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September 2013

A to Z Bookish Survey.

I often see literary quizzes and bookish memes that make the blog rounds, and I never, ever do them. And then I saw this A to Z Bookish Survey thing*, and I thought, why not do one? So here we go. And, if you want to answer any of these in the comments or post one on your blog and link back here (or to any of the blogs I credit below), please do so!

Author you’ve read the most books from: I'm guessing Agatha Christie. Nonfiction author would probably be William Langewiesche, as I read everything he produces--but in my opinion he just doesn't produce enough!

Best Sequel Ever: Don't know that it counts as a sequel, but I have to go movie here, as I don't read a lot of series or sequels. LOVED the Bond film "Casino Royale," the first with Daniel Craig.

Currently Reading: I am completely scattered lately, and have a different book in each one. Breakpoint: Why the Web Will Implode, Search Will Be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know about Technology Is in Your Brain, by Jeff Stibel. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. Jennifer Government, a novel by Max Barry.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Coffee, always coffee, or perhaps a nice Guinness, but as I get older I'm trying to work more water into the routine.

E-reader or Physical Book? Christ, I don't have the energy to figure out buying an e-reader or downloading books (particularly from the library). Physical books forever.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Oh, it's so predictable, but I would have killed to date Holden Caulfield. I can't imagine he would have dated me, though.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: The Epic of Gilgamesh. I listened to it on tape and really enjoyed it, although I can't remember a thing about it.

Hidden Gem Book: The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad, by Stacy Horn. Best True Crime book ever, and a stunning example of comprehensive, fact-checked, but compassionate and very readable nonfiction writing.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: When I realized that re-reading Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It was almost the only thing that could help me deal with my brother's death.

Just Finished: Lexicon, by Max Barry.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: I'm not a big science fiction fan. Also won't touch anything by Thomas Friedman, Jen Lancaster, or Jodi Picoult.

Longest Book You’ve Read: I shy away from long books, so I'm guessing here: maybe the novel Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin?

Major book hangover because of: I don't really understand this question. Book that gave me a headache? Book that made me throw up? Anyone have any ideas on what this one means?

Number of Bookcases You Own: Six, plus some built-ins the old guy (a cataloging librarian by trade) who owned this house before me left in the basement, which was his "bunker where he hid from his wife" (his description).

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury.

Preferred Place To Read: While traveling/airports. Even though I don't get that chance very often.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: I don't know the exact quote, but in John Bowe's fantastic investigative book on modern-day slavery, Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy, he said something to the effect that "Everyone thinks the problem is that the system is broken. The far bigger problem is that the system is working exactly the way it was set up to work." That one quote has provided years' worth of clarity for me about a wide variety of systems in our society.

Reading Regret:That I didn't do more reading in college, when I had the most time.

Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): For the most part I never read series. I'm hoping to read all of Carol Shields's books someday, and Tracy Kidder's.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: Oh, frankly, it's pointless to even try. I could put together three all-time favorites every month that I read. I love so many books. Click on "Favorites" in my sidebar and you'll see what I mean.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: ALL nonfiction.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: Just wandered through a few Forthcoming Fall 2013 title lists, and can't say anything really lit me on fire. Although evidently there's a Jeeves and Wooster novel coming out (Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, written by Sebastian Faulks, in the style of Wodehouse), and that might be fun.

Worst Bookish Habit: I read the last chapters of thrillers when I get bored of reading them from start to finish.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: I would have to get up to answer this question, and I just don't see that happening right now. The only bookshelf I can see from here is loaded with Mr. CR's Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine back copies.

Your latest book purchase: Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, by Stacy Horn

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): I'll admit I stayed up too late reading Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, but that was more because I wanted to be done with it than I was really enjoying it. I also stayed up too late with Rose George's fantastic The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, adult nonfiction about how everyone really does poop. Timely topic, what with CRjr tackling toilet training.

And there you have it! My first completed blog book survey.

*I saw it at Kim's Sophisticated Dorkiness site, but she got the idea from The Perpetual Page Turner.

The serendipity of finding titles, part two.

If you'll remember, yesterday I wrote about my lazy person's way of stumbling upon a wide variety of titles that I want to read in my library's catalog. The books in question were Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land (by David Mas Masumoto), and Harvesting the Bay: Fathers, Sons and the Last of the Wild Shellfishermen (by Ray Huling).

I really wanted to read it, but I didn't actually get the chance to start the Masumoto book before it had to go back to the library. Instead, for whatever reason, I picked up the second book (Harvesting the Bay) one night when I couldn't sleep. Ray Huling's investigative memoir about the shellfishermen on Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay (quahoggers) is a mix of work/job reporting and sociological history combined with personal memoir (as Huling comes from a long line of such shellfishermen). I came to think of it as "Studs Terkel meets Michael Perry."

I really liked Huling's personal insight into a job I'd never heard anything about. And a lot of what he had to say eerily echoed my own personal experience as the daughter of a farmer (another labor-intensive, singular profession):

"My father and grandfather also trained me to regret the loss of large numbers of hours to work, another dissuasion from my professional activities. One of the great attractions of quahogging is the trade-off it provides: You work hard so you don't have to work a lot. There's an adage for this: Quahoggers ain't lazy, but they don't want to work. This is something they say about themselves. It's an idea virtually unknown to the community of people outside the quahogging fold. The sentiment resides in me, but I am no quahogger, which, again, leaves me ill-prepared for the wonderful opportunities afforded me by a life of mental labor. This doesn't mean that I myself am motivated to do the right thing. I am caught between the bullraker and the world he righteously derides. If my position were grander, it would be tragic: I have all of the bullraker's scorn and none of his discipline." (p. 36.)

I really enjoyed that. I've never been very good at office or full-time professional work, and I always thought at least part of that was my upbringing on the farm. I never had any patience for meetings or any work that seemed more like "make work" than actually producing anything of value (like food).

Huling also had interesting things to say on the broader economic and social impact of the profession of shellfishing:

"On the national level, the proper action is so clear and obvious as to be banal: universal, single-payer health care. Sustainable food relies on people who perform hard manual labor, and the society that benefits from their suffering should do its best to alleviate it in the most direct way. Mike McGiveney wasn't kidding when he said that the cost of health care drove quahoggers off the water. The rising cost of insurance, insurance companies' pernicious attempts to deny care at every opportunity, and the willingness of health-care professionals to abet the insurance companies convinced many guys that the very communities they had helped to feed would throw them to the wolves once their bodies gave out after years of toil." (p. 265.)

As you can see from the text snippets I've provided, this is not narrative-driven writing that you just fly through. It's more along the lines of Wendell Berry writing, where you have to read a little bit and then take a break to digest it. At times it's a bit dry, a bit too technical about how quahogging works, but overall it's a fascinating, fascinating read. Consider checking it out.

The serendipity of finding titles.

The hot topic in library readers' advisory circles and bookselling for a while now has been "book discoverability."

Of course, this is nothing new. People who suggest and sell books have always talked about ways to help people who love to read books to find them. And it's always been (and always will be?) a somewhat tricky proposition, no matter what all the new social media book discoverability sites try to tell you.

So how do I most often find books? Well, for one thing, I'm very lucky that my tastes in nonfiction in particular are quite democratic. I'm promiscuous subject-wise; if I hear of a book that sounds interesting or is by an author I like, I'll most likely check it out, regardless of what its subject is (unless that subject is World War II, which I tend to avoid at all costs). So mainly what I do is a very unscientific mix of reading about books wherever I can--in magazines, on blogs, on those little tags that they have at Barnes and Noble that say "so and so who works here recommends"--and then either getting them from the library or wandering through the library catalog and seeing what else pops up around the title I was interested in.

That's right: no TBR Excel spreadsheets or lists around here. I just wander around cyberspace and anyplace else I can find books and wait for some to whack me in the face.

A case in point was this summer, when I read at Kim Ukura's excellent nonfiction blog Sophisticated Dorkiness, that she was working on a book called Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville, by Witold Rybczynski. (It's a book about urban/suburban development.) I can never remember how to spell Witold's last name, and I certainly can't pronounce it, but I do enjoy his writing, so this suggestion caught my eye.* So then I took myself off to my library catalog, and looked it up by title: last harvest. And here's my favorite thing about my library's catalog, it pulls up all the titles with those two words in them, which led me to two unrelated titles. From that search, I found two nonfiction books titled Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land (by David Mas Masumoto), and Harvesting the Bay: Fathers, Sons and the Last of the Wild Shellfishermen (by Ray Huling).

When I think back on how I find books, I realize it's actually a little shocking how much I depend upon and enjoy "book discoverability by serendipity." I also refer to it as the "lazy person's way to find books," because often when I do these loose title searches, I'll find three to five wildly unrelated nonfiction (and sometimes even fiction) books, and that keeps me busy for a while.

More later this week on actually reading these books. In the meantime: How do you "discover" the books you want to read?

*It turned out, after I'd requested and gotten the book from the library, that I thought I'd already read it (and enjoyed it, even if I couldn't remember much about it). So after all that, I didn't end up reading the original book I'd searched for.

Time for that very important (quarterly) thank-you.

It's that quarterly time of year again: time to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you.

When I first sold out and became a Powell's Books associate, and then an Amazon associate (which means, when you shop through the links in the sidebar* here, or at Powell's specifically through the book title links I provide, I get a small kickback), I swore I would say (at least) quarterly thank-yous.

So: Here it is, September, and I'd like to say THANK YOU for your continued support. It makes all the difference to help me pay for hosting this site, and I'm touched that you're able to remember to link through this page when doing your shopping. I find that inspiring, since I find these days it's all I can do to remember my own name. I owe you all big time.

*And please note the kickback from Amazon is provided on anything you shop for at Amazon (after you click the link here, to take you there), not just books.

Two for two on Drew Magary.

The Postmortal
by Drew Magary

I recently read Drew Magary's parenting memoir Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood, and really enjoyed it. He was a new author to me, but I noticed he was also the author of a novel titled The Postmortal. Well, why not, I thought.

It was a great read. I even read it while waiting around in a doctor's office for a routine check-up, and it kept me totally occupied. Any book that can take my mind off being in a doctor's waiting room, well, even if it's not a perfect book, I call that a good book.

The concept is simple. Sometime in the near future, a "cure" for aging is stumbled upon, and, although it at first it is only available to a lucky few, eventually it ends up being used by everyone. So, when you've got a population of people who aren't aging and aren't dying, what does that do to them? Their relationships? The earth and its resources?

The book is written in the format of one man's diary of the experience*, and although it starts out almost lighthearted, it gets steadily more unsettling. For instance, when the narrator (John Farrell) visits his sister, he asks whether she or her husband will be getting the cure:

"'So you're never going to get it? And you'll never let Mark get it?'

She let out a low groan. 'I have no idea. I really don't. I'm guessing there will be a point when it's legal and everyone has it and I feel obligated to get it too. I was like that with cell phones. I was easily the last of my friends to get one. Everyone else had one. And there I was, outside school at some disgusting pay phone that didn't even work. Now, of course, I have one and I'll never go back. That's how I am. I usually have to be dragged into things. I know it's probably inevitable that I'll get the cure and that we'll all get it. It's just gonna be something you do. But it opens up all sorts of odd questions that I don't want to deal with right now. I mean, what happens to Mark and me?'" (p. 58.)

I really enjoy Drew Magary's writing, fiction and non. He's got some interesting ideas (in this book, his narrator is a lawyer, and comes up with the idea of "cycle marriages," that last for forty years or so, because nobody wants to be married for all time) and although his books aren't perfect, they move right along.

Writing on pregnancy...from the economist's point of view.

As with most books about our American health "care" system (which I would say breaks down to about 5% "care" and 95% "system"), I can't say that I really enjoyed reading Emily Oster's Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong-And What You Really Need to Know. But I can say it was quite interesting.*

Oster is an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago, so she may seem like an odd choice to write a book about pregnancy and obstetric care. But she researched and wrote it for a very good reason: she became pregnant, and as an academic who works with a lot of numbers and research herself, she found herself frustrated by recommendations from doctors who assume all pregnant women have never been in the same room with critical thinking skills.

Oster covers the entire process, from conception through labor, and tackles many subjects on which there are conflicting guidelines and theories, including ingesting coffee and alcohol, all the prenatal tests women are expected to undergo without being given time to ask questions about them, and what is now standard operating procedure even at "low intervention" hospital births.

Of course the only thing that anyone can talk about in reviews or mentions of this book is how Oster suggests that, indeed, having a glass of wine every now and then, particularly during the second and third trimesters, has not been proven to be detrimental to the fetus (and how dare she?). And yes, you may not want to take all of your pregnancy health and safety recommendations from an economist. But what I liked best about this book was her approach to information gathering and decision-making, which she explains by explaining how she starts teaching her economics students:

"Ultimately, this is what microeconomics is: decision science--a way to structure your thinking so you make good choices.

I try to teach them that making good decisions--in business, and in life--requires two things. First, they need all the information about the decision--they need the right data. Second, they need to think about the right way to weigh the pluses and minuses of the decision (in class we call this costs and benefits) for them personally. The key is that even with the same data, this second part--this weighing of the pluses and minuses--may result in different decisions for different people. Individuals may value the same thing differently." (pp. xii-xiii.)

That approach in a nutshell is what seems to be missing in obstetric care particularly, and in health care generally, although I realize doctors mostly don't have the time to explain stuff to us like we have brains, and frankly, a lot of people don't have the time or interest to look into their own health issues or options for addressing them.** A case in point: when I had an ultrasound when I was pregnant, the doctor who spoke to us at the end spent about 30 seconds telling us they didn't see any evidence of chromosomal abnormalities, but then spent another five minutes telling us the test doesn't see everything and, as an old mother (or a "geriatric pregnancy," to use their charming terminology), I still had a high risk of Down Syndrome or other issues. Even for a "cover your ass" disclaimer, it was really long and disconcerting. On the other hand, if he'd just shown me the chart Oster showed me, on p. 100, I could have seen for myself the Down Syndrome odds (like at 35 the risk is 1 in 374; at 40 it's 1 in 106). He could have saved us all some time and just made that fairly basic information available. But I digress.

As you would expect from an academic, the book has a lovely and informative section of endnotes and an index, as well as handy charts and informative tidbits throughout. If you're looking for a slightly less combative book about pregnancy than Jennifer Margulis's The Business of Baby, this might be the one for you.

*And should by all means be read by both women AND men, although I'm sure no man will touch it with a ten-foot pole.

**As a friend of mine, an ER doctor, once told me, laughingly, after I asked him some questions about patients and whether they ask him questions based on their reading or research: "CR, people don't read." (This same lovely doctor also provided the insight that most people who come into the ER with a hangnail scream "30!" when asked to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, so, when you go to the doctor, don't downplay your pain, as doctors just aren't used to that sort of thing.)

Always a treat.

I just love Carol Shields.

Shields was a Canadian author* who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Stone Diaries (an excellent novel) and who wrote a number of other fantastic novels as well.** I tend to think of her as the Canadian Anne Tyler (another author I really enjoy), in that she doesn't tell huge grand stories, but her characters are always thoughtful, interesting people, and her prose is beautifully easy to read. I suppose you could call her books "women's fiction," but I would prefer it if you didn't. I tend to think of "women's fiction" as synonymous with "Jodi Picoult," which of course makes me wary of "women's fiction."***

Even though I love her, I have not yet read all of her novels. I dole them out to myself like little treats, and the one I treated myself to this summer was Small Ceremonies. It was good, and short, and frankly, I'm not even going to give you the plot summary, because the plot really isn't the point.

The point IS that Carol Shields was a super-talent. Get out there and pick out any one of her novels (although The Stone Diaries and Unless are two particularly strong choices, in my opinion) and treat yourself this fall.

*Sadly, she died in 2003.

**In addition to raising five kids, which to me is just unbelievable, and a bit sick-making, actually.

***Give me chick lit instead, any day.

I found the funny women!

A quick reminder: please comment on my Stacy Horn giveaway post if you'd like a chance at winning a copy of her latest book, Imperfect Harmony. The deadline is tomorrow (9/13)!

A while back I complained that it seemed Daddy Memoirs were funnier than Mommy Memoirs.

And then, my friends, I found the book Let's Panic about Babies!! Written by two women!

The fact is that this book made me snort with laughter so loudly that I almost woke up my sleeping three-year-old (which the authors of this book would NOT condone) many, many times. It masquerades as a parenting advice manual, but of course it's the best kind of manual: not really meant to be taken seriously, but very very accurate nonetheless. The first half of the book covers pregnancy, and the second half covers "caring" for the baby. And these ladies (Eden Kennedy and Alice Bradley), in a bid to win my heart, are not afraid to swear:

(Seriously, if you don't like swearing, don't read this next quote from the book):

"CHAPTER 8: This Pregnancy Shit Is Getting Old

The eighth month is also known as the Really Goddamn Over This Pregnancy month. You feel like you might explode and you cannot fathom staying like this for another goddamn month. GODDAMMIT. Incidentally, you are now swearing like a dockworker. Even if you were born and raised a plainspoken Mennonite who never so much as used the word 'gosh-'-because everyone knows which Almighty is being blasphemed by that cuss-substitute--you're now a salty-language connoisseur. Every time Baby pummels your ribs at 3 A.M., you let out a stream of expletives that sends your partner scurrying for the village exorcist." (p. 97.)

To say this book is very, VERY amusing would be selling it very short. I'm still laughing every time I turn to the page where the authors have suggested that pregnant ladies make pictures of what they want their birthing experiences to be like--complete with a sketch of a baby flying out of a kneeling lady and heading toward Santa Claus, ready to catch it with a catcher's mitt (I'm describing it badly, but the idea is, of course, to display the birth as mythically wonderful and easy).

Ah, swearing and sarcasm. Now THIS is a Mommy Memoir, even if it's not a memoir as such.

Another disappointing bestseller (to me, anyway).

For whatever reasons, this summer I have been taking a look at a few bestselling novels, just to see if I've been missing anything.

Turns out, I haven't been.

So after I was underwhelmed by World War Z, I turned to the Thriller genre and Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 65 weeks now.

And yes, I should really have known better. Thrillers and I are just not a good mix.

So the premise of the book is deceptively simple: Amy Dunne disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary. Has there been foul play? Is her husband Nick the source of that foul play? The story is told in the alternating voices of Amy and Nick, both before and after the disappearance. I won't tell you any more; I don't want to give away any spoilers, and if you're interested, you can read an actual review here.

But I will be up front with you about how I screwed this book up for myself: I read about 150 pages, and then I read the last few pages just to see how it ended, because I didn't have time to read the whole book in one sitting, and I didn't really want to read it anymore. (Although I did go back over the next few days and read the intervening pages, just for actual closure.)

I know. Mr. CR was appalled.* I told him that I already had heard enough about the book that I kind of knew what happened anyway, so it wasn't that big a deal.

But knowing the ending didn't really change what I thought were some of the weak points of the book: namely, Amy was portrayed as an almost alarmingly smart person, and yet she did several quite stupid things over the course of the narrative. Also: I didn't find Amy or Nick particularly likable or interesting characters. Was that on purpose, I wonder? And last but not least: plot holes.

So there you have it. This girl is gone too, back to nonfiction.

*Mr. CR liked the book better than I did, but wasn't all that crazy about it either.

The Great Stacy Horn Imperfect Harmony Giveaway.

Have I mentioned how much I love Stacy Horn's writing?

Oh, yes, I have. Good. You should be reading Stacy Horn's nonfiction.

And her latest book, Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, is no exception. In it she discusses not only how joining an amateur/volunteer choir was beneficial to her mental well-being, but also what choral music and singing have meant to other people in other cultures, to the composers of the music, and to music lovers (even if they aren't singers themselves) everywhere.

Now, I'll be honest. Based on subject matter alone, I may not have picked this book up. This is strange, because I love singing and actively miss singing in a choir, which I have not done since college. But I have never been a great reader on the subject of music in general.* But because Stacy Horn wrote this one, of course I had to get it.**

I can't provide much of an actual "review," because I really flew through this book and just enjoyed it without studying it. Horn structures the book around choral pieces they have sung in her choir (the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York City), documenting how and when they were written and including personal asides about what the music has meant to her. She also illuminates the job of her choir's conductor, and all the work that goes into teaching music to singers and helping them perform it to the best of their abilities. In many ways this latter insight was my favorite part of the book; I never really thought about that aspect of choral singing before*** and I loved gaining the insight.

As with all Stacy Horn books you feel she has done her research, and, even though the book is part investigative writing and part history, she also throws in enough personal information and revelations to make it the best kind of memoir: engaging, without being self-obsessed. Consider how she describes an experience of singing harmony, as a soprano 2 (slightly lower in range than the soprano 1 part, which usually carries the melody):

"Then, only a minute later, my mood and my world changed. I hit my first correct soprano 2 note. I don't even know where it came from, but I got it right. It was a D. The soprano 1 to my right was singing the B flat above me. I love that glorious high B flat and I should have been apoplectic with envy about not getting to sing it myself, but instead I was pinned to that D, vibrating with a wondrous musical rapport I'd never felt before. I was feeling harmony. Not just singing it, but physically feeling it...Two notes and I went from a state of complete misery and lonesomeness to such an astonishing sense of communion it was like I'd never sung with the choir before." (p. 31.)

So yes, add this book to the list of Stacy Horn Books I Love. When I got to the end, I actually thought, oh, I wish it were LONGER, and I very, very, VERY rarely think that about books.

So, to get to the title of this post: I have a copy of Stacy Horn's book Imperfect Harmony that I would very much like to send to someone so they can enjoy it too. To enter, just comment on this post and make sure to leave your email address. Nothing complicated; I'll just have my lovely assistant Mr. CR draw a name out of a hat as per usual. You have until next Friday, Sep. 13, to comment. Good luck!

*The few times I have looked for books on the subject, they have been for my brother, who, although he doesn't really sing (at least, not that I've heard, unless you count theatrical operatic singing which he does when feeling rambunctious) or play an instrument, seems fascinated by music. And I'm glad he is, as he introduced me to Journey and Jackson Browne and a million more artists who make my soul go "ahhhhh...."

**I wrote to Stacy to ask how I could purchase an autographed copy, and she sent me one! So I went out and bought a copy for this giveaway because she deserves to sell many, many books.

***My choir director in high school was an evil, disgusting little man, and I only sang for one year in college, so when I think of choir conductors, I get the heebies just remembering him.

This is where you want to start with Vivian Maier.

Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows
by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams

A while back I posted about a fantastic photography collection by a photographer not known or appreciated while she was alive: Vivian Maier.

I said at that time I wanted to see her other book, Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows. It finally came in for me at the library, and over the past few weeks I've spent some time looking it over. The photographs are gorgeous (I still love the ones of people looking directly at her the most), but what I particularly appreciated in this volume was getting some more of the background on Vivian. I wish I'd seen this book first; but it's okay. Her photography stands on its own merit, even without knowing anything about her. But I did appreciate learning a bit more of her background, which the editors of this collection went to great lengths to provide:

"To better understand Maier, we tracked down everyone we could find--from the suburbs of Chicago to the slopes of the French Alps, where she grew up. We talked to old acquaintances in the beautiful French valley of Champsaur who knew her as a schoolgirl, contacted those for whom she worked on Long Island during the 1950s, and interviewed people who knew her in Chicago. Their portraits of Maier are remarkably similar. She was a tough woman engrossed in photography, cinema (everything from classics to B movies), books (mostly biographies and autobiographies), and politics (liberal and feminist). She cared deeply about the poor and oppressed (Native Americans and African Americans, in particular) and showed little interest in the material world." (p. 19.)

It's a gorgeous book, well worth a look. And it makes me want to revisit some other photography book favorites of mine: Hubert's Freaks: The Rare-Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus, and The Oxford Project.