emotions for his tennis partner. But, best of all, he desribes beautifully what many of us love so much - the game of tennis.

4-0 out of 5 stars Recommended by my doctor
My doctor is an amazing person - not just a great doctor. We spend quite a bit of time talking about life, not just doing the clinical stuff. He recommended "The Tennis Partner" to me and I put it off for about a year before I dove into it. It's absolutely amazing. The depth of the writing is superb and the story captivates you from beginning to end.

4-0 out of 5 stars Anatomy of Addiction and Relapse
Dr. Vergesse has great powers of observation and uses them in a powerful way to record the demise of his young friend through cocaine addiction.

For persons (especially medical Doctors) without intimate knowledge of the power of addiction this should be very informative. For those with personal knowledge (especially medical Doctors) it should also be helpful.

3-0 out of 5 stars Depressing
If life's been a bowl of cherries, but you're curious about the pits, read this. I've played tennis for 40 years, seen plenty of addiction and mental illness, but found this book -- though well-written -- in the end, simply depressing. ... Read more


37. Ava's Man
by RICK BRAGG
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375724443
Catlog: Book (2002-08-13)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 21863
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

With the same emotional generosity and effortlessly compelling storytelling that made All Over But the Shoutin’ a national bestseller, Rick Bragg continues his personal history of the Deep South.This time he’s writing about his grandfather Charlie Bundrum, a man who died before Bragg was born but left an indelible imprint on the people who loved him. Drawing on their memories, Bragg reconstructs the life of an unlettered roofer who kept food on his family’s table through the worst of the Great Depression; a moonshiner who drank exactly one pint for every gallon he sold; an unregenerate brawler, who could sit for hours with a baby in the crook of his arm.

In telling Charlie’s story, Bragg conjures up the backwoods hamlets of Georgia and Alabama in the years when the roads were still dirt and real men never cussed in front of ladies. A masterly family chronicle and a human portrait so vivid you can smell the cornbread and whiskey, Ava’s Man is unforgettable.
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Reviews (56)

5-0 out of 5 stars Rick Bragg doesn't disappoint
This was one of the most enjoyable books that I've read in a long time. I was enthralled from the first page to the last. Rick Bragg chronicles the history of his family, in particular, the grandfather that he never knew, Charlie. Bragg really knows how to tell a story well. He tells stories that on the surface seem as if they are hardships faced by his grandparents during the Depression-Era South. But once you untangle his lovely writing, you discover that the book isn't about the hardships, but about the many (however small they were) triumphs the family shared. I was dreading the last chapter - I would have loved to hear more about Charlie and Ava. Rick Bragg has a gift for storytelling that his grandfather would have been proud of.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE STORY OF A MAN - MAGNIFICENTLY TOLD
Few can evoke an accurate image of the Deep South. Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg (All Over But The Shoutin') does more than evoke it, he paints it in bold Mondrian-like brush strokes and chiaroscuro. The time and place come alive before our delighted eyes.

"Ava's Man" is a very personal history, it's the story of Bragg's mother's childhood in the dirt poor Appalachian foothills during the Depression, and it's a tribute to her father, Charlie Bondrun, the grandfather Bragg knows only through stories and reminiscences.

Of this man the author writes, ".....if he ever was good at one thing on this earth, it was being a daddy." Charlie, the father of seven always hungry children, moved his family 29 times during the depression. He worked wherever he could - sometimes for pay, at other times for a side of bacon or a basket of fruit. The doctor who delivered his fourth daughter, Bragg's mother, was paid with a bottle of whiskey.

Charlie was not an educated man. His wife, Ava, read the paper to him every day so he would be informed. But, he was a clever man - could make a boat out of car hoods, and he played the banjo, and he could dance.

Most importantly, despite the hardships, the deprivation, he knew how to make his family know they were loved.

This is Ava's story, Charlie's story, and the story of a time in our history, magnificently told.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Southern Book Since "Prince Of Tides"
I was born and raised in the very woods and mountains Ricky Bragg writes of, and he makes them seem new and magical even though I've seen them every day of my life.
I worked in a Textile Plant fresh out of high school and didn't make much, but once a month I went to Salvation Army to buy 25 cent books, and I found "All Over but The Shoutin" and knew I'd never find a author so close to home.
Ava's Man, made me cry and curse and run to my Daddy when I needed to know which river or road Ricky was talking about, and my Daddy would alwasy swell up and explain to me where it was and add a short story about it.
This book isn't a fancy story about huge white houses and sprawling orchards, its a simple book about a simple man that would other wise be forgotten.
Charlie reminds me of my Daddy, and my Paw Paw and his Daddy before.
A dying breed of men with strong work ethics and big hearts, and a taste for the likker.
My Daddys eyes are bad and he cant read, but he enjoyed the pages I read to him, and my family would ask me to copy pages and we would all sit around and agree with Bragg on holidays.
Maybe it sounds lame, but this book brought my family together.
With his Cracklin bread and c'modity cheese. The likker and catfish, and of course the small strong women with hands as rough as a man and a tongue twice as sharp.
If you want to know the ways of Alabama, and the culture we pass down, read this book, slide into the slang and enjoy yourself...I know I did.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just . . . well . . . Wonderful!
This beautiful, tragic, compelling, and ultimately stellar book will be around for quite a while. Something as good as this doesn't fade away after its inital release and we can only hope that Bragg has more books in him.

The most riveting aspect of this excellent read is the fact that Bragg gives us a remarkable story using anything BUT sterotypes. Thank goodness, for it's about time someone looked outside of the cliche that all southerners are ignorant, backwards, "Deliverance" types. If only more people would read and understand what the south is really like.

Also recommended: The Color Purple, Bark of the Dogwood, Fried Green Tomaotes

4-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful peak at an American family!
Well after reading this book, two things became clear to me: the first is that Mr. Bragg has a wonderful writing style that can make some ordinary things into a magical and warm experience; and second is that I was quite surprised about the story line. I feel guilty just saying this but rarely in our society do we have a positive mental image when we speak of poor Southerners. This book allowed me (a "northerner") to understand what life was actually like for southern folks in the early part of the 1900's, showing us that they weren't minority hating, wife beating drunken, white hoods wearing thrash. WHAT A WONDERFUL BREATH OF FRESH AIR! It is a great book to read about family struggle in general without looking at a map, but I think it does teach us a couple of lessons too. Imagine if each of us were as proud of our family as Mr. Bragg is of his, how wonderful we would feel?? ... Read more


38. Leaving Birmingham: Notes of a Native Son (Deep South Books)
by Paul Hemphill
list price: $19.95
our price: $19.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0817310223
Catlog: Book (2000-05-01)
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Sales Rank: 532480
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Perspective of the South during a Tumultous Time
I decided to read this book for purely personal motives. Having been raised in California by a father who grew up in Birmingham in the early twenties and thirties, I had a desire to understand this man, my father, who seemed at times to have such radical world views. Reading Paul Hemphill's story, specifically the retelling of details of growing up in a working class family, including the bigoted views his father held, helped me to understand the world that molded many whites prior to the civil rights movement. When chosing this book, I wasn't looking for a dry detailed history but rather an insiders view of what this world of "Birmingham, Alabama" must have been like growing up. Why it created such biogtry? And How can we continue to change? Paul Hemphill, through this book, helped me to understand, what kind of a world Birmingham was, and how it shaped and molded the people who grew up there.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Student's Perspective
This book was required reading for my Civil Rights class. Although at times a bit too detailed and tangent prone, Hemphill's style is very gripping and kept my attention. The way in which the formation and development of Birmingham is disussed, enterpreted, and explained is superb. Hemphill does an excellent job of juxtaposing the racial, economic, and social climate that evolved and gripped the city of Birmingham throughout the years. I would consider this autobiography of sorts a must read for any person interested in issues pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement. Just get through the few dry parts, the rest is well worth the read!

5-0 out of 5 stars Probes the ethnic relationships in Birmingham
In 1963 Alabama was the site of racial violence: native Hemphill decides here to return to his hometown, to come to terms with his family and life. Leaving Birmingham probes the ethnic relationships in Birmingham past and present, providing an intriguing analysis of the tensions and present-day life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not Just For Southerners
The reader should note that this book is not a history, but an honest reminiscence by the author. Paul Hemphill was born and raised in a Birmingham that no longer exists, and his story is a sentimental, though often melancholy, remembrance of his journey from childhood to an adulthood marked by his departure from his native city. Unlike other native sons, such as Roy Blount and Howell Raines, who long ago moved to New York and have spent the majority of their adult lives apologizing for having been born in the South, Hemphill offers the reader a painfully honest autobiography that parallels the mutually exclusive forces of change and retrenchment within Birmingham before and after World War II. He presents an insightful glimpse of a city unique in the South, a city created atop one of the richest iron ore deposits in the country, with no antebellum, gentrified past, a tough, muscular city. It is a Birmingham as it truly was, a city divided not in two parts, but three: the Birmingham of poor, legally segregated blacks, the Birmingham of working-class whites who manned the steel, iron and coke factories during their height, and the Birmingham of the Mountain Brook overseers, the representatives of the absentee landlords who owned these factories, the men of a separate community entirely, who publicly stayed above the fray of civil rights strife, all the while stoking and manipulating the blue collar whites to whom civil rights appeared a supreme threat. It was into such a working-class family that Hemphill was born. His descriptions of his hard-working, traditionalist father, his mother and the neighborhood in which he grew up, are perhaps the finest elements of the book. It is evident that this was no easy book for Hemphill to write. He must counter-balance the admiration he holds for his parents and the joys of his childhood, with the ultimate revulsion he felt in adulthood toward a civilization predisposed all along toward heightened brutality. It is not only his personal journey, but the journey of Birmingham from "the Magic City" to "Bad Birmingham"; the journey of Bull Connor from "voice of the Barons" to the "voice of legalized segregation". Hemphill witnessed all of this and it is sadness, not cold judgement, that pervades this book and sets it apart from the many other books written about that city and that time. This reviewer highly recommends this book to anyone who has an interest in gaining a personal perspective of the Birmingham of mid-20th Century America. ... Read more


39. Country Matters: The Pleasures and Tribulations of Moving from a Big City to an Old Country Farmhouse
by Michael Korda, Success Research
list price: $26.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060197722
Catlog: Book (2001-05-01)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Sales Rank: 495811
Average Customer Review: 3.07 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Despite the fact that Michael Korda was city born and bred (and, as editor in chief of Simon & Schuster and a bestselling author, part of Manhattan's elite), when he decided it was time to put down roots, he wanted land, trees, and a place in a community with history. The house he bought with his wife, Margaret, in Pleasant Valley, two hours north of New York City, was built when George Washington was president. It came with two barns, 20 acres, a backhoe, a bush hog, a York rake, a dozer blade, a bluff, and a slightly deaf old man named Harold Roe. Since Korda couldn't handle a hammer (plumbing and heating problems in his past merely involved calling the building super and keeping a 20-dollar bill handy), Harold became a permanent fixture, wielding large equipment, destroying the flowers, and showing the couple everything they needed to know about the real country.

Pleasant Valley, it turned out, was on the "wrong" side of the Taconic Parkway. It was "red and black plaid hats with earflaps and insulated bib-front overalls country," as opposed to Ralph Lauren estates country. Despite the blue-collar atmosphere (or rather because of it), the Kordas have been there for two decades. Becoming locals hasn't been easy, however. Korda relishes the moments that mark him as an insider--hanging out at the local diner, buying a Harley-Davidson, and most importantly, buying pigs. Pig watching in a place like Pleasant Valley is a truly bonding experience, which Korda describes with his characteristic dry wit:

Pig watching is not something anybody does in a hurry, as we came to learn. You have to shift your trousers down a bit, loosen up your belt a notch or so, give your belly a little breathing room, light a cigarette if you're a smoker, and look at the pigs for a good long time. Then you sigh, nod your head, and say, "Them's nice pigs, them pigs." Then you look at them some more.
You get the idea. A natural raconteur, Korda makes the quirks of living in an old house and the quest for local status in an insular community highly entertaining, and he proves once again that, while he may not be handy with tools, he certainly knows his way around the written word. --Lesley Reed ... Read more

Reviews (15)

2-0 out of 5 stars Starts with Promise and runs out of Steam
The New York Times sparked my interest in this age-old literary subject--city dweller finds renewal in the country, with all the highs and lows and informative or interesting tidbits of making the transition. My interest in this subject goes all they way back to Crazy-White-Man (Sha-ga-na-she Wa-du-kee) by Richard Morenus, published by Rand McNally and Co. in 1952. So, I am not a newcomer to the genre. In fact, my wife and I recently put the finishing touches on a 3-year restoration of a century-old lodge on an island in Maine. Therefore, I do not place a low rating on this book without careful thought and regret. Usually, one thinks that if the Times views a book as newsworthy, it will be a bit special. In this case, I think it is Korda's professional connections in the publishing industry (and not the merit of the piece) which earned the publicity, and possibly the initial printing. Korda would like the reader to believe that he is about to introduce them to the quaint, evolutionary transition of a (very, very sophisticated) city couple and a country estate from strangers to partners, each helped to reach the synergy by a cast of colorful local citizens with special skills and memorable characters. The book fails, however, to continue its early, promising pace, and eventually trails off into a series of random recollections, failing to develop the supporting characters in favor of repetitive, gratuitous references to Mrs. Korda's achievements as a horsewoman, and Mr. Korda's irrelevant pride in having read the classics. In the end, the country life which Mr. Korda portrays seems as shallow and trite as the city life he almost left behind. He is more often a disconnected observer than influential participant, and leaves the reader wondering whether, for the Kordas, the country really matters.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Affair of the Heart
Like an affair, a relationship with this country house was quickly made and not admitted-for a long time. But Korda grows to be a quirky, appreciative, open admirer of the old farmhouse and the local people. As befitting an editor, the author's style is fluid with a gently humorous viewpoint.
Famous people, as guests, are mentioned, sometime hilariously. The changing scene from rural to suburban in this and other areas is considered, along with the tendency of Americans to pursue the last, 'unchanged' home locale. Still Dutchess County retains a feel at least in Pleasant Valley, of country land and people.
Korda's deeply felt respect for the wiles and wisdom of local
people and his willingness to eat at The Diner, go to the Fair,
raise pigs, run a cross-country event on his property, trade car stories and employ half the county wins him respect from these people. Perhaps in the end, he knows he belongs to the house more than it belongs to him and his wife. The place is at last called 'the Korda farm."

3-0 out of 5 stars Funny but hard to read
I don't deny the author's sense of humor. In general it's a funny book. But his writing skills hardly qualify him for an editor in chief of a major publishing house. Why? Because he tends to write very long sentences, wandering off in the middle. Very often when I finish a sentence I already forget what he was talking about at the beginning of it. I suspect he is trying to show off that he is English. In fact I get a very strong impression that he is a snobbish person, not very personable or pleasant, not the type of person you will like unfortunately.

5-0 out of 5 stars Better than A Year in Provence
A model of English prose. Korda¹s account of country life is interesting, witty and enthusiastic. He has a keen eye for the people, places and things in rural Duchess County, New York. The book will remind readers of A Year in Provence. Korda¹s imagery, diction and grammar are outstanding. This kind of writing requires both talent and hard work. I especially recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the nuances of well written prose. It would also make a good PBS mini-series.

2-0 out of 5 stars And I thought I was the only one...
...who finished this book thinking that Korda was a pompus twit with more money than good manners. His condesending observations of his neighbors left me irritated time and time again, as well as the name dropping and implied superiority of himself vs. the "lowly" country folk.
If you discounted the snide comments, the first part of the book was pretty interesting. However, the last 4 chapters became rambling and could have been condensed into one chapter.
It was great reading the reviews from the Hewitts on this forum. It made me remember that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story, and that Mr. Korda took some literary license in his book. ... Read more


40. Arctic Homestead: The True Story of One Family's Survivaland Courage in the Alaskan Wilds
by Norma Cobb, Charles W. Sasser, Charles Sasser
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312283792
Catlog: Book (2003-02-01)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Sales Rank: 63373
Average Customer Review: 3.68 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In 1973, Norma Cobb, her husband Lester, and the their five children, the oldest of whom was nine-years-old and the youngest, twins, barely one, pulled up stakes in the Lower Forty-eight and headed north to Alaska to follow a pioneer dream of claiming land under the Homestead Act. The only land available lay north of Fairbanks near the Arctic Circle where grizzlies outnumbered humans twenty to one. In addition to fierce winters and predatory animals, the Alaskan frontier drew the more unsavory elements of society’s fringes. From the beginning, the Cobbs found themselves pitted in a life or death feud with unscrupulous neighbors who would rob from new settlers, attempt to burn them out, shoot them, and jump their claim.

The Cobbs were chechakos, tenderfeet, in a lost land that consumed even toughened settlers. Everything, including their “civilized” past, conspired to defeat them. They constructed a cabin and the first snow collapsed the roof. They built too close to the creek and spring breakup threatened to flood them out. Bears prowled the nearby woods, stalking the children, and Lester Cobb would leave for months at a time in search of work.

But through it all, they survived on the strength of Norma Cobb---a woman whose love for her family knew no bounds and whose courage in the face of mortal danger is an inspiration to us all. This is her story.
... Read more

Reviews (28)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the BEST books I've EVER read!
My husband read this book first and told me to read it as soon as he finished. He said is was almost imposible to put down. He was right! From the first page all the way through to the last, it's a page turner! A family moves from Colorado to homestead in Alaska. It's filled with one incredible adventure after another which makes the readers wonder how much more this family can take of the harsh Alaskan winters, bear attacks, and living in a land where law is as scarce as it was in the wild West. You won't want to put this book down and worse...you'll be so awed by this family, you won't want to see the book end!

4-0 out of 5 stars Homesteading adventure with an edge.
I read this book because I have always had an interest in the lives of those who choose to live in the wilderness. Louise Dickinson Rich (We Took to the Woods) and Deanna Kawatski (Wilderness Mother) come to mind. Norma Cobb's account of her family's homesteading in Alaska is very readable but unlike these other books, her writer's focus is on the high drama of their lives rather than an account of their daily life. I came away wondering if some of that drama (and it's one drama after another) was self induced. Norma and Les Cobb seem to be awfully shrewd judges of character, but unfortunately after the fact. There are several incidents where she feels they are 'ripped off' or worse by people they encounter. After a while I started to find her guilty of what she was accusing those people of; blaming someone else for their problems. I came away from this book feeling that Norma Cobb has little patience for anyone she deems less perfect than herself. I do not deny that their life in remote Alaska is a challenge few could rise to and her book is a gripping account of that life, but there is an edge to her story that left me wondering if anyone but God could meet her standards for a neighbor.

1-0 out of 5 stars God's Chosen People
If you've never lived where the weather can kill you, you might be inclined to believe everything Norma Cobb writes. If you've never encountered a Black bear outside of a zoo, you might think Norma has it right. If you've never set out on your own without a net, you might think God was Norma's personal servant.

I usually enjoy books of adventure, particularly set in the North, and books of personal hardship overcome. This book, however, annoyed and insulted me. Does this author really believe she and her family are unusual? Pioneering is not about moving to Alaska and kind of living off the land; it is about meeting great obstacles and finding the resources to overcome them. Her world view is based on superstition, ignorance, and paranoia. When others start to follow their lead in mining gold in their precious valley, she starts to whine like those she says she despises. To use one of her pet phrases, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander."

Read the reviews carefully. You will find one from someone who is actually mentioned in the book and was a witness to the reality of the Cobb's lifestyle. I didn't read them before I bought and read the book. I wish I had.

1-0 out of 5 stars Tried hard to like this book...
I really tried to get through this, but the pontificating, pious tone was just too much! If you want to read something about living WITH your environment, rather than trashing it as seemed to be the dominant theme in this, try any by Nick Jans,or Richard Nelson.

4-0 out of 5 stars Incredibly well-told story; spine-tingling tale
I've been enthralled with the 'North Country' for quite some time; mainly Minnesota and Canada. After spending a summer in Northern Minnesota as a child, I felt I would make it back some day...hopefully to stay or at least build a vacation home. I'm not shy about sharing this 'dream' with close friends so it came as no surprise when a buddy of mine suggested I read ARCTIC HOMESTEAD before I became too giddy about the North.

Norma and Les Cobb came together in a second marriage for both, with the added baggage of 5 children between them. In an effort to make a life for themselves and their childre, they decided to leave the Lower 48 behind and claim a homestead in Canada. Along the way, they found out only a Canadian citizen could file for homestead in Canada at that time. Undeterred, they soon determined that Alaska still had homestead provisions so they set their sights for Alaska, a home and a new life.

Norma and Les find their previously unseen homestead just south of the Arctic Circle. Thus begins their story of striving to beat the homestead clock of improving the land and creating commerce within 5 years of filing the homestead papers. Along the way, they face one of their sons being accidentally shot, a derelict (and former friend) attempting to kill Les, coming face-to-face with black and grizzly bears, dealing with the Bushman (a/k/a Bigfoot), prospecting for gold, holding off ravenous wolves, and, of course, last but certainly not least, the indomitable cold and snow. Through it all, Norma and Les persevere and overcome each challenge faced.

This factual novel was written by Mr. Sasser, a very gifted storyteller, the source document of which was Norma's journal. Norma maintained enough detail to allow Mr. Sasser to write an extremely complete and entertaining novel. It cannot be said that the veracity of Norma's recollections are without challenge. Ken Nelson, who Norma speaks of in Chapters 66 and 67, wrote a review of the hardback version of ARCTIC HOMESTEAD. Mr. Nelson is quite candid regarding his version of the events versus those told by Norma/Mr. Sasser. The biggest discrepancy revolves around the health of Sid's (the oldest Cobb son) dogs entrusted to Mr. Nelson when the Cobb family flew to Colorado to visit Les's ailing father. This certainly creates some uncertainty as to veracity and credence but nevertheless, this book is still a winner regardless the actual chronology of events.

The Cobbs still live in their small homestead in Minook Vally, AK and even have a website promoting their big game/fishing guide services ...Anyone interested in the last true frontier should immediately pick up a copy of ARCTIC HOMESTEAD. Again, regardless your views of Norma, Les and their children, this book reads incredibly easy and totally engrossing.

Highly recommended. ... Read more


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