41. Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge
Bridge details his life starting at age 5 when he returns to live with a mother he never really knew. After 2 years he is placed into foster care after she continuously displays erratic behavior in public. He never actually says it, but it becomes clear during the book that she most likely suffers from schizophrenia. He then describes his life living in the Los Angeles foster care system for the remainder of his childhood.
It is not a complete horror story like many of the foster care books you read, but it offers the perspective of a boy who lived in a fairly decent foster home (although far from perfect) and who manages to succeed in life attending Harvard Law School and becoming a successful lawyer.
But it becomes clear that despite the lack of outright abuse, Bridge suffers from a lack of love and of feeling wanted in his life. Although the family he lives with for most of his life treats him fairly well, they never truly accept him as a son and he never stops hoping that his mother will come and give him the love he so craves.
It’s a good story, and provides a good look at how damaging foster care can be to a child even when there isn’t outright abuse.
I give it an 8 out of 10.
40. The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
I really wanted to like this book more than I did mostly because of the topic. The book is about a zookeeper and his wife, who hid a number of Jewish people in the Warsaw Zoo during WWII. The book goes into the background of the zookeeper and his wife. It details life in the zoo before the war, and then the various incarnations of the zoo after the war began. There is also a little bit of detail about the war itself. I just never felt like it gave a good impression of what was really going on at a the zoo or what life was like living there during the war, although it definitely tried. I could just never really get into the book. I give it a 6 out of 10.
39. Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation by Sandeep Jauhar
Jauhar describes how after earning his PhD in physics he decided to pursue a career in medicine. He then details his first year of residency, known as the internship year. He describes how his determination to become a doctor different from the one’s he witnessed was beaten away by the demands of his internship and just life working in a hospital in general. Basically this book made me never want to have to go to a hospital, particularly not into the ICU. It was a good look into why doctor’s often act the way they do, but a rather harsh reminder of how screwed up the medical system is from a different viewpoint than I’ve read before. I give it an 8 out of 10.
38. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
If you didn’t actually watch it yourself, you probably at least heard about this lecture. Apparently Carnegie Mellon has a tradition of inviting retiring professors to give a “last lecture”. Randy Pausch retired because he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. This book gives greater insight into stories Pausch tells during his lecture as well as additional stuff in his life about his past and his disease that he didn’t talk about during the lecture. It’s a really quick read, but if you’re going to read it I would highly suggest watching the lecture first. It’s well worth it. I give the book an 8 out of 10.
37. The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America by Katherine S. Newman and Victor Tan Chen
Newman and Chen spent 7 years following 9 New York families who they deemed part of the missing class. According to them the missing class is that class of people who fall just above the poverty line, but do not make enough money to qualify as lower middle class. In some respects they may often be worse off then those people who fall below the poverty line because they are usually no longer eligible for certain types of aid like Medicaid or AFDC. On the other hand they are often more likely to be able to pull themselves into a higher class because they are slightly better off living in better neighborhoods where children can often attend better schools than the poverty stricken. Despite these better circumstances they are often just one illness, layoff, or lost paycheck away from falling into poverty. The book is divided by topic not by family. The authors discuss various issues affecting the missing class such as education, housing, healthcare, and employment using examples from the lives of the families they followed to illustrate their points. It was an excellent book that gave great insight into an often overlooked class of people. I give it a 9 out of 10.
36.5 Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival by Margaret B. Jones
This book gets a half designation because I only made it through about the first third if that before giving up on it. If you’re not familiar it is one of the recent books quickly pulled by the publisher after it was discovered that the author was not in fact a half white/half Native American foster child growing up in South Central L.A. who became involved in gang life, but instead a completely white girl who grew up in an intact suburban family attending private school no less. She was outed by her sister. Why she thought she could get away with so public a lie I have no idea. At any rate when I first heard about this book prior to it’s publication I was excited about it. It totally sounded like something right up my alley, which you should know if you’ve been following my book reading habits over the past several years. Then within a week of it being published the story broke and it was being pulled off the shelves. So I figured that was that and I would never read it. Cut to yesterday when I was dropping off some books at the Hampden library and I noticed that they had a copy of this book. They must have bought it right when it came out and before the publisher pulled it. So I was intrigued and decided to check it out. To start I don’t find it a very well written book and since the author was a supposed Blood she refuses to use the letter c in many words replacing it with k’s, which is super-annoying and highly prentensious in my opinion. If I had been reading the book thinking it was true I probably would have overlooked these things to concentrate on her story, but knowing that the book was a complete and utter lie I couldn’t get past them. Not to mention the fact that everything in the book seems so cliched and she somehow seems to have such great insight into all these things that supposedly happened to her as a child. Knowing that she made it all I just couldn’t keep reading because that just seemed so glaring after being aware of it. So I quit reading it. And it kind of makes me sick that this woman tried to get attention and profit off of telling people she went through things that she never had to suffer through, but that thousands of people in this country really do every day. Ugh! This book really didn’t deserve the small amount of my time I spent on it. A 1 out of 10. If I gave negative scores I would give it one.
36. The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
This book is the most recent Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Unfortunately I found it neither brief nor wondrous. The book revolves around a Dominican family that emigrated to New York. You would think based on the title that the book is all about Oscar Wao, but you would be wrong. His story comprises maybe half the book interspersed with chapters devoted soley to his sister, his mother, his grandmother, and some guy that is the supposed narrator of the book who came into Oscar’s life through a relationship with Oscar’s sister. Unfortunately most of these other tales did not really tie in at all with Oscar or each other so it seemed like half the book was a series of semi-related short stories rather than part of a cohesive novel. Additionally I never really understood the narrators connection or why he supposedly got so caught up in Oscar’s life. He kept telling us that he was, but really there was no evidence that he was and there seemed no reason that he should feel compelled to “write” Oscar’s story. The one good thing about the book is that it was interspersed with tons of footnotes explaining Dominican history and culture, so I learned a lot that I didn’t know before. But given the rest of the book I probably should have just read a book on the history of the Dominican Republic. I think it’s pretty bad when you find the footnotes better than the book itself. I was sadly disappointed in this book given the number of awards it’s won. I give it a 4 out of 10.