Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Booklist 2004 - Part 7

As it has been a while since the last installment, I will steal yet another terrific idea from Michael and include links to each of the first six installments.

Booklist 2004 Part 1
Booklist 2004 Part 2
Booklist 2004 Part 3
Booklist 2004 Part 4
Booklist 2004 Part 5
Booklist 2004 Part 6

Before getting into the six new reviews, I'd briefly like to mention how absolutely difficult I find this task to be. Of course, it was my idea so all I can do is blame myself. If perhaps I brave the concept next year, I need to discipline myself to write the reviews fresh after reading the book, one at a time instead of cramming as I do now (old habits are hard to break). Of course, to compensate for my own difficulties, in more cases I have chosen to quote others whose sentiments are similar to mine. To my surprise, I have received some nice feedback on these reviews and as such hope those who find something positive about them continue to do so.

43. Darkness Visible - A Memoir of Madness
by William Styron

Perhaps the most recognizable work by William Styron is Sophie's Choice, for which he wrote the book, and the screenplay for the 1982 hit movie. In this short, but intense book, Styron discusses his battle with clinical depression in an open and honest accounting from spanning the discovery of his illness through his recovery.

"In this short work (actually a long essay), the well-known author William Styron chronicles his descent into depression, his increasing suicidal fantasies, his eventual hospitalization, and his eventual recovery. Where many books on depression fall into the "self-help" genre, Styron's remains truly a memoir, with a very 'writerly' tone that sets it apart from more clinical books on depression." (L. Rephann, Brooklyn, New York)

44. Living History
by Hillary Rodham Clinton

This is a marvelous book about an amazing woman who pulls no punches. Hillary Rodham Clinton is who she is by her own design. The story told is one of a woman who is constantly rediscovering herself and redefining the concept of a progressive woman.

The book is exhaustive in taking the reader through her upbringing, young life as the daughter of a staunch republican, and herself a republican until her Wellesley college days where she switched parties, her time as a lawyer, a political activist (when she met Bill), into and through her marriage to Bill and her perspective of his political career, and of course, her years in the White House.

I left the book enamored with Hillary Rodham Clinton and in awe of her intelligence, her integrity, and her attitude. From where I write this, the 2004 presidential election is history and right at this time, I can see no better suited individual to become the president of the United States in 2008 than the author and subject of this wonderful memoir.

45. The Jericho Commandment (aka See How they Run)
by James Patterson

For some reason I don't recall much about this book and went to several websites to be reminded of the story.

Click here to read the commentary on Barnes & Noble's website.

Click here to read the commentary on

Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

After reading the excerpt, the reviews, and commentary, I was only briefly reminded of the story and the characters. I do remember finishing the book somewhat unfulfilled. I do recall there being some vivid imagery but the characters fell short for me and overall, the book was a disappointment considering my fondness for Patterson’s work.

46. The Funny Thing is...
by Ellen DeGeneres

This is a collection of "comic essays" that are similar to the unique style of material DeGeneres delivers in her stand-up comedy act. I enjoyed this for a number of reasons: I am a fan of her comedy, I was in need of some laughter the day I read the book (who am I kidding, I am always in need of some laughter), and this type of reading helps to break the barriers between fiction and non-fiction and after reading as many books as I have this year, this kind of breakup was helpful.

To reiterate, if you are not a fan of the comedy material of Ellen DeGeneres, you may wish to stay away. If you've never heard her act, I recommend seeing her perform before reading this book.

47. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum

Along with The Prophet and The Alchemist ,this ranks as one of my favorite books of all time. I remember when the book was first released and always saying that I wanted to read it. Well, fifteen years later, I finally did and am glad to have done so.

Fulghum (pronounced Ful-jum, not Ful-gum) tells stories that capture the essential elements of life by reducing each situation to its most basic fundamentals. Having worked as a cowboy, a folksinger, an IBM salesman, a professional artist, a parish minister, a bartender, a teacher of drawing and painting, combined with his role as a husband, father, and grandfather, Fulghum exhibits his collective knowledge with wisdom filled essays that touch the very soul of existence.

I came across a terrific review on Amazon that I'd life to share with you here: "Robert Fulghum has written a book of philosophy disguised as a book of anecdotes. Each lasts a couple of pages or so and is just enough to convey some important principle. They range from the trite to the inspirational, the mundane to the spiritual. Along the way he gives us his thoughts on grandfathers, God, children, giraffes, and just about everything you need to know. Some of his stories are about the man next door, others about famous people. Some are real, others made up, but they all convey universal truths. When you read this book you will probably think 'Hey I knew that already!' But all the same it's heart warming to have someone tell you in such a homely, friendly style. By the end of the book I felt I knew Robert Fulghum and would be happy to invite him to tea with me any time he happened to be passing." (Dave Farmbrough, London, Middlesex. United Kingdom)

If you haven't read this book, you really should do so immediately. Go to the library or the bookstore and pick it up (for a real treat, get the unabridged audio version and hear the stories and commentary by the author - it's quite extraordinary).

48. Live from New York
by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

I have been a fan of the show Saturday Night Live for most of its existence. This book is a unique and exhaustive history of the show as told by those closest to the show itself.

Imagine if you can every performer associated with the show including the guest hosts all crowded into a cozy room sitting around a fireplace in big comfortable chairs and talking about the show in chronological order. Someone speaks, another responds, and so forth. To me, that is how this book reads, like I am sitting in on the most amazing reminiscence among those who made the history I am reading. What an unusual, yet refreshing approach to captivating 30 years or one of the most important television shows in history.

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