So As I Was Saying . . .: My Somewhat Eventful Life
The prescient quote above was taken on another dark day in American history, but it rings as true today; nothing has really changed.
For many years the author of this book, Frank Mankiewicz travelled with Robert Kennedy as his Press Secretary. Although Mankiewicz was born to movie industry heavy weights, he preferred to enter the world of politics. He helped found National Public Radio, served as a regional director of the Peace Corps and a mentor to many presidents and presidential contenders.
This is a “as told to” book based on the conversations the writer had with Mankiewicz over many years. Thus the book is anecdotal in nature. With such an interesting subject, I would have preferred a full on biography. I wanted more personal information about this famous player in American politics.
This book is filled with fragments and stories from a famous life and the people he knew. There are nice photographs included of Mankiewicz’s famous father, uncle, and family. If you have no famous favorite uncle to tell you stories, then this is the book for you.
Thomas Dunne Books
The Game Warden’s Son
When two fishermen tried to conceal the red meat bait in their cooler, warden Steven Callan and his colleague suspected an illegal kill. Their suspicions are confirmed when they spy a flock of vultures nearby feasting on a wild burro carcass with its hind leg removed. Not for the squeamish maybe, but all in the day’s work for Steven Callan, who followed his father’s footsteps as the title suggests, and recently retired from his years with the California Department of Fish and Game. On lists of favorite careers, game warden surely comes close to the top. Even if the sun didn’t invariably shine as Callan would have us believe, life could be pretty attractive spent along the California coast protecting wildlife on land and sea.
A witty and enlightening memoir, The Game Warden’s Son brims over with tales of stake-outs using disguises and subterfuge to trap transgressors. The wardens’ experiences are a revelation as Callan describes miscreants illegally nabbing endangered abalones and duck, slaughtering deer for meat or antlers, trading in bear claws to adorn Indian jewelry, and finding other inventive ways to challenge the law.
The book outlines routine day to day work in a series of lighthearted chapters, but focuses on the offenses poachers and hunters mistakenly believe they can get away with. The book’s slang or jargon related to wildlife is a fun bonus and makes the timely account of environmental protection even more enjoyable.
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution
Valiant Ambition is as the author admits “A Story not commonly told” in regards to Benedict Arnold and George Washington. George Washington was in command of the Continental Army overseeing a painful defeat on Long Island in the late Summer of 1776. Benedict Arnold was a Colonel overseeing the successful defence of Fort Ticonderoga. Two men whose paths would meet more than once, each on the same side at the beginning of the war, but divided by loyalties at the end of the war…..Washington a hero despite earlier setbacks, Arnold a one time hero, now traitor to the revolutionary cause. Washington’s early setbacks would be offset by his Christmas Victory in Trenton over the mercenary Hessians at Christmas 1776. Arnold would aid in snatching total victory from the British in Saratoga. Arnold’s upward climb would be marred by jealousy and animosity from higher ups like Horatio Gates, a General in the Continental Army. Arnold would be sidelined by wartime injuries, impatiently waiting for his time on the battlefield and more action and accolades. Washington would suffer through the downtimes at Valley Forge, Brandywine, but strive for any advantage over the British. The eventual betrayal by Arnold would come about by various factors: Marriage to Peggy Shippen, who encouraged his double dealing, a court-martial by overambitious fellow soldiers, monetary concerns….Arnold’s exposure would come about through the capture of a British Captain who was his go-between. Any chance of British victory would soon be over. Arnold wouldn’t be caught, but his mission didn’t succeed.
Valiant Ambition delves into two famous soldiers….One known as the Father of our country, the other, one of the most hated traitors in our nation….whose name is used to describe traitors to this day. Philbrick is fair to both of his subjects acknowledging their good traits and their foibles…Washington was about par for the course as a military leader, Arnold had tremendous courage, but was also possessed of a all encompassing ambition that ultimately ate him up. An excellent read about a period that built our country.
The World We Left Behind
As The World We Left Behind, a Journey from Georgia to Maine begins, author John Morris is at a very low point in his young life. Still only in his twenties, he feels overwhelmed with futility. He lives in the North Carolina community where he grew up. With no college education, he works the night shift at a nuclear facility, in a job he believes will lead nowhere. He has recently broken up with the woman hes been living with, and he finds himself lonely and trapped in a nearly empty apartment. Over and over again, he contemplates leaving everything behind, drawn to the idea of taking to the Appalachian Trail. He spends the first 90 pages of the book in a state of ennuibemoaning his dead end job, in various stages of alcoholic stupor, and stocking up on hiking equipment he fears he may never use. He is stuck. The challenges of abandoning everything he knows and embarking on the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail are daunting.
Finally, however, Morris frustration with his status quo wins out. He leaves new girlfriend Melody and travels with his hiking pal, Torry, to Gainesville, Georgia, just a couple of hours from Springer Mountain, where the Appalachian Trail begins. Its here where thru-hikersthose who hike the entire trailset out.
Morris plans to hike all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maines Baxter State Park. To reach his destination, he must hike through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. He is not prepared, physically or psychologically, for the rigors of the trip. Cold and filthy, hes constantly exhausted under the weight of his pack. Hes brought with him too many things he doesnt need and has left behind some essential equipmentincluding a water filter to purify his drinking water. The trail is often more crowded than Morris had anticipated. He meets some potentially interesting fellow thru-hikers along the way, including folks with great trail names, like Hopper, Woodstock, and Bubblegum, but, somehow, the reader never really gets acquainted with these folks. Perhaps its because Morris never seems to make a true connection with them. For example, about CookIN, a former shop teacher from Indiana, Morris writes, I wondered how you went from being a shop teacher to wanting to walk a 2,199-mile trail but I never thought to ask him
The most compelling part of The World We Left Behind comes toward the end of the book, when Morris describes a near-disastrous solo hike. In this section, the reader feels the cold and terror of Morris experience, and it makes for a great read. One cant help but admire Morris for having the courage to leave the comforts of home and embark on a rigorous, months-long hike. His book reads something like a journal: He relates his day-to-day adventures and shares plenty about the mistakes he makes along the way and the physical challenges he faces. But he shares few of the insights one would expect such a personal quest to provide.
The book is a lengthy one, and this is just the first volume in a trilogy: As this first book comes to an end, Morris has made it only as far as Tennessee. The story would be strengthened, as would the readers enjoyment, with a disciplined editing and a focus that reveals more of the writers inner journey, as well as his outer one.
Crowning Glory — An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise
Stacy has had an unhealthy obsession with her own locks since middle school, when a careless remark brought unwanted attention to her hairs deficiencies. Add to this the issues shes had with men and relationships, and going out in general, and shes had a lot to handle.
On a whim, she purchases a long, red wig, and notices not only the way people respond to her but also changes in her behavior. These events lead her to do an experiment using the same wig in various natural hair colors. In addition to doing important fashion research, it keeps her busy and focused for several weeks, perhaps stopping her critical evaluation of herself and her unpredictable states of psychosis.
She finds an assistant to help with observing and tabulating information, and sets up the experiment. She will wear basic black, tailored for various locations, in New York City, so the focus stays on the hair color. The last week, her control week, will be her natural hair, in the same clothing and the same general places. Her observations from each hair color red, black, blond, and brown include her honest take on her personality changes as she dons the locks about the city. She incorporates her assistants notes and includes related events that happen outside the experiments parameters.
Her honest recap of events sometimes borders on too much information, but helps to show her personal growth throughout the experiment. Her quick, witty self-evaluation during various phases of her experiment bring humor and lightness to something that could have been dry and boring, but is instead engaging and intellectually stimulating. Photographs that coordinate with each chapter help to bring visual interest. Even though the experiment did not strictly follow the accepted scientific research method, those reading this out of pure personal interest may find themselves agreeing with her findings and wondering about the role of hair color in society.
What I’ve Learned from You: The Lessons of Life Taught to a Doctor by His Patients
The doctor/patient relationship is one of the most intimate. Vulnerable, your health in their hands, you may feel powerless and subordinate. After years of schooling, residency, and intense training, doctors seem to know everything; many of them seem to think they do. Additionally, doctors are more overworked than ever and frequently the patient/doctor relationship fails. But this isn’t always the case; every once in a while you meet a physician who takes the time to listen, who treats patients as individuals, personally. It is obvious that Scott Kelly, M.D. is such a physician, sincere when he says he feels honored to serve his patients. Dr. Kelly has written a beautiful memoir marked by humility and wonder as he recalls patients who have had a lasting impact on his life. Far from the pompous, omniscient, and aloof clinician, Kelly is all too aware of his own failings as he struggles, through medical school, residency, stints in the ER, and the tightrope balance between work and family. Although warned to keep his interactions with patients strictly professional (i.e., detached), he allows himself to open up to some of them, to listen, and then to learn. This book is his journey through those lessons.
The writing in this book is sensitive, marked with grace and absolute respect for his patients. Each of the short chapters begins with a personal memory; then Dr. Kelly introduces us to one of his patients. Each taught him an important lesson, on themes as varied as marriage, friendship, faith, happiness, responsibility, perseverance, grief, joy, and love. The book follows Dr. Kelly’s experiences mostly chronologically, so you get to experience the highs and lows of his training and residency, as he learns to keep people in the center of practicing medicine, and through his articulate character sketches, you feel that you know his patients too, or that you wish you could have. You meet Joy, whose deep faith steadied Dr. Kelly in the face of man’s inhumanity. Harrison reaffirmed the necessity of having a strong sense of purpose, and living true to yourself. Emily’s chronic, but privately-endured, pain reminded him to be gentle and compassionate–we don’t know the burdens other quietly carry. There are many others, each story told with love and sympathy, neither moralistic or pedantic. These are lessons we all, in our human endeavor, need to learn, and learn again.