Friday, March 2, 2007

100th Post - Book Recommendations

I know your hundredth post is supposed to be momentous.

Sorry, I used up all my bombast on genocide posts this week. If you'd like to do something to celebrate my hundredth post, go to and make a donation, sign a petition, or both.

But I have been meaning to make some book recommendations, so I'll make that my 100th post celebration.

(Readers who've been here since the very beginning know this is actually my 102nd post. Two early, thoroughly indiscreet and thoroughly inappropriate posts got put up here before I realized people I knew would find this thing so fast. They've been deleted forever --- except, I suppose, in the unbelievably robust set of data that never dies, thanks to Google. I'm counting on their "Don't Be Evil" philosophy in hoping those two posts never see the light of day.)

Biographies and autobiographies (and a memoir/ethnography) I've enjoyed in the last couple of years:

Personal History, by Katherine Graham. She did not win the Pulitzer just because she herself was a publisher. This is a warts-and-all look at one of the more remarkable lives of the 20th century. I wish I'd known her.

Life of the Party, about Pamela Harriman, by Christopher Ogden. Great dish. Lots of behind the scenes stories about people who shaped our world and, a woman whose romantic conquests included statesmen, princes of industry, royals, the odd theatrical impresario, Edward R. Murrow and others too numerous to mention. She was Winston Churchill's daughter-in-law. Her foster son from one marriage (Peter Duchin) married her step-daughter from another (Susan Hayward). She ended her life as Bill Clinton's Ambassador to France, and appears to have had a jolly, influential time her whole life long.

Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, by Richard Ben Cramer. Demythologizes a complicated man who insisted on being introduced as America's greatest living baseball player.

Sandy Koufax, a Lefty's Legacy, by Jane Leavy. The opposite of the DiMaggio book. Koufax, if anything, seems to be a better man than anyone ever gave him credit for. Also, Leavy makes Larry King out to be the ass he really is.

Leavy's recounting of Koufax's stock answer to being asked if he's a recluse is priceless: "Gee, my friends don't think so."

Excelsior!, by Stan Lee. It's not too strong a statement to make to say that Stan Lee helped teach me to read. A must-read for anyone who grew up on Marvel Comics in the 60's through 80's. But it's a piece of fluff. If you have nothing invested Stan Lee to start with, this book won't help you understand why he's one of my greatest heroes.

The Home on Gorham Street and the Voices of Its Children, by Howard Goldstein. Details the history of the Jewish orphanage my father grew up in. It uses him as one case history. Since my dad had killed himself by the time I was 26 months old, this book gave me a lot of details about his life that I'd never known. Caveat: The book contains a characterization of my parents' marriage that my mom found totally inaccurate and hurtful besides. If you read this one, please also read my Amazon review of the book.

Maybe for post 200, I'll recommend the junk science fiction, mysteries and thrillers that would be a more accurate reflections of my typical nightstand reading.


dmarks said...

Great post. Looks like you get first dibs on this batch of raw cookie dough. Do you enjoy Stan Lee's superhero reality show?

Realize that those Darfur posts are being read even if they have a lot less comments.

Now to check out that 10th post that you mentioned on the other blog...

David in DC said...

Dmarks: thanks. I'll accept your assurances that they are.

Haven't seen the Stan Lee superhero show but I've heard about it. Sounds great.

I'm glad he lived to see all the litigation corporate raiding and bankruptcies at Marvel run their course and to see alkl his best characters make it to the silver screen.

And I cannot wait to see the Silver Surfer movie.

Nic Cage was perfect as Ghost Riderg

laughing said...

That is so weird that someone wrote a book about your dad and you probably don't even remember him. I remember my dad just fine, but it would still be really something if I found out there was a book about him.

Moonbeam said...

Congrats on #100! Sign me up for chips and dip for the celebration here at blogville. Hope somebody brings Margaritas. Since I am a mystery book reader I will look forward to your 200th post.

David in DC said...

Laughing: The book's not primarily, or even in large measure, about my dad.

But his story is one of a few that gets highlighted a bit more than others, in part because he was a prize student and in part because his end was young and tragic.

That having been said, you're right, it kinda freaked me out to be learning details about him from a book.

I read the book in one sitting, starting one afternoon and ending in the wee hours of the next morning.

Moonbeam: I'll try to get to a mystery/thriller set of reccomendations before post 200. In the meantime, pass me that virtual shaker of salt and the margarita's will start flowing.

Come to think of it, Jimmy Buffett has written some mysteries. I've never read one, tho.