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All the President’s Books

Written By: Word Nerd - Aug• 21•11


A lovely word that instantly creates a picture in your mind. Do you picture a sandy beach and umbrella bedecked fruit drinks? A rustic cabin tucked in the mountains? Shuffleboard on the high seas? A monstrous bag of books?

The President is vacationing with his family this week and his book list is making waves. There is much debate over the appropriateness of his chosen titles. He is receiving quite a bit of flack for choosing fiction in four of his five books. Apparently, fiction isn’t appropriate in a time of national crisis.

We’ll get back to that later…let’s take a look at what the President is reading…

  The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell

In the parish of St. Bruno, sex is easy, corruption festers, and double-dealing is a way of life. Rene Shade is an uncompromising detective swimming in a sea of filth.

As Shade takes on hit men, porn kings, a gang of ex-cons, and the ghosts of his own checkered past, Woodrell’s three seminal novels pit long-entrenched criminals against the hard line of the law, brother against  brother, and two vastly different sons against a long-absent father.

THE BAYOU TRILOGY highlights the origins of a one-of-a-kind author, a writer who for over two decades has created an indelible representation of the shadows of the rural American experience and has steadily built a devoted following among crime fiction aficionados and esteemed literary critics alike.  (description from cover)


Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel—an enthralling family saga of Africa and    America,  doctors and patients, exile and home.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in
childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others. (description from Amazon product listing)

Rodin’s Debutante by Ward Just

In Ward’s solid 17th novel, a boy comes of age in mid-20th-century Chicago and tries to find a way to create art in the face of the world’s harshness. Lee Goodell, an adventurous youngster, lives in New Jesper, a quiet town on the outskirts of Chicago where his father and a cabal of influential locals act as a well-meaning protectorate of the town. After the coverup of a horrific sex crime at Lee’s school, the young Lee’s illusions are broken, and he takes this loss of innocence with him to boarding school at the Ogden Hall School for Boys. Lee’s education takes place in many arenas: the classroom, the football field, his
sculpting studio, the Chicago streets, a free clinic, and among Hyde Park intellectuals, but when the victim of the sex crime from Lee’s childhood returns to find out the truth of what happened, Just creates an opportunity for Lee to recognize the confluence of all these influences on his life. Just’s prose is clean and powerful, and while Lee is a bit flat—even when he’s bad, he’s
good—his coming-of-age is filled with rich observations and finely tuned details.  (description from Publisher’s Weekly)

To the End of the Land by David Grossman

Just before his release from service in the Israeli army, Ora’s son Ofer is sent back to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, so that no bad news can reach her, Ora sets out on an epic hike in the Galilee. She is joined by an unlikely companion—Avram, a former
friend and lover with a troubled past—and as they sleep out in the hills, Ora begins to conjure her son. Ofer’s story, as told by Ora, becomes a surprising balm both for her and for Avram—and a mother’s powerful meditation on war and family. (description from publisher)

The Warmth of Other Sons: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to
1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled
Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties. (description from Amazon product listing)

So…what’s the big deal?

Quite honestly, I don’t care what the President is reading on vacation.  Reading basically does two things– imparts knowledge and provides escape.  If anyone needs a little bit of escape, it is the President of the United States.  I think he takes in enough information the other 23 hours of the day to allow a little bit of down time.  Read to recharge!

I’m actually quite happy to see an avowed technophile reading “treeware”.  He could be using an e-reader, and then we’d never know if he was reading this, this or this.  Not that there is anything wrong with those choices, either.  After all, he is on vacation.

Read on, Mr. President!

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