Books 46 and 47

46. Rumspringa by Tom Shachtman
I heard about this book awhile ago and all the recent Amish stuff in the news reminded me about it. So I decided to check it out. It was pretty interesting. Based on the title I was expecting something completely about the period that Amish kids are allowed once they turn 16 to explore life outside Amishness before they decide to join the church, but it had a lot of other stuff just about regular Amish life. I didn’t mind though because I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know. I give it an 8 out of 10.

47. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The true tale of a climbing expedition on Mt. Everest that went terribly wrong killing due to a number of factors including weather and killing a number of people. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Book 45

45. River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke
I picked up this book the other week to read on the van ride to and fro from our work field trip to Winterthur. I needed a small paperback that would fit in my purse and I found this copy that I got for free when I worked at Barnes and Noble.

I seem to recall that it was one of Oprah’s book club books. The story involves a black family in Georgetown in the 1950’s (I think that’s the time period anyway). The younger daughter drowns in the river under the care of the older daughter and the rest of the story follows the family’s experience following her death. I wasn’t that impressed. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Book 44

44. A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger
I picked this book up at the Baltimore Book Festival. Paul and I went down to see Sebastian Junger give a talk because I wanted to see him. He was very interesting to listen to. He mostly talked about his life as a foreign correspondant, which is not something I was even aware that he did. I mostly knew him from his book, The Perfect Storm. Interestingly, it was never his intention to write that book. He spent time working as someone who removes trees from hard to remove from places. During this time he has a chainsaw accident, which he fully recovered from. But it got him thinking about dangerous jobs. He was living in Gloucester at the time of the sinking of the fishing ship Andrea Gale, so he decided that it would be the perfect place to start. The story was only meant to be the first chapter in a book on dangerous jobs. Well obviously the story become the book.

Anyway, his newest book investigates a murder that took place in Belmont, Massachusetts a few streets over from where he lived when he was a baby. An African-American man was convicted of strangling her. But incidentally it turns out that at the same time of this murder the man who eventually confessed to being the Boston Strangler was working on adding an addition to the Junger’s home.

Junger investigates the evidence to ask if in fact the wrong man was convicted of the murder. He presents evidence for and against each argument. Even though the true answer will most likely never be known it is a very interesting look at two criminal investigations.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Book 43

43. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America by Michael Santos
This book is written by a man incarcerated in federal prison for selling drugs in 80’s. He is serving a 45 year sentence. He describes his life in prison as well as tells the stories of many other people he has encountered during his prison stay. He also describes the various prisons that he has been housed in. He tries to prove the point that the American correctional system is no way set up to correct anyone’s behavior. Instead it is set up to get criminals to learn how to live within the prison system. It does little to prepare them for life outside prison, which is one of the main reasons there is such a high recidivism rate. It was an interesting book. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

Book 42

42. The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins-
This book was a complete switch from the last book I read. This one chronicles a year in the life of upper-class high school juniors and seniors from a high school in Bethesda, MD. It discusses the pressures put on these kids by themselves and their parents to succeed at super-human levels in order to get the grades, the extracurriculars, etc. all to get into that name brand school. Preferably an Ivy. It was interesting. It made me glad I wasn’t put under so much pressure in high school. I definitely fall more towards the overachiever category than a lot of people, but not to the degree of these kids. I didn’t think it was the end of the world if I got a B. I still don’t like it, but I knew it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me. And my parents never put the kind of pressure on me that some of these kids experienced from their parents. I felt really bad for some of them. But I do know I share some of their tendencies. I think about getting grades back and feeling really disappointed with anything but an A, as if I should have done better than that. But at least I was never the kid mentioned in the book from my alma mater good old Plano West Senior High who apparently sued the school in 2003 when she was only named salutatorian instead of valedictorian. Some people need to get a life, and one that doesn’t revolve around grades. I was also amused by the fact that one girl’s parents and guidance counselor thought it was beneath her to apply to my collegiate alma mater Wake Forest even though it’s really where she wanted to go to school. So apparently I learned that my school sucks and my education and I are worthless. Good to know.