The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).

image-of-woman-watching-the-wire-courtesy-of-locator.jpgOkay, so it is over.  Case closed. After five captivating years, HBO’s lauded series The Wire calls it a wrap. Now what do we do? Aside from chain-watching DVDs of the series (and its excellent Baltimore precursor, Homicide: Life on the Street), we’re seeing a lot of Wire fans in withdrawal are turning to books to prolong the feeling. This is hardly surprising given the series’ strong literary ties. Here are some of our favorite gritty tales of the street from Baltimore and beyond:

  • The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood, by David Simon and Edward Burns. It all starts here, with this searing, compassionate account of the hard realities underlying America’s drug culture and its victims. Wire co-creators Simon and Burns refuse to oversimplify an intractable problem twisted up with issues of race, class and unbridled capitalism. See also Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
  • The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos
    This insightful story of an old unsolved crime and its lingering effects on three police is just the latest in a succession of outstanding novels stirring up the murky moral depths on both sides of the law, by a prolific Washington DC author and Wire contributor.
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
    After penning five terrific Boston-based hardboiled mysteries, Wire contributor Lehane had a major breakthrough with this richly textured, haunting psychological thriller about the hidden wellsprings and lasting effects of crime.
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price
    Another accomplished writer recruited into The Wire’s stellar stable, Price’s unflinching, morally-complex crime Continue reading “The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).”

Spun to distraction – surviving life between the primaries and the general election

This is probably the most exciting election year I’ve ever seen. It’s exhilarating and exhausting. Just keeping track of the code words and the spin cycles, not to mention the charges and counter-charges is enough to give even a committed political junky a headache. Enter unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation. Written by the founders of FactCheck.org, this is your guide to separating fact from “disinformation.” While the authors briefly touch on unsavory tactics of consumer sales, the heart of the book is a primer on political deception and the complicity of the news media. If you are suffering from FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) page through unSpun. It’s a quick read filled with tips that will help you maintain your information sanity through the wild ride of the presidential election season.

Did the FBI go too far …

… in 1954?  The FBI amassed a huge file over many years in their investigation of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  Much of the information they gathered – including illegal wiretapping of conversations between Oppenheimer and his lawyer – was used against him at his security clearance hearing.

Twenty-seven years in the making, American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J.  Sherwin details – sometimes in excruciating minutia – Oppenheimer’s fantastic, complicated life. The title, which refers to the god who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind only to be tortured and shamed for his efforts,  reflects the feeling that many people share about Oppenheimer’s treatment after he helped develop the atomic bomb in time for it to be used during World War II. His story is ripe for controversy and conflicting opinions.  Did the U. S. use the bomb against a nation prepared to surrender? Why was Oppie treated so badly by the government he so willingly served? Was his trial fair, or even legal? This biography doesn’t provide answers, but it sets forth many a valid question. For more informaton about the authors journey with their subject, you can read a series of question and answers, originally published online in 2005. Or for more about Oppie, view a centennial exhibit developed by UC-Berkeley.

Fields of Blood and Sacrifice – Christian Fleetwood and his brothers in the Black Regiments of the Civil War

Uncommon Valor: a story of race, patriotism and glory in   the final battles of the Civil War, by Melvin Claxton.   Christian Fleetwood was a 23 year old free-born Black man living Baltimore when the recruiters of the 4th US Colored Infantry began assembling their forces.  He joined the ranks on August 17th 1863 and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major (the highest noncomissioned ranking) just 4 days later.  He became one of the earliest black Medal of Honor recipients in 1864.  By all accounts Fleetwood was a gifted officer and inspired leader of men.

Continue reading “Fields of Blood and Sacrifice – Christian Fleetwood and his brothers in the Black Regiments of the Civil War”

Healing the Mind

Stroke. Brain Damage. Strong words we hear more of these days, with an aging population and engagement in a difficult war with injured soldiers returning to everyday life. Words that call up terrifying images of darkness and loss, for both the injured and their loved ones. Images of diving into the healthcare system like entering a second level of reality, cocooned from the outside world, caught up in the processes of treatment and healing. Once one has stepped into it, a fascination takes hold, a seeking for ways to understand the experience. If you have recently gone through such an experience, or know others going through it, two recent compelling first hand accounts can be found in the library collection.

Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery & My Return to the NFL by Tedy Bruschi with Michael Holley would never be called high literature, but it is a sincere heartfelt account of Bruschi’s unusual stroke-he was a healthy linebacker in his 3o’s when he woke up in the middle of the night with numbness in his left arm and leg and a wicked headache. Thinking he had slept on his arm wrong, he stumbled back to bed and tried to fall asleep-even as he Continue reading “Healing the Mind”