Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book 35: Sex With Kings


"Royal mistresses maneuvered adeptly in an environment rife with intrigue, where the fundamental human matters of life and death and love meant little compared to the crumbs of success or specks of failure at court. To courtiers a little nod from the king in passing spelled exultant victory, the lack of a nod humiliating defeat. The court was a world of twisted values, strange honor, and disgraces incomprehensible to later generations."

Dates read: March 25-27, 2016

Rating: 6/10

One of the things I find myself wishing I'd done more in college is take more gender studies classes. I took a class about gender and sexual identity in cinema as an undergrad that was a psychology course, and I was intrigued by the new-to-me concept of gender performance, the idea that at least part of our gender presentation is acting out the parts of "man" or "woman" as we've been taught they look like according to our surrounding culture. I think I like wearing dresses because I just do, but there are a variety of social forces acting on me, most of which I am completely oblivious to (including the pressure to perform my gender), combined with my own preference that all add up to "I wear dresses most of the time and I think it's because I personally have decided to do so".

What this has to do with anything is that in Sex With Kings, a companion volume to Sex With The Queen, Eleanor Herman sheds light on royal men and the mistresses they took. At least in part, the implication is that royal men took mistresses not only because they wanted to, but to demonstrate to their courts that they were virile and vigorous. An overactive sex drive was (and to a certain extent, continues to be) an expected trait in men, and the king was supposed to be the manliest man of all. But the services that a royal mistress was to provide went far beyond sex (look no further than Madame de Pompadour, whose sexual relationship with King Louis XV ended long before her reign as royal mistress ended): she was to provide pleasant companionship to the King whenever he wanted it. That meant being available at all times, never being snappy or rude (although some mistresses were famous for quick tempers, most were not), never complaining of any inconvenience. They were rewarded with fancy rooms in the palace, titles, and estates, but those could be stripped when a new favorite was installed, so the smart ones got jewels and cash.

This book was actually published prior to Sex With The Queen, and I think Herman learned from her issues with Sex With Kings in writing the second book. While the structure is fairly similar (a topic, like the children of mistresses, is the focus of each chapter and various examples are highlighted to illustrate it), Sex With The Queen also took a deeper dive into a few stories, like Catherine the Great, and told them straight through. I think that approach was ultimately more successful than the one used in this book, which has a few women to whom it constantly returns (Madame de Pompadour, Madame du Barry, Louise de Keroualle, Lady Castlemaine, and Lola Montez are particular favorites). You don't really get a sense of the full scope of these women's lives as their stories get told piecemeal, and it can get confusing to try to keep them and all their details straight. I found myself having to flip back, try to remember which king they were attached to, who their rivals and predecessors were, what country and era they lived in.

Along with the issues with the way in which the stories were told, Herman's fondness for cheesy physical description gets a little eye-roll-y at times. The women seem to uniformly have "cascading hair", "sparkling eyes", and a "dazzling complexion". I like that she's trying to make the mistresses and their lives and struggles feel contemporary and real instead of something out of a stuffy history book, but I think their stories are compelling enough without the gushy language. That all being said, these are interesting stories and ones which we don't usually come across. Herman does a good job of shedding light on details we might not usually think about when it comes to how these women's lives actually played out behind the scenes, and this would be a great starter book if you're interested in this kind of thing, like I am, and want to get ideas about biographies you'd like to explore. I'd heard of Madame de Pompadour before, and the information in this book was definitely enough to make me interested in reading more about her!

Tell me, blog friends: do you have any favorite historical scandals to read about?

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This week's topic: things that books have made me want to do or learn about after reading them! This one was a little bit of a struggle...while I've never watched a dance movie without immediately wanting to take a dance class the next day, books don't usually inspire the same kind of "I need to go do that now!" mentality for me. But I went through my reading list and found some books that sparked a new interest for me!

To Do:

Black Beauty: Horseback riding- It was this and many other horsey books, to be honest. Like pretty much every little girl ever, I took horseback riding lessons. It never went anywhere because I'm terribly allergic to cats and most barns have cats so I'd get allergy attacks when I went, but every time I read a book about horses I feel like I should maybe start it up again. It's never too late to learn, right?

Black Star, Bright Dawn: Dogsledding- Reading about a young Native American woman who races the Iditirod made me really want to get a team of huskies of my own and hitch up a sled! I'm glad my mom never indulged this particular whim of mine, I'm sure I'd have managed to get badly hurt.

The Big Rewind: Make a mixtape- Sure, I make iTunes playlists all the time. But actually putting one together for someone else and giving it to them? Never happened. But since reading this book, I've found myself wanting to put my feelings for someone else into music and let them experience it.

The Interestings: Look up my old summer camp friends- The book revolves around a group of kids who meet at a summer camp and stay close for the rest of their lives. I went to a day camp as a kid in the summers and I made some sweeps through facebook after I read it to see whatever happened to the kids I was friends with. I'm no longer close to any of them and we're all scattered to the winds now.

The Egypt Game: Visit Egypt- The book doesn't take place there, but it fed my Egyptophilia as a kid and, along with all the other reading I did about Ancient Egypt (which was a lot), made me want to go to there. This one is still on the to-do list...I want to see the pyramids and the sphinx!

To Learn About:

The Other Boleyn Girl: Tudor England- I remember reading a book or two about Elizabeth I that I liked as a young teen, but it was when I first read Phillipa Gregory's bestseller that I really got hardcore into the Tudors, which is now one of my favorite time periods to read about in fiction and nonfiction alike.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: Psychology- When I first started college, I was a political science major. While in light of future developments (since I'm a lobbyist now and everything), I might should have stuck with that, reading Oliver Sacks' book got me passionately into psychology and made me change my major and I regret nothing.

Blonde: Marilyn Monroe- Yep, another white chick who's all into Norma Jean. How original, I know. But there's a reason there are a bazillion biographies of her out there...she's undeniably compelling. Before I read this, I'd loved many of her movies, but I'd never given much thought to the human being behind the dumb blonde routine. Turns out she was a really interesting person.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy- On the one hand, he was a smart, charming, and handsome young man who volunteered for the suicide call center and would seem to have a bright future ahead of him. On the other, he killed several young women in horrible ways. That kind of internal contradiction was fascinating, and I read a few other books on Bundy, but none that got at his simultaneous humanity and inhumanity the way this one did.

The Hot Zone: Deadly viruses- The plot of this book could have easily been a fictional thriller, it was so tightly constructed and urgent. I was fascinated by the people who spend their whole lives running towards the terrible sicknesses instead of away, but nothing I read in this area afterwards had the same kind of propulsive intensity.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book 34: On The Edge Of Gone

"This is the second time my future vanishes: it's January 29, 2035, and I give up."

Dates read: March 22-25, 2016

Rating: 7/10

My husband and I sometimes will stream some nonsense TV show in the 30-45 minutes before we go to bed. We don't really watch it per se, it's just kind of on in the background. Alaska State Troopers is a show we do that a lot with, and so is Doomsday Preppers. The latter is more interesting than you might think...the kinds of people who are preppers aren't always the kinds of people you would imagine would be into that sort of thing. Sure, there are plenty of rural, religious types, but there's also families who live in McMansions in the suburbs, young single urbanites...a surprisingly diverse cross-section of our population.

But what if they were right? What if the end of the world was nigh? Corinne Duyvis' On the Edge of Gone takes place in the Netherlands about 20 years in the future, and at the beginning of the novel, we join teenager Denise and her mom as they (and the rest of the world) are getting ready for a comet to strike the planet. The very wealthy have left Earth via spaceship, and so have some of the very lucky, who won lotteries for spots on those ships. The remaining population have been assigned to shelters to ride out the strike and immediate aftermath. Denise, her sister Iris, and her mother are in the latter group, but when the appointed day comes and Iris is nowhere to be found, Denise and her mother find themselves running late to get to their shelter in time. On their way, they come across one of Denise's former teachers and her partner who have had an accident, and are permitted to take shelter aboard the spaceship they've been assigned to in return for helping them get there.

Once she's on the ship, Denise immediately starts trying to figure out how to stay...wouldn't anyone want to explore the stars instead of try to survive in the kind of post-apocalyptic situation that killed the dinosaurs? The rest of the plot unfolds from there: Denise's quest to find her sister and secure herself and her family room on the ship. When I was reading it, I kept expecting the ship taking off to be when the plot would really start, and it took me until about a quarter of the way through to figure out that wasn't the point. The point are the questions the scenario raises; most poignantly, how do you figure out who should live and who should die? What kinds of skills are really necessary anyways? We can all agree on doctors, cooks, and engineers, but who's more important: artists or lawyers? Young people or experienced people?

There's a movement out there centered around the idea that we need diverse books. I agree. I'm never going to be one to go on a deliberate spree to only read books by or about a particular gender or racial category (my favorite author is White Man Jeffrey Eugenides), but I think a lot of people's...fear or resistance or whatever it is, exactly, that makes them suspicious of others who aren't like them is based on a lack of exposure. It's easy to demonize gay people, or trans people, or people of color, to think of the world as Us v. Them, when you don't know any of Them. Once you get to know Them, it turns out they're people, just like you, with the same kind of hopes and dreams and bills and taxes that you have. Even literature can be an important bridge to build empathy...a book implicitly asks you to care about these people on the page, to imagine yourself in their shoes. Which is why it matters that Denise and Iris are mixed race, that Denise is autistic (as is the author), that Iris is transgender. Those aren't the kind of people you normally read books about. And this book in particular is well-crafted, with a story that draws you in and makes you ask yourself how you would deal with the situations that are presented therein. Definitely worth and read and a think.

Tell me, blog friends...what kind of not-typical protagonists would you like to see books about?

**I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review**

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Set Outside The US

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The BookishThis week's topic: books set outside the US! I think a lot of us (or maybe just me?) tend to read fiction set within our own's just instantly familiar, there's no learning curve. Thankfully I do sort my books on Goodreads by country setting, so I'm going to try to do no more than one from each country!

The Kite Runner (Afghanistan): I think most of us have read this one by now, yes? If you've somehow managed to not, I definitely suggest that you do because this story about friendship and guilt and what we owe the people we love is universal and heartbreaking and a must-read.

Number the Stars (Denmark): I'll admit that it's been a hot second (read: well over a decade) since I read this book about a young Danish girl whose family helps a Jewish family escape into Sweden to avoid concentration camps. But it's a testament to how powerful this book is that I still remember and think fondly of it all these years later.

The Remains of the Day (England): I loved this book so much. I'm going to keep talking about it forever. It's beautiful and sad and wonderful and everyone should read it.

Les Miserables (France): I'm inclined towards theater geekery, but I've actually never seen the musical based off of this book. I did see the terrible movie, though. With all due respect to the musical, I have to believe the book is better, just because a book clocking in at well over 1000 pages is inevitably richer than a 2-2.5 hour musical. There are long passages about economic fairness that are still deeply relevant to the world we live in, and the sprawling story is very well-told.

A Suitable Boy (India): I read this either the summer before college or the summer after my freshman year, I can't remember which. My mom had a copy, and I looked at its 1400 pages and figured it should keep me occupied for a while. It did more than keep me occupied, I found it consuming and read it constantly until it was done. It's about family and love and marriage and the Partition of India and it's incredible. Yes, it takes forever to read. Worth it.

Memoirs of a Geisha (Japan): I read this book so many times in high school and college that my original copy has a cover with corners missing. I know he had an issue with his primary source, geisha Mineko Iwasaki, who sued him for naming her in his acknowledgements when he'd promised not to and later wrote her own book. But I still wish he'd ever written anything else, because I loved this book.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (Netherlands): Another high school favorite! I'd actually already liked the painting, and this fictionalized history behind it of a young woman who gets drawn into the world of painter Johannes Vermeer was really enjoyable. I re-read it several times and it's still on my shelf, so it's probably time for another re-read!

Anna Karenina (Russia): I used to think I hated Russian lit after some failed attempts at this book and some Dostoevsky in high school. Turns out I was just too young for Anna Karenina (still hate Dostoevsky though), because when I read it a few years ago I blew through it's 1200 pages in like two weeks. Tolstoy is amazing.

Cry the Beloved Country (South Africa): My high school AP English teacher was a native Louisianan and had the accent to prove it, but she always encouraged us to read diverse books. And in some cases, MADE us read them: we had to choose between two books to read about the Black female experience and the Black male experience (we had to read at least one in each category), and Cry, The Beloved Country was mandatory reading for everyone. This novel's themes of individuals bridging the deep racial divisions of their country through love and forgiveness resonates with me still today.

Let Me In (Sweden): I like vampire media. Buffy. Twilight. I never got much into Anne Rice, but not everything is for everyone. I actually saw the movie first, which is really great and creepy as hell, and then when the book went on Kindle sale I picked it up. It's just as unsettling and delicately told, a haunting twist on the vampire lore you think you know.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book 33: Private Citizens


"She felt mute and illiterate in the language of power, which was money. She knew that corporate oligarchs used it to subvert democracy. But she was hazy on macro and micro; how US trade agreements affected sweatshop conditions in Indonesia; what the Fed did, exactly. Her efforts to research the housing market crisis ended in page-crumpling fury- credit default swaps? Mortgage-backed securities? Collateralized debt obligations? How could people be moral when morality obliged you to know everything? It was her fault for not studying econ in college, but she'd had so much contempt for the future ibankers that it had seemed principled not to."

Dates read: March 19-22, 2016

Rating: 8/10

I may have graduated from college almost ten years ago (eep!) but I went straight to law school after that, so I really only started to have that post-graduation trying-to-figure-it-out experience about 6 years ago. It took me a couple years....I spent nine months trying to find a job as a lawyer, doing a couple stints of book rush at the college bookstore to score some pocket money, then once I got into litigation practice I washed out (I have no problem admitting I couldn't handle the pressure) after about a year and a half. From there, I was lucky enough to have a friend with a connection to the Obama campaign in Nevada, and figured I could spend a few months doing field organizing, making enough money to cover expenses while I contemplated next steps. But I met my now-husband while campaigning, and so I stayed in Nevada. Needing a job, I happened to find out about an internship with a lobbying firm during legislative session. I took it, and they liked me so much they kept me! Things in my life have been pretty stable since, but those 2-3 years right after graduation were fumbling and awkward and kind of scary sometimes.

Which is all to say that the just-graduated-and-I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-doing, trying to discern out who you really are and what you really want to do era isn't all that far behind me, considering that I'm 30. That time in their lives is what the characters in Tony Tulathimutte's Private Citizens are facing, so I had an immediate connection with the story. Confused social activist Cory, insecure tech worker Will, unstable grad student Henrik and self-destructive wannabe writer Linda all knew each other at Stanford and live in and around tech-boom San Francisco, and the story follows each of them in turn as they try to figure out the obstacles in front of them: Cory's inheritance of a flailing nonprofit, Will's inability to cope with his hyperambitious, emotionally withholding girlfriend Vanya, Henrick's loss of funding for his research and recurrence of bipolar disorder, and Linda's drug issues and infatuation with her own perceived genius. They're not friends anymore, per se, more like people whose lives intertwined in college as roommates or in ill-fated relationships, and never came completely apart. And as their lives get more complicated and harder, they find themselves coming back together.

Both Tulathimutte's characterizations and grasp on the thorny knot it can be to be a millennial are strong and ring true. Cory and Will and Henrik and Linda all feel like real, if highly magnified, people. None of them are especially likable, but all of them can be sympathetic. They're all experiencing the fuzzy mess of trying to check your privilege, of trying to find the right boundaries between your online life and your real one, figuring out your own niche in a crowded world, living up to the praise and expectations you've been inundated with for your whole life. It's trendy to dismiss millennial malaise as a bunch of whining from spoiled brats, but Tulathimutte understands that it isn't that simple. We were raised to believe that you earn a medal just for showing up, that you can be anything you want to be...and when it turns out that your life isn't particularly special, you can't shake the feeling that it's your fault, somehow, that you've failed yourself and wasted your potential. The writing is maybe a little heavy on esoteric word choices, but it's sharp and incisive and compelling. I'm not sure how I felt about the end, felt like a bit of a departure from the rest of the book, at least in part. But maybe when I read it again (and I plan to), knowing how it winds up, it'll fit more cohesively.

Tell me, blog long did it take you to get yourself together after college?

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, William Morris, through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review**

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Facts About Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The BookishThis week's post: ten things about me! Which is fun and I'm really looking forward to reading everyone else's. I suspect it's not just me who doesn't always click over to the "About" page on most blogs, so the lives of my fellow book bloggers outside of just reading are largely a mystery to me. There are several of you out there who do post some personal content, and I'm toying with the idea of doing the same eventually (some sort of monthly wrap-up?). We'll see. Anyways, here are ten things about me, Gabby, the reader behind 500 Books!

I'm a newlywed: I just got married a little less than a month ago to the man I've been with for nearly four years and while wedding planning was one of the least pleasant experiences I've been through, we had a super fun wedding and I'm really glad to be married.

I used to be a lawyer: I've mentioned in a few of my posts that I went to law school, and I practiced in Michigan for about a year and a half. Being a lawyer had been my lifelong dream, until I started actually being one and quickly realized it was not a good match for my anxiety-prone temperament. I've been out for four years now and moving on was 100% the right choice for me.

I've lived in three different states: Not just three different states, but in three different regions of the country. I was born and raised and went to college in Michigan, then spent three years in Alabama for law school, and I've been out in Nevada since 2012. I will forever be a Michigander at heart and be homesick for my mitten-shaped home, but Nevada is where Drew and I plan to stay.

I have terrible handwriting: It's legible, but most people think it's a man's handwriting. It's cramped and kind of messy and tends to list upwards if I'm writing on a completely blank sheet. I'm glad we mostly type on screens these days.

I hate condiments: Yes, all of them. I don't even like dressing on my salad most of the time. I've got a lot of weird food things, this is just one of the weirdest.

I'm a lifelong insomniac: It's gotten a little better as I've aged, but I have a really hard time falling asleep generally. I actually do quite a lot of my reading before bed because it's one of the most effective ways for me to wind down. But mostly I'm a natural night owl in a world where my job starts at 830 am. I spend weekends sleeping in to catch up.

I love t-rexes: I am obsessed, y'all. Several adorn my office and my coffee mugs. And my favorite thing I did on my honeymoon? Visiting Sue at the Field Museum! That wedding cake with the t-rex toppers up there? Mine!

I have clinodactyly: Which just means that my little fingers curve in towards my ring fingers. It doesn't necessarily mean anything on its own (though it is associated with several genetic conditions, including Down's and some forms of dwarfism), it's just a neat and weird little quirk. My grandmother on my dad's side had it as well, but not as strong as mine is.

I pole dance: I've been doing this off and on for about 2 years, but only consistently for the past six months or so. It's fantastic exercise, and anyone can do it...albeit at different paces. There are girls who have started long after I did that can do stuff I can't even contemplate, but it's super fun and I'm learning at my own pace.

I've been a vegetarian since I was 15: Over half my life now! I gave up red meat around 14 and all meat a year later. No, I don't eat seafood, and I hate that people who do call themselves vegetarians. Sea creatures are animals too. The first year is the hardest, so many family holidays revolve around meat. Once you realize it can be done, getting through them without partaking in the main course, it's much easier. I'm not a proselytizing vegetarian though, whether anyone else eats meat (like my rabid carnivore husband) bothers me not in the least.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book 32: The Nazi Hunters


"A big part of the motivation for holding the war crimes trials was exactly that: to provide examples of justice at work for the whole world to see. By presenting the record of the Third Reich, aggression by aggression, mass murder by mass murder, atrocity by atrocity, the trials were critical to establishing exactly what had happened- and establishing the principle that the perpetrators bore direct responsibility for their crimes, whatever they understood their orders to be."

Dates read: March 16-19, 2016

Rating: 6/10

If you'd asked me, after high school, what history looked like from World War Two on, based on what I'd learned in class, I'd have probably said something like this: WW2 started in Europe, but the US stayed out until Pearl Harbor was attacked. There'd be a brief aside about Japanese interment on the home front, but once we got into the war overseas, America kicked ass and took names. We won the battles and liberated the concentration camps. Then there was the Cold War, which meant McCarthyism, the Space Race, and then the glasnost/perestroyka stuff and the Berlin Wall came down. That was usually as far as we got before the end of the year.

If you wanted me to tell you what happened to the Nazi leadership after the war, I wouldn't have had much to offer besides that Hitler and his mistress killed themselves. This isn't to tear down public school curriculum or teachers or insinuate that I was taught poorly or anything like that. World and even US history are such broad topics that you kind of have to focus on the highlights or you'd never get through it. But the fact remains that I (and I imagine many others) are largely clueless about what actually happened to the Nazis. Now that it's 2016 and many of the major players are very old or gone, there is perspective to look back at how it all played out: both with the Nazis and the people who sought to bring them to justice. Hence, Andrew Nagorski's The Nazi Hunters.

If you're like me and you have only a vague understanding of the topic but find it interesting, this book is a good choice. It's very comprehensive. Nagorski begins by discussing the immediate aftermath of liberation of the camps, including military personnel literally looking the other way on some occasions in which survivors assaulted and killed their former tormentors, then the Dachau trials and the Nuremberg trials. This was largely (but not totally) the end of judicial proceedings against former Nazis, and Nagorski covers why that was, with the rising tide of the Cold War cited as a particular distraction for the international community.

It might have been the effective end of the trials, but it was not the end of people seeking justice against senior members of the Nazi party. The most high-profile story is the abduction and Israeli trial of Adolf Eichmann, but there's also the stories of former Nazis Klaus Barbie, Latvian pilot Herbert Cukurs, and former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, among many many others, and their hunters, like Simon Wiesenthal, Tuvia Friedman, Isser Harel, and Beate and Serge Klarsfeld.

I'm not sure quite what I was expecting going in, but I think it was more along the lines of a narrative/non-fiction novel style book. This is not that. It's very factual...not quite as dry as true academic writing, but more like newspaper reporting. It's very well-researched and thorough, but if you're looking for a thrilling true life pageburner, this will probably disappoint you.

Tell me, blog friends...what gaps did high school history leave in your knowledge?

**I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review**

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The BookishThis week's topics are books we liked that have stayed mostly under the radar (i.e. have only a couple thousand ratings on Goodreads). I found this an intriguing topic and I can't wait to see everyone else's lists too...a lot of "hidden gems" lists often feature books that were actually fairly popular at one point or another. These ones are really pretty hidden!

The Anointed One: I can see why this one doesn't have many Goodreads's really good, but it's really focused on Nevada politics, and that's a really small world of people. But if you are interested in politics on any level, Jon Ralston tells a fascinating story behind a gubernatorial election and how the sausage is really made!

Welcome To My World: Figure skating is my favorite sport. I'm not, like, good at it at all, but I just love watching it. And Johnny Weir, during his skating career, was one of my favorites (he's still a favorite in his commentating career). He published a memoir and I bought it and I liked it! And when he did a tour to support it and came to the Ann Arbor Borders (RIP), I totally went and got my copy signed, so I've got that on my shelf still.

Kinky: This poetry collection based on Barbie was something I picked up from a high school classmate in AP English (who is completely off social media and I wonder what ever happened to). Denise Duhamel uses America's favorite doll to reflect on social expectations, particularly of women, and it's actually a book I still think about and pick up every so often. I'm not a poetry buff, so that's a big endorsement.

Star Split: I do have a copy of this, although I haven't read it in forever and I'm pretty sure it's out of print now. This genetic-engineering based dystopian young adult book by Katheryn Lasky really got me thinking about those kind of issues, which obviously continue to be relevant, as a teenager and was a good story besides.

Bo's Lasting Lessons: If you know me, you know that I love Michigan football. LOVE Michigan football. I worship at the altar of Bo Schembechler. Popular Michigan professor and writer John U Bacon teamed up with the legendary coach to reminisce about his years as a leader and teacher of young men and how to be fair and decent without being a pushover. This is the closest thing to a motivational book that I own and now that I'm thinking about it I want to go back and re-read it.

The Chaneysville Incident: I honestly can't remember how I came to have this book on my Kindle (I presume it was on sale at some point), but I do remember that it was a bit of a slow start, kind of hard to get into. But once I did connect with David Bradley's story, about an African-American historian who comes back to his hometown to investigate his father's death, I rocketed through it and found it really hard to put down.

Supreme Conflict: I eat up books about the Supreme Court like candy. This one came out around the same time (and tread fairly similar territory) as Jeffrey Toobin's more popular The Nine. Which is a pity, because legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenberg (who was actually my commencement speaker when I graduated from Alabama Law) wrote a really good book.

Kramer v Kramer: Lots of people are aware of the Meryl Streep-Dennis Hoffman movie about a ferocious custody battle, but most don't know it was actually based on a book. The evolution of Ted Kramer from a self-centered workaholic to a devoted and responsible single father is beautifully written and really affecting.

No Lifeguard On Duty: For a long time, my guilty pleasure TV was America's Next Top Model. And the best part of early ANTM? Supermodel judge Janice Dickinson. She was loud and often crass, argumentative but right more often than not. And her life, which she recounts in this memoir, was some really crazy stuff. Given the title, might I suggest it as a beach read for the fashion-interested crowd?

Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son: I think I actually did find this one on a hidden gems list! It is what it says it is...a series of letters written from a self-made man to his son over the course of his lifetime, from starting out in the workplace to marriage and family. It's full of common sense approaches to issues we still face today.