The Book of the Week is “A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein” by Lisa Rogak, published in 2007. This biography describes the life of the cartoonist, children’s poet and songwriter.
Silverstein was an eccentric, creative thinker who collaborated with other like-minded individuals. He started out as a cartoonist. However, his social skills were poor. One such friend of his who was interviewed for this book remarked that he never stayed in one place for long.
As an adult, whenever he got bored with a conversation he might be having with a friend at an eatery where they met to exchange ideas, he would simply get up and leave without warning. He would also switch residences frequently– he kept several inside and outside the United States. Fortunately, he could afford to do whatever he liked, whenever he liked, once royalties started rolling in from sales of various works he wrote, such as the best-selling classic children’s book of poems, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” the song “A Boy Named Sue” (sung by Johnny Cash) and the rather depressing children’s book “The Giving Tree.”
Although Silverstein had difficulty getting along with his father, he still grieved at his father’s death. He realized “You never get over it.”
The Book of the Week is “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison, published in 1995. This autobiography tells the story of someone with bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness) who had gone undiagnosed until, ironically, she started working on her PhD in psychology.
Jamison was showing symptoms in high school– hearing music in her head, clear as a bell, and staying up all night, sometimes more than one night, energetically completing schoolwork. Sometimes she spoke too fast for people to understand her. A little later, she went on credit-card spending sprees and could not remember them afterwards. She also fell into periods of extreme depression. The continual up-and-down cycle lasted about three days. She theorized that she had inherited the disorder from her father.
When Jamison got to graduate school, she was given a questionnaire on symptoms of her condition. That was the first time she got an inkling that she was mentally unbalanced. Read the book to learn how she dealt with this revelation.
The Book of the Week is “Our Little Secret” by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie, published in 2010. This is a true murder story that took a long time to unfold, and the secret was not very little. The crime was committed in November 1985 in Hooksett, New Hampshire by a high schooler, Eric Windhurst, acting on behalf of another, Melanie Paquette. Many friends and family members of both the victim, Danny Paquette, and the shooter had reasons for not telling law enforcement all they knew about the incident. Some would argue there were many victims in the case, just a few of whom included Danny’s brother, Victor, Danny’s ex-wife, Denise, his stepdaughter– the aforementioned Melanie, and Eric’s half-sister, Lisa Brown. If the reader skips the back-cover blurb, the very first page, prologue and the pages of photos of this book, he or she ought to enjoy a well-researched, suspenseful saga of abuse, anger, fear, regret and finally, resolution.
The Book of the Week is “The Unlikely Disciple” by Kevin Roose published in 2009. This is a personal account of a student’s going from one extreme to the other. Roose transferred from Brown University (a liberal Ivy-League college) to Liberty University (the Conservative Christian college with the ironic name, founded by the politically far-right winger, Jerry Falwell in 1971) for the 2007 spring semester.
At Liberty, he was obliged to obey a laundry list of rules called “The Liberty Way,” such as no alcohol, no sex and no expletives (not even off-campus), and a dress code, or face reprimands and fines. His intent from the start was to experience the school as an insider, then write about it. However, he had not been “saved” (had not accepted Christ as his savior) and undergone baptism; he had actually been raised as a Quaker. He sang in the church choir, and participated in Bible study and prayer meetings. Although he was living a lie, there was no shortage of spiritual advisers in the form of school administrators on campus to guide him. Roose took advantage of their counseling, struggling with various issues that were part and parcel of the school’s ideology. To name a few– he was required to learn about creationism, refrain from masturbation and oppose homosexuality.
In the very last week of his stay, he became a minor celebrity through a curious occurrence. Read the book to learn about this possible “sign from God.”
The Book of the Week is “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy published in 1985. The author was the co-founder of what has become a world-famous, worldwide advertising agency– a major feat, as he started his advertising career at 38(!) years old. Perhaps his business has endured because he had the right idea. He wrote that he did not care whether the viewer of an ad said “What a great ad!” Ogilvy’s major goal was to get the viewer to say, “I must go out and buy this product!” This way, he would make money for the client. This book recounts his experiences in the field and provides tips on how to advertise.