Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book 45 of 52: The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances

The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoirby Mark Millhone(to be published in July) is yet another book in this series that I almost put down. I couldn't tell what it was about. I requested a copy from Rodale when I ordered a slew of health books to consider for review. I thought it was about being a used car salesman. Then I started reading and still couldn't tell the main subject. About a guy who buys a lot of used cars? A flailing marraige? A father/son relationship? An epic rode trip?

Turns out it's a a little bit of all three, but it takes about half of the book for them to all blend together in a book that I'm glad I didn't stop reading.

"Ebaymotors.com was like online porn you could talk about around the watercooler the next day. My kink was grandma cars. Cars only driven by little old ladies to church on Sundays. Cherry. Mint as new money. Like new. That's what I'm taking about," Millhone writes in the prologue. He likes to buy used cars. The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoir really starts when he buys a 1994 BMW 740i and flies from New York to Dallas to pick up the car, and then drive it back with his father. In the background is a family in shambles. In a year, Millhone's second son almost died at birth; his mother died; his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer; and his first son was mauled by the family dog. The combined effects stressed his marriage beyond the breaking point, and his wife stopped eating and rarely left their their bedroom (bless this woman for letting Millhone write this book and the unflattering picture he paints of her through most of it).

The road trip with dad is a way for him to escape, and also ends up helping father and son connect like they never had, discussing Millhone's parents' unhealthy relationship, and his fears that his had wound up the same way. In between stops along highways, Millhone tells the story of his childhood and parents, meeting and marrying his wife, and how it all fell apart. It's only in the second half of the book that the story really gets rolling, so hang with it.

The falling apart of the marriage storyline stuck out to me. I am, as you might know, in a new relationship. We are that couple who always holds hands, kisses in public, and makes teenagers gag with the goopy eyes we throw at each other. I can't help myself. Neither can he, and it's wonderful.

I never imagined my parents this way. By the time I could start really remembering anything, they were already be on a downward track that ended when they divorced my freshman year of college. Well, it's not completely over. My brother is getting married on June 6, and an undertone to the whole thing has been dancing around my parents and their lingering frustration with each other. Working on seating arrangements required deep breaths and alcohol.

But on my desk is a picture of my parents at their rehearsal dinner. I don't know where I got this picture. I've had it for a long time, and it's followed me from apartment to apartment and finally my house. I think it's on my desk because I tried to scan it, but the scanner I borrowed didn't work, and it's stayed propped up between a glass cow and a stack of business cards. My mom is wearing white pants and white polo. My dad's in jeans and a wonderful 1970s floral shirt. My mom is looking at the camera, and my dad is looking at her. This is a couple in love. This is a couple who is about to be married and live the life of their dreams, start a family, buy a house, and do everything that they are supposed to do.

And yet I'm dealing with the divorced parents dance for Jim's wedding and ready for the encore that'll take place at my sister's wedding in November.

My dad told me on our own long drive that they promised to never take each other for granted, which is what happened -- among other things I'm sure. I think about that a lot when I look at my boyfriend. I worry that we'll take each other for granted, too.

I've never been able to see or ask my parents how they went from that rehearsal dinner picture to the squabbles of last week. The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoir shines the light on one such relationship (though it doesn't necessarily end poorly). It's not my parents story, but it's a reminder that relationships don't take care of themselves. They have to be tended to and grown -- important to remember as I embark on this new journey.

On a lighter note: tomorrow I'll be at Book Expo America, a huge publishing conference where I'll vie for the hot tote bag of the day, free copies of books, business cards and probably meet up with my publisher.

Digg this

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book 44 of 52: The Divorce Party

The Divorce Partyby Laura Dave is about unraveling relationship -- the title's an indicator of that. But it's not just about one couple. Instead, three relationships are stressed in this book, which takes place in one day -- the day of a divorce party, which is mean to celebrate a marriage ending like a wedding celebrates a marriage beginning.

It's an OK novel. The split narrator perspective, which alternates between the main character, Gwyn, and her son's finance, Maggie, both adds perspective and mystery. It allows Dave to write the story from two points of view, but also keep some information, which is assumed by the other character, shrouded.

But it's just OK -- not a work of fiction that kept me anchored to my chair, but not a bad way to pass some reading time.

Digg this

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book 43 of 52: Die Fat or Get Tough

People get into shape in different ways. Some like to be pulled along. Others need to be coaxed with kindness. And others want to be smacked in the face and told to stop being a stupid fat lard.

Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People, an ebook by Steven Siebold, is for the last group and no one else -- I'm not kidding. With passages like the following, you need to steel yourself if you're going to give this one a go:

"Fat women are labeled 'plus-size' to make them comfortable buying giant clothing for their bloated bodies. The underlying message is 'It’s OK to destroy your health and die young. . .celebrate your obesity and buy our giant clothes!' And fat people are buying it. That’s the power of delusion."

"People do judge a book by its cover, and a fit body shows the world you have mastered this critical area of your life and gives them confidence you are capable of conquering challenges. Fat people don’t get second looks from people of the opposite sex, but fit people get noticed.

"99% of compliance is failing."

Yikes. I'm a fit person and even I think this is harsh. Obesity is obviously a problem in the U.S., and some tough love can hep, but this wouldn't motivate me. Then again, I got back into shape with a positive yet slightly stern trainer and having to write down everything I ate for six weeks.

But if you need tough love? I might be a fit. Before you run to download the book, a few warnings:

1. People who have or are prone to eating disorders should NOT read this book. Siebold says that fit people learn to love being hungry. When I'm hungry, it means I haven't eaten enough and, given how much I run, could pass out. I tried to cut out calories and be hungry recently, and I was miserable. Learn to eat until and only when you're full -- that'll help.

2. Do NOT take the advise of cutting out pictures of who you want to look at as motivation because most people whose pictures you would cut out? They're not healthy. They're not realistic goals. Between running and walking the dog, I work out for about an hour every day. I eat and extremely healthy diet, and I feel great. But there is no way I can look like people that the "media" say are ideally beautiful. Miss California might be seen as pretty, but would I want to look like a morally bankrupt waif with fake hair, fake tan and fake boobs? No.

3. Siebold equates being fit to being happy, and that's not always the case. Some of my sorority sisters put pictures of Britney Spears around their dorm room with quotes like "Don't eat that, or you can't look like me" or "Hey, fatty, get to the gym." And look how that turned out for Spears.

4. I don't see how 99% compliance is failing. No one's perfect, and it's OK to make mistakes 1% of the time. I didn't run yesterday because I felt dizzy. That's not being lazy. That's being smart.

But Siebold has his reasons. He writes: "These are just a few of the daily negative inputs that deplete a fat person’s energy. The sad fact is, it has become so common it no longer shocks anyone. This is why I chose to be so direct with you in this book. Through kindness and an attempt to be politically correct, society has enabled millions of people to destroy their health through bad habits. The purpose of my direct approach is not to be mean, but to shock fat people back into the reality that being fat is slowing killing them."

If you think that'll work for you, go ahead and download the book -- just keep my warnings in mind.

Digg this

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book 42 of 52: Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellness

That was fast, right? That's because, like Book 20 of 52, Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellnessis more pictures and large type with generous spacing than you'll find in a typical book, like most of what I review here. That's not to diminish the book -- not at all. If you're looking to get into a greener lifestyle, especially when it comes to what you put on your face every day, it's a nice place to start, though I'd skip the nutrition information and what author Lina Hanson has to say about the sun (you DO need some vitamin D through the sun).

It was OK to read. I'm not really a makeup person. Most days I don't wear any, and I don't own foundation. I lost my makeup bag for a few days while in the Florida Keys, and I didn't miss it. But for those days I DO need to look slightly nicer, I might take a look at some of the looks Hanson presents (though illustrations might help).

And with that, I'm off to the shore tomorrow. Not sure what I'll be bringing, but I hope it'll be interesting.

Digg this

Book 41 of 52: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

My food reading journey has come around again. It started with Omnivore's Dilemma, Book 40 of 53 of the last "Book a Week" series -- a real eye opener about what's in most of the food you buy from the grocery story. I followed that up with Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer, which was the LAST book of the last series, and a book I give out as gifts.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)by Barbara Kingsolver (with experts by her husband and daughter) is about living a local diet for a year. She and her family swear of just about everything that does not come from the area around the Apalacia home (save olive oil, coffee, and a few other things). They start in early spring, race through summer, eat the bounty of fall, and survive off what they've frozen, canned and stored all winter long.

I did a little of this last year, putting up peaches and corner that I've used in baked and cooked dishes throughout the winter. One of my favorite childhood memories is going with my mom to the blueberry farm, buying flats and flats of the good Jersey stuff, then washing it all when we got home. I'd eat so many that my poop would turn green (sorry for the grossness, but it's the truth). We did a U-pick-em with strawberries once, too, though I was more fascinated to watch the blueberries being brought in off the farms, sorted, and into packages we'd stack in the back of the van and bring home.

Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)has inspired me to do more this summer. I plan to make some of the recipes in the book (a rhubarb and strawberry crisp for this weekend), and bring back the blueberry freezing tradition this year. Today I'm making bread bought with ingredients from our local health food store. Along with freezing peaches and corn, I hope to can tomatoes and tomato sauce, freeze zucchini and squash, and make some sun dried tomatoes. I might even roast peppers. I'm also going to turn a basement room that used to be a coal shoot into a cold storage cellar (it's not doing much now except holding extra AC units). It'll take time, sure, but I can't even explain to you how good those Jersey peaches tasted in the dead of winter. Once I get things going, it'll save me money, too, and keep in local, nutritious food through colder months.

One thing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)has NOT inspired me to do is grow a garden. I wish I could. Let me correct that: I probably could. But I hated gardening as a kid when I was forced to pull weeds form my grandmother's plot. I loved shucking peas, making zuchinni bread, and harvesting tomatoes, but the nitty gritty stuff? Pass. Instead, I've planted a tree in my backyard for birds, and hope to expand to some bird friendly shrubs. I'll invest my money in shopping the Collingswood Farmer's Market instead, and raiding the roadside stands in the inland parts of Cape May. I'll still get the best of Jersey Fresh but also be supporting farmers -- and don't have the urge to tear my hair out.

A few other random notes:

1. I wrote my review of Omnivore's Dilemma after I'd passed out at a wedding from poor nutrition (among other things, one being an afternoon wedding in the hot Arizona sun). I read this book while away at Key West. Our airport meal upon return was fries smothered in bacon and cheese. Tasted great for a while. I was sick the next day. I don't know if I can process that stuff anymore or I'd overindulged over the weekend. I was so glad to see the fresh greens my mom had bought me while I was away, and ate a monster salad for lunch to repair the damage.

2. Kingsolver writes what I have found the best explanation of why writers -- even busy shore writers -- need to do something other than write for their health and sanity. She writes this in relation to farming. I feel this way when it comes to running: "It is also noiseless in the garden: phoneless, meditative, and beautiful. At the end of one of my more ragged afternoons of urgent faxes from magazine editors or translators, copy that must be turned around on the dime, incomprehensible contract questions, and baffling requests from the IRS that are all routine parts of my day job, I relish the short commute to my second shift." Gardening isn't my second shift -- running is. And no matter how impossibly insane work can be, I need that break of no phones, no emails, no knocks on the door to keep my writing right.

3. The book address the issue of cost. A lot of people think that buying local and fresh is far too expensive. It doesn't have to be (how many people want to GIVE away zucchini in the summer?). But Kingsolver points out that American spend the least amount of money on food of any developed country. Is locally grown foods a few bucks more? Sometimes. But we spend money on ipods, cable, the latest and greatest cell phone, "throwaway" fashions, and hot dog toasters. What's more important -- a gimmicky appliance, or what you eat -- especially when what you buy local is more nutritious and flavorful than what's imported from elsewhere. Take, for example, strawberries. I think it's a CRIME that Wegmans is stocking California strawberries when it's strawberry season in New Jersey. Why buy something that tastes like cardboard when you can get this?



These strawberries were picked today and sold to me an hour ago. They come from a Jersey farm and were sold at a mid-week Farmer's Market that Collingswood sets up near the PATCO commuter train every Wednesday in the summer. The woman who sold them to me noted that I hadn't been at the market that week -- not an accusation, but wanted to know if I'd gone on a trip (I had). I salivated the whole way home, and ate almost an entire basket standing up at the kitchen sink. In the winter, I dream of strawberries, but I can't bring myself to buy the cheap immitations. I happened to be in Tampa during Florida's strawberry season, and bought two pints that I ate on my drive from Tampa to St. Pete Beach. It's not any strawberry I crave, but fresh and local ones. Are those strawberries pricey? A bit. But I'm more than happy to live without cable and an ipod to have them in my kitchen.

Digg this

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book 40 of 52: Vision in White

It's finally here! My article about the secret lives of romance writers is out in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly. What fun! I had a blast writing that one, which leads me into this next book: Vision In White
by Nora Roberts.

I bought this book a few weeks ago, but tamped down temptation to read it. Why? Because I wanted it for vacation. And it's the perfect beach (or pool or wherever-you-escape book). Unlike some of Roberts titles, it does not involve murder, magic or even real threat. It's about a woman trying to figure out love.

This book is the first of a four-part series about four friends who run a wedding business (typical Roberts pattern as well). This book's "couples who you know will fall in love" include a the wedding photographer of the bunch and a history professor. I do love a man in tweed, so that was a nice touch.

Yes, it reads like many of her other novels, and I knew how it would end, but isn't that the kind of book you WANT to read on vacation? Something that's not too taxing? I finished the book half way through and was sad to see the end, but the next book in the series comes out in December.

Digg this

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book 39 of 52: The End of Overeating

I've never been obese. I might have tipped high on the body fat scale from college until my mid-20s, but I was never so heavy that my weight was a medical issue. But certain foods are so tempted that I can rarely turn them down: a BLT with fries at a Jersey Diner; hoagie from Carmen's deli in Bellmawr, N.J.; potato chips. Oh, potato chips. You are my demon and friend.

My response to dealing with these foods is not to have them in my home. I never buy potato chips. I don't order hoagies. I switched my eating patterns around by writing an article about it. In writing down everything I ate and forcing myself to try something new, I retrained my brain away from processed foods and instead seek out fresh fruits and vegetables. My favorite lunch is a kick ass Greek Salad. I slip sometimes and have that BLT, that hoagie, or those chips (usually with the hoagie), but I don't lust after them.

I never thought about why those foods are so good for me even though I know they're not healthy. David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA (and self proclaimed over-eater), examines that issue in The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

The book has a lot of important information, and is filled with interviews with scientists, people locked into eating patterns that have rendered them obese, and food industry experts -- some speaking anonymously because they talk frankly about how food in restaurants is so awful for you and how they are designed to keep you wanting more. Fascinating stuff, but it's not exactly a thrilling read. I abandoned it this weekend in favor of Book 38 of 52. It's dry, repetitive and probably 100 pages too long. But I can see that, if you're stuck in an overeating pattern and want to break out, knowing the science of why people eat the way they do in the U.S. can be invaluable.

And with that, I'm off to Key West for a few days -- a much needed mini vacation (I wish I could talk a full one, but that's not happening until at least November). I will NOT be packing work books, so expect some fun stuff when I return!

Digg this

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book 38 of 52: 4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land

I first visited Asbury Park about a year ago. I dated someone who lived in the area, and we took a stroll on the boardwalk. It was the Jersey Shore, but it was different than the towns I wrote about in my book, which covers Atlantic City to Cape May.

We saw a lot of activity on the boardwalk, but it was an area end-capped by what looked like a graveyard and a building past its prime. On the south end was the Casino, a gutted shell attached to hold a grand carousel. On the north end was Convention Hall, a glorious building that still looked gritty inside. In between were boarded up buildings and pockets of construction. I didn't give it too much thought -- we passed over into Ocean Grove, and I got lost in the architecture there.

The scene this weekend in Asbury was nearly the same, except that gentleman is in my past and those pockets of construction were new restaurants and bars -- and they were packed. The shell of a failed condo project still backs the boardwalk, but the boardwalk was alive. Out that Friday night, I went from one crowded hot spot to another, and it's not even Memorial Day Weekend -- and most of the people eating and drinking lived in the area and were part of this town with a new, slightly edgy vibe. I could see myself there. I even looked at properties on realtor.com. I felt like I could, with time, belong there.

After that Friday night out, I bought 4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land by Daniel Wolff from a gift shop in Ocean Grove. The book I brought with me was interesting but I wanted to soak in a good story while reading on the boardwalk. This proved to be it -- a history of Asbury Park, from its Methodist roots to race riots to what it is today (though the book caps off in 2003, when new construction started yet again). It also described where Atlantic City and Asbury Park, which had similar plot lines of fading shore towns with corrupt governments, diverged. AC legalized gambling, but Asbury Park did not. I can only imagine if AC had kept out the casinos, it would look something like Asbury Park, not a carnival built on vice. Throw in a healthy dose of Bruce Springsteen's origins in town, which fill the final chapters of this book, and you've got someone who wants to learn more and go back to Asbury Park.

My perspective is different than Wolff's, though. I see an Asbury Park not described in the book (simply because of the production timeline). When I visited this weekend (which I wrote about here), I saw a city pushing toward something new. Despite all the previous redevelopment failures and dirty politics, something new and exciting is taking hold. The Casino is still a shell, but Cookman Avenue isn't boarded up. It's busy, even in a bad economy. The boardwalk still has empty buildings, but it also has crowded ones. Even a former HoJo is a restaurant complex -- I saw a wedding party using the top floor for its reception.

The town isn't out of the woods, of course. I saw a drug deal go down while returning to my hotel, and a lot of those new condos are empty. But as Marilyn Schlossbach, owner of Langosta Lounge, which opened this year, pointed out: her restaurant's waitresses are buying condos. She and her husband are looking to buy in town instead of commuting from another shore town. She had been part of the attempted redevelopment in 1985 and took a hit when it didn't pan out, but this time she's optimistic, both by the progress and people filling her restaurant.

The book also pointed me back to the "what will my second book" question be. I want to write a similar book about Atlantic City and how gambling has affected the town. I've been talking to an agent who doesn't quite see that as a viable project, but I might try to do it anyway (got an agent interested to recommend? Lemme know!) It would be a major undertaking, but now that I'm so ingrained into shore journalism, I don't want to leave.

Anyway, I'm rambling. It's a good book, and one to read if you're interested in shore history. It's not boring. It's a great story, too, if the ending is a positive one. And I hope it will be.

Here's a few pictures from the weekend:













Even if you've only heard about Asbury Park through a Springsteen song, this book is worth the read (and maybe a visit so you can see all the sites he sings about!)

Digg this

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Scrub a dub dub

Scrubs ended tonight, and I wrote about the finale on my other blog if you wanted to check it out. I usually write about more personal things on this blog, but wanted to share with the site that gets more readers (no offense!) I has a happy ending -- especially if you've followed along as I've used writing and reading to sort through heartbreak.

Digg this

Book 37 of 52: How Sex Works

A book about sex should be interesting. The topic of How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Doby Dr. Sharon Maolem was enough for my editor to assign me a review, and for me to accept said assignment. Getting paid to read a doctor-written book about sex and the hows and whys behind why we act in the mating race? Sign me up.

How Sex Works, though, is a disappointment, a jumbled mess that makes sex boring. With scant organization, poor writing and even worse editing, it's a waste of time and money for any reader who wants to learn something about what the book promises to be about.

Harsh? Maybe, but I struggled reading through this one. It's also an example of how book publishing isn't so high and mighty that it produces only fantastic books, and of the marketing trappings that can shroud a book to make it more interesting if you see it in a bookstore.

Let's tackle these two separately.

1. Poorly written and edited.
Reach back into your memory to what you learned about adverb and adverb phrases. While both can add description to what you're writing, they drag down writing when overused, which Moalem does -- in excess. If I read one more "actually" (or "generally speaking, "of course," "in other words," "more precisely," or "essentially), I was going to throw the book across the room. Don't believe me that the abuse of such words makes for weak writing? Re-read the first two paragraphs of this review. If written in Moalem style, they'd have appeared as:

**

For sure, a book about sex should be interesting. The topic of How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Doby Dr. Sharon Maolem was pretty much enough for my editor to assign me a review, and for me to accept said assignment. Actually getting paid to read a doctor-written book pretty much about sex and the hows and whys behind why we act in the mating race? Of course, sign me up.

How Sex Works, though, is a disappointment, a jumbled mess that actually makes sex boring. More precisely, with scant organization, pretty poor writing and even worse editing, of course it's a waste of time and money for any reader who wants to learn something about what the book promises to be about.

**

Notice the difference? Imagine a book -- a poorly organized book -- like that. Editing should have taken that out if the writer's not strong enough to recognize it himself.

2. Marketing trappings
What would you think about a book written by a previous New York Time bestselling author? One whose back cover is covered in "advance praise" and whose author bio lists appearances by said author on CNN, The Daily Show and Today? Should be good, right? Wrong -- that's the case with this book. Notice that the praise is "advance" -- they're not reviews but quotes from other authors. Appearances on TV don't always make for a good book. An interesting enough topic can be enough to get you on TV. My book was given the thumbs up by AARP magazine. It'd be like relying on that appearance in the magazine to prove I'm a good writer, then listing the review (it could have been panned by AARP, and I could still claim that they mentioned the book).

I'm annoyed by this book. It's a bad one wrapped in a pretty bow and will, despite my poor review, sell. But you don't need to fall prey. If you're looking for a good book about sex, pick up The Guide to Getting It On Edition. I read the book in college, and I have the sixth edition on my desk. I hoped to review it for this series, but it's too long, and I don't have enough time right now. I've read bits and pieces, though, and it's still the same book that fascinated me as a teenager. It's well written, funny, and has drawings, which How Sex Works does not (how can you write about the our sexual parts without a diagram? The Guide to Getting It On Edition has diagrams all right -- plus a "match the picture of the flaccid penis with the picture of its erect counterpart" game).

So skip the book with all the marketing dollars behind it and go for the interesting and funny guide to sex instead. Actually. Of course.

Digg this

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book: The Sequel

The fine folks at Perseus Book Group are undertaking a project called "Book: The Sequel." They're asking me (and a lot of other people and anyone else who wants to submit) to make up the first line of an imagined sequel to a well known book. For example:

"It turned out not to be the worst of times at all-- they got so much worse later."-- from A Tale of Three Cities by Charles Dickens

“I thought I could, I thought I could, but you know I just couldn't: they haven't improved the track bed in years, the signaling belongs in the 1950s, you try burning coal these days in urban areas and legally I'm not allowed to carry milk, toys and a clown in the same open wagon anymore.”—From The Little Engine That Couldn't (sequel to The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper)

"Call me, Ishmael!"—From Moby Dick's Guide to Dating at Sea by Herman Melville

They're taking submissions until May 28th (the first day of Book Expo America -- I'll be there on the 29th) and then will publish the book of the best openers within 48 hours.

Want to play? Submit at www.bookthesequel.com. You can also read more here and follow along on the project's twitter feed at twitter.com/booksequel (and if you want to follow me, I'm at twitter.com/jerseyshorejen)

Should be a fun experiment in social media translating to traditional media. I have no idea what my submission will be, if at all. Stay tuned!

Digg this

Book 36 of 52: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Hey-o! Out of the book funk...at least for now.

I've meant to read Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance since the election. I wanted to know more about the man who was to then-become President, but I'd also read reviews of the books that pegged it as a different kind of book than those typically written by candidates for higher office.

And there's a good reason why: Obama wrote this book in 1992, before he was even in politics. Instead of smarmy "this is why you should vote for me" books put out by every candidate (on both sides of the aisle), it's a book by a man of mixed race with an absent father. The fact that he then went on to become President is a footnote -- not even mentioned in the book (though it does have a 2004 epilogue).

I don't want to jump into politics too much, so this review will be short. As a memoir, it's good. Does it give you a better picture of where the President came from? Absolutely. But even if you don't like him, it's still a great read and well written book about one man's journey through the choppy racial waters of American and Africa (though I'd agree with Obama when he says in the 2004 introduction that he was a little verbose).

Why did I pick it up now? I don't know. It could have to do with the book funk, wide praise of the book, and the 20% off sticker at Target. Whatever it was, I'm glad I picked it up.

Digg this