First some things I’ve read (Descriptions from the OPAC Summaries)
All Over But The Shoutin – BIO BRA (also audiotape)
A haunting memoir about growing up dirt-poor in the Alabama hills--and about moving on but never really being able to leave. The extraordinary gifts for evocation and insight and the stunning talent for story- telling that earned Rick Bragg a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1996 are here brought to bear on the wrenching story of his own family's life. It is the story of a war-haunted, hard-drinking father and a strong-willed, loving mother who struggled to protect her sons from the effects of poverty and ignorance that had constricted her own life. It is the story of the life Bragg was able to carve out for himself on the strength of his mother's encouragement and belief. And it is the story of his attempts to both atone for and avenge the mistakes and cruelties of his past. All Over but the Shoutin' is a gripping account of people struggling to make sense and solidity of life's capricious promises. A classic piece of Americana, it is made vividly, movingly particular by Rick Bragg's searching vision, generous humor, and richly nuanced voice.
My comment: I read it when it first came out and it still stays with me to this way. Bragg is a brilliant writer in a way that’s very accessible.
Dead Man Walking – Helen Prejean 364.66 PRE (also audiotape)
In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean became the spiritual advisor to Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana's Angola State Prison. In the months before Sonnier's death, the Roman Catholic nun came to know a man who was as terrified as he had once been terrifying. At the same time, she came to know the families of the victims and the men whose job it was to execute him--men who often harbored doubts about the rightness of what they were doing. Out of that dreadful intimacy comes a profoundly moving spiritual journey through our system of capital punishment. Confronting both the plight of the condemned and the rage of the bereaved, the needs of a crime-ridden society and the Christian imperative of love, Dead Man Walking is an unprecedented look at the human consequences of the death penalty, a book that is both enlightening and devastating.
My comment: Slightly different but just as powerful as the movie.
Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls BIO WAL (new)
"Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever." "Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town - and the family - Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home." "What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms."--BOOK JACKET
My comment: I stayed up until 1am finishing this. The best non-fiction book I’ve read so far this year hands down.
Don't let's go to the dogs tonight : an African childhood – Alexandra Fuller BIO FUL (also audio cd)
When the ship veered into the Cape of Good Hope, Mum caught the spicy, heady scent of Africa on the changing wind. She smelled the people: raw onions and salt, the smell of people who are not afraid to eat meat, and who smoke fish over open fires on the beach and who pound maize into meal and who work out-of-doors. She held me up to face the earthy air, so that the fingers of warmth pushed back my black curls of hair, and her pale green eyes went clear-glassy. "Smell that," she whispered, "that's home." Vanessa was running up and down the deck, unaccountably wild for a child usually so placid. Intoxicated already. I took in a faceful of African air and fell instantly into a fever. In Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with visceral authenticity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller's endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller's debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time. From 1972 to 1990, Alexandra Fuller-known to friends and family as Bobo-grew up on several farms in southern and central Africa. Her father joined up on the side of the white government in the Rhodesian civil war, and was often away fighting against the powerful black guerilla factions. Her mother, in turn, flung herself at their African life and its rugged farm work with the same passion and maniacal energy she brought to everything else. Though she loved her children, she was no hand-holder and had little tolerance for neediness. She nurtured her daughters in other ways: She taught them, by example, to be resilient and self-sufficient, to have strong wills and strong opinions, and to embrace life wholeheartedly, despite and because of difficult circumstances. And she instilled in Bobo, particularly, a love of reading and of storytelling that proved to be her salvation. A worthy heir to Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham, Alexandra Fuller writes poignantly about a girl becoming a woman and a writer against a backdrop of unrest, not just in her country but in her home. But Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is more than a survivor's story. It is the story of one woman's unbreakable bond with a continent and the people who inhabit it, a portrait lovingly realized and deeply felt.
My comment: A wonderful book about growing up in Africa.
Ice bound : a doctor's incredible battle for survival at the South Pole / Jerri Nielsen with Maryanne Vollers. BIO NIE (also audiotape)
Jerri Nielsen was a forty-six-year-old doctor working in Ohio when she made the decision to take a year's sabbatical at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on Antarctica, the most remote and perilous place on Earth. The "Polies," as the inhabitants are known, live in almost total darkness for six months of the year, in winter temperatures as low as 100 degrees below zero -- with no way in or out before the spring.
During the long winter of 1999, Dr. Nielsen, solely responsible for the mental and physical fitness of a team of researchers, construction workers, and support staff, discovered a lump in her breast. Consulting via E-mail with doctors in the United States, she performed a biopsy on herself, and in July began chemotherapy treatments to ensure her survival until conditions permitted her rescue in October. A daring rescue by the Air National Guard ensued, who landed, dropped off a replacement physician, and minutes later took off with Dr. Nielsen.
This is Dr. Nielsen's own account of her experience at the Pole, the sea change as she becomes "of the Ice," and her realization that she would rather be on Antarctica than anywhere else on earth. It is also a thrilling adventure of researchers and scientists embattled by a hostile environment; a penetrating exploration of the dynamics of an isolated, intensely connected community faced with adversity; and, at its core, a powerfully moving drama of love and loss, of one woman's voyage of self-discovery through an extraordinary struggle for survival.
My comment: I listened to the audiotape of this and could not get out of the car it was so good. Edge of your seat suspense here!
Things I haven't read (yet)
Catch me if you can : the amazing true story of the youngest and most daring con man in the history of fun and profit / Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., with Stan Redding 364.163 BRA
Frank W. Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Monjo, was one of the most daring con men, forgers, imposters, and escape artists in history. In his brief but notorious criminal career, Abagnale donned a pilot's uniform and copiloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over $2.5 million in forged checks, all before he was twenty-one. Known by the police of twenty-six foreign countries and all fifty states as "The Skywayman," Abagnale lived a sumptuous life on the lam-until the law caught up with him. Now recognized as the nation's leading authority on financial foul play, Abagnale is a charming rogue whose hilarious, stranger-than-fiction international escapades, and ingenious escapes-including one from an airplane-make Catch Me If You Can an irresistible tale of deceit. The uproarious, bestselling true story of the world's most sought-after con man currently in development as a DreamWorks feature film. "I stole every nickel and blew it on fine threads, luxurious lodgings, fantastic foxes, and other sensual goodies. I partied in every capital in Europe and basked on all the world's most famous beaches."
Courtroom 302 : a year behind the scenes in an American criminal courthouse / Steve Bogira. 345.773 BOG (due 6/14)
Steve Bogira's riveting book takes us into the heart of America's criminal justice system. Courtroom 302 is the story of one year in one courtroom in Chicago's Cook County Criminal Courthouse, the busiest felony courthouse in the country.
We see the system through the eyes of the men and women who experience it, not only in the courtroom but in the lockup, the jury room, the judge's chambers, the spectators' gallery. When the judge and his staff go to the scene of the crime during a burglary trial, we go with them on the sheriff's bus. We witness from behind the scenes the highest-profile case of the year: three young white men, one of them the son of a reputed mobster, charged with the racially motivated beating of a thirteen-year-old black boy. And we follow the cases that are the daily grind of the court, like that of the middle-aged man whose crack addiction brings him repeatedly back before the judge.
Bogira shows us how the war on drugs is choking the system, and how in most instances justice is dispensed-as, under the circumstances, it must be-rapidly and mindlessly. The stories that unfold in the courtroom are often tragic, but they no longer seem so to the people who work there. Says a deputy in 302: "You hear this stuff every day, and you're like, 'Let's go, let's go, let's get this over with and move on to the next thing.'"
Steve Bogira is, as Robert Caro says, "a masterful reporter." His special gift is his understanding of people-and his ability to make us see and understand them. Fast-paced, gripping, and bursting with character and incident, Courtroom 302 is a unique illumination of our criminal court system that raises fundamental issues of race, civil rights, and justice.
The devil's highway : a true story / Luis Alberto Urrea. 304.873072 URR
"In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, a place called the Devil's Highway. Fathers and sons, brothers and strangers, entered a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it. Twelve came back out." "Now, Luis Alberto Urrea tells the story of this modern odyssey. He takes us back to the small towns and unpaved cities south of the border, where the poor fall prey to dreams of a better life and the sinister promises of smugglers. We meet the men who will decide to make the crossing along the Devil's Highway and, on the other side of the border, the men who are ready to prevent them from reaching their destination. Urrea reveals exactly what happened when the twenty-six headed into the wasteland, and how they were brutally betrayed by the one man they had trusted most. And from that betrayal came the inferno, a descent into a world of cactus spines, labyrinths of sand, mountains shaped like the teeth of a shark, and a screaming sun so intense that even at midnight the temperature only drops to 97 degrees. And yet, the men would not give up. The Devil's Highway is a story of astonishing courage and strength, of an epic battle against circumstance. These twenty-six men would look the Devil in the eyes - and some of them would not blink."
Princess : a true story of life behind the veil in Saudi Arabia / Jean Sasson. BIO SUL
In this consistently gripping work, the American-born Sasson ( The Rape of Kuwait ) recounts the life story of a Saudi princess she met while living in Saudi Arabia. The pseudonymous Sultana is a niece of King Faisal. Her father had four wives and a palace for each of them. Her older sister was circumcised before a ``modern'' doctor intervened on behalf of Sultana and her eight other sisters; their father treated all 10 as breeding animals, useless until old enough to be married off and to produce sons for their husbands. One sister, wed to a 62-year-old sexual sadist, attempted suicide. Sultana, the family's rebel, had the luck to marry a man who valued her spirit and intelligence. Yet when, after bearing five children, she could bear no more, he prepared to take another wife; Sultana fought this, as she had fought every other injustice and indignity her culture inflicted on her. In Sasson's telling, Sultana's story is a fast-paced, enthralling drama, rich in detail about the daily lives of the Saudi royals and packed with vivid personal sketches of the ruling clan and sharp opinions about the sexual mores, politics, religion and culture of this still-feudal nation. An appalling glimpse of the conditions endured by even such privileged women as the attractive, well-born Sultana.
Stolen lives : twenty years in a desert jail / Malika Oufkir and Michèle Fitoussi BIO OUF (was an Oprah book)
The adopted daughter of the king of Morocco, whose father was arrested and executed for a 1972 attempt to assassinate the king, tells the story of how she, her mother, and her five siblings endured years of imprisonment in a desert penal colony.