My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Book Reviews

2006-09-28

The life of the mind is never boring. At least for me. Recently, I began to use my Amaz0n wish list to keep track of books I want to read (check out of the library) rather than own. Those “want to own” books are on there, too. It’s just, I’ve come to a point in my life (which certainly couldn’t have anything to do with my lack of “walking around” money) where I just don’t need to own every single book in the universe. In fact, my husband and I have been off-loading scores of books lately – either selling them on half.com or giving them to the library as donations. The ones I’m most likely to keep are children’s books, books written by friends, and non-fiction, mostly history (local for the most part), biographies and reference books.

While I love fiction, I’ve read quite a few memoirs/biographies lately. Here are a few I recommend:

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel. A fascinating account of a woman growing up in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere. She was the youngest in the family, a “happy accident,” and was thought to be retarded. It’s not said to her in so many words but since she didn’t speak until she was three – not a syllable – her mother thought she was just a “special” little girl. She eventually left her nothing town and proved herself to be quite intelligent (which, duh, you kinda know has to happen since she wrote the book). I couldn’t put it down and was a mirror image of her book-reading, couch-bound mother: I neglected my children while I read this book. It was that good.

Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields. This is the first-ever biography of Harper Lee. The author not only wanted to tell a story that hadn’t been told before (and Miss Lee did not talk to Shields; she’s notoriously private and was not thrilled about this book) but wanted to explore the reasons why Lee never wrote another book. As a writer, I was intrigued by the fact that, all told, this was the story she wanted to tell. It is heavily based on her childhood. She is Scout, Dill is childhood friend Truman Capote, Atticus is her father. The traditional Southern upbringing that she both shunned and couldn’t escape (and didn’t really want to to some degree) is much like Catholicism to me: you can take the girl out of the South but you can’t take the South out of the girl, no matter how many years she lived in New York. What I found most interesting was her role in creating Capote’s In Cold Blood. Lee was the primary researcher for the book. She was the one that interviewed most of the people and paved the way for Truman, who none of the Kansans liked or trusted. I mean, would you? Capote gave her no credit in the book. Basically, In Cold Blood was more Lee’s book than Capote’s in many ways.

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Boy howdy, what an interesting read! Levitt is an economist who has a very different way of asking questions and finding possible answers to various cultural conundrums. Could Roe v. Wade really have played such a dramatic role in the drop in crime during the 1990’s? Could your name and socio-economic status mark your destiny? Could all this “obsessive parenting” be for nought? I hate to use the word “fascinating” again, but I’m not sure how else to describe this book. Certainly worth reading. Food for thought, if nothing else.

So, there are three books I encourage you to read. Lemme know what you think. What have you read lately that you recommend? I need to add to my list.

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12:29 p.m. ::
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