Memoir and Intrigue...
Ever since I could add letters together to form words, I've been plowing through books. As a result I have a home bursting with tomes of every description. If I live long enough, I plan to be a dottering old man, wandering from bookshelf to bookshelf in a ratty robe and slippers. Hopefully my children (book lovers themselves) will make sure I'm fed and cared for.
I used to consume innumerable novels, and Stephen King was an early hero. But the older I've gotten, the less I've wanted to read anything that wasn't true. Maybe it's the newsman in me, maybe I'm subconciously trying to make up for my glaring lack of edumacation. Maybe it doesn't matter.
Whatever the case, I've devoured a strict diet of NON-fiction for about ten years now. I'm a sucker for all those repackaged tales of the past that swell your local bookstore's history section. And being an ex-sailor I have a special place in my heart for tales of the sea. Which brings me to my first selection:
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA by Nathaniel Philbrick
Everyone's heard of Moby Dick (a few of us have actually read it) but that famous work of fiction was based on true events. In 1820 a rogue sperm whale attacked a Nantucket whaler, setting off circumstances that would end in death, treachery and cannabilism.
NEWJACK by Ted Conover
Conover wanted to shadow a recruit at the New York State Corrections Academy but was refused by the state. So he took a job as a rookie prison guard at Sing Sing. What he found inside those esteemed prison walls is enough to make you drop all plans for that tri-state crime spree. I know I did.
INTO AFRICA by Martin Dugard
"Doctor Livingstone, I presume"...if those words sound familiar but you don't know why, then you need to read this book. In the mid 1860's the age of exploration turned it's eye toward the heart of Africa. After a famous expedition goes awry, a journalist steps in, saves the day and exploits everyone around him. Sound familiar?
THE LAST DIVE by Bernie Chowdbury
Not since JAWS has a book made me so re-think the sea. This harrowing tale of a father and son pushing the limits of deep sea diving is enough to make you strap on floaties the next time you hit the pool. A freaky peek at a whole different world.
THE CIRCUS FIRE by Stewart O'Nan
This one is grisly. In 1944, while the men were away at war, a circus tent filled with women and children caught fire and went up in mere minutes. The unfolding tragedy can be hard to stomach at times, but it includes an excellent look at journalists responding to spot news in 1944.
BLUE BLOOD by Edward Conlon
New York City cop Conlon redefines the cop memoir genre. A Harvard grad who follows families ties back to the thin blue line that is daily law enforcement. Once on the beat, Conlon takes note, and delivers a beast of a book in the process, detailing the insanity and righteousness of being a cop.
KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL by Anthony Bourdain
A Journeyman Gourmet Chef takes you through the incredibly seedy world of Big City Five Star Restaurants. Though I didn't understand much of the french food being discussed in these pages, this hilarous and frightening account of a Big City's chef's misadventures convinced me I could do the same with the role of the local TV News Photographer. Wish me luck!
VIEWFINDER BLUES by Stewart Pittman
A veteran local TV news photographer puts the lens aside for a moment and scribbles madly in his worn notebook. The resulting manifesto skewers the righteous and the absurd in this all-out indictment of an increasingly silly business. Currently Under Construction...