- A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
- The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
- Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
- The Help, Kathryn Sackett
- The Plague of Doves, Louise Erdrich
- The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
- Palace Walk: The Cairo Trilogy, Naguib Mahfouz
- Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
- Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
- The History of Love, Nicole Kraus
- A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines
- Native Son, Richard Wright
- The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards
- The Girls, Lori Lasens
- Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen
- The Book of Bright Ideas, Sandra Kring
- The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
- Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
- Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
- The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
- Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chavelier
- The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
- The Three Junes, Julia Glass
- The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
- What is the What, Dave Eggers
- The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
- Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
- Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
- John Adams, David McCullough
- The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
- The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
- In Exile from the Land of Snows, John Avedon
- Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
- Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa, Mark Mathabane
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
- The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner
- A Hope in the Unseen, Ron Suskind
Oh the whining…the heart-piercing whining. When it woke me up for the third time—this time at 3:34am—I could do little more than roll over and moan, “What the #@!% have we done?”
It was the same feeling that washed over me when I first became a mom. After being tortured night after night with sleep deprivation, I wondered if we’d made a huge mistake. “Can we return to sender?” I’d joke with my husband.
BUT, just like when our daughter was an infant, the only thing this whining little bundle of love had to do was look at me with his big green eyes and I instantly turned to mommy goo.
“All right, boy, I’ll take you out AGAIN,” I said as I patted his head and tried to wrangle a smidgeon of humor as playfulness consumed him in the middle of the night, his puppy teeth needling my toes and pj’s on the way to the door.
What’s a mom to do, I laughed to myself.
Some might wonder why on earth we’d add the complexity–and sleep deprivation–of a puppy to our already-full lives. The answer is simple. For one reason, and one reason only: our daughter.
Just like my mom and dad let us adopt a dog when I was a young girl and Jeffrey’s parents did the same, we’ve given Olivia the gift of a slathering, furry, bundle of unconditional love so she can grow up knowing the joys and responsibility of caring for another living being.
As you might have guessed, we let Olivia name him, just like our parents let us name our dogs. Jeffrey crowned his Weimeraner with the name Harold when he was a kid, and I gave our brown mop of a poodle-ish pound mutt the name Brownie. Actually, it was far more sophisticated than that—Brownie Blue Green.
Every time I look at Doodles I think of Brownie Blue Green, and even more so my mom. No, not because my mom looked like Doodles, but because Doodles reminds me of all the things she sacrificed for me.
Let me take you back to when I was eight years old. With four kids, nothing was ever simple or calm around our house. Dad spent most waking hours trying to figure out how to make ends meet while Mom spent every minute of her day running our household, a job far more taxing than anything my dad ever did. From tackling mounds of laundry for three boys and a tomboy to grocery shopping, making school lunches, and mediating sibling disputes, she was at the center of it all. When she wasn’t applying band-aids or taking us to the ER, she was making dinner, sewing clothes for me or re-painting my room another shade of pink. I’m sure most nights she fell into bed exhausted. The fact that she would even consider adding a dog to this mix speaks volumes.
The only possible reason could have been her love for us kids.
When Doodles is demanding my attention at three in the morning and causing me to bumble through the next day in sleepwalking mode and pull me away from my writing, or when he’s chewing on my hand for the eight hundredth time in a single day, or wreaking puppy havoc on our garden, I’m going to take a deep breath and remember my mom.
I’m going to remember how her love and patience gave me the gift of Brownie Blue Green.
Brownie was a rescue dog who came with issues, but my eight-year old eyes saw nothing but sweet perfection. I adored everything about him, down to his stinky breath and matted hair. Every night he’d sleep on the end of my bed, often tracking muddy paw prints all over the delicate pink and white comforter my mom spent hours making. No doubt it drove her mad, but she never said a word, knowing I loved that dog more than I’d ever love a bedspread.
Even though Brownie tried to attack my dad every time he wore a gray suit (did I mention issues?), he was a lovable pooch. At bath time he’d always plop his scrappy-doo body next to the tub and keep me company while I washed away the day’s fun. And when it was time to practice my oboe, he’d sit patiently, his ears rising in pain as my squeaky music filled the room. Brownie Blue Green was the ultimate party animal, too. Be it slumber parties, dance parties or pool parties, somehow he always tolerated being dragged into the middle of the action.
I’m sure Brownie was a handful, but several decades later I have the selective amnesia of an eight-year old. I don’t even remember having to take care of him; somehow he was magically fed and bathed and his poop was scooped. My guess is that Mom was the one who pulled yeoman’s duty taking care of this rascal. For that I’m grateful because Brownie Blue Green gave me a treasure trove of childhood memories.
Now as I celebrate my mom–and her patience, love and strength (and hopefully draw upon it)–I know it’s my turn to pass this gift on to Olivia. No doubt Mom would agree, even if life was significantly less complicated before Doodles. She’d probably even tell me to let Doodles sleep on Olivia’s bed and leave muddy paw prints. After all, what’s a mom to
Did you have a dog when you were a kid? If so, how did he or she impact your life?
I start this review by confessing I’m exhausted after reading Walter Isaacson’s behemoth authorized biography, Steve Jobs—not because of the mass of this book, but because of the continual upheaval described throughout. I never imagined when I picked it up to read I’d be left reeling, grateful when it finally ended.
Don’t get me wrong, Isaacson’s well-written book deserves kudos, especially the magnitude of his research and interviews, but I had a hard time reading anecdote after anecdote about what an ass Steve Jobs was. It was thoroughly depressing—especially since his genius and passion pump a large dose of admiration through my veins.
This 656-page book, which chronicles Jobs’ life and personality, and his passion for perfection, is based on more than forty interviews with Jobs, conducted over two years – as well as interviews with a large cast of characters—including family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues.
Isaacson, who has also written biographies about Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, clearly knows how to delve into the complexities of the genius mind. Unfortunately, the picture he paints of Steve Jobs, the man who helped revolutionize personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing, is not pretty.
Jobs was eccentric by any measure of the word—just flash back to his barefoot, hippy commune days or read about his extreme vegan diet or living in a house without furniture—but according to the loudest voices in this book, he was also controlling, manipulative, and down-right mean. One referred to him as an “assaholic.” Another a narcissicist. Another a bully. Many claimed he lived in a “reality distortion field.” Some wondered if he was mildly bi-polar with his extreme highs and lows and his black-and-white view of the world (Jobs thought ideas were either brilliant or “shit,” but never in between).
Whatever the case, there’s no denying the impact he made on our lives with his ability to inspire those around him, see the big picture, and pour himself into the smallest details of each product Apple created. He may not have been warm and cuddly, and he may have had an ego larger than North America, but somehow he was able to bring out the best in people. And with those exceptional people on his team, Apple and Pixar managed to develop some of the most innovative products ever created, merging art and technology.
The most interesting part of this book for me was the history; discovering the origins of many of the Apple products I’ve used over the years, and seeing how the symbiotic relationship between Jobs and Steve Wozniak evolved into the creation of the first personal computer. Being a design-lover, I was also fascinated by Apple’s design guru, Jonathon “Jony” Ive. It’s impossible not to appreciate the depth of thought he and Jobs invested in every detail of every Apple product created—from the handles and buttons to the colors and curves. The two were perfectly paired in their pursuit of exquisite design because neither settled, and both genuinely respected one another.
Then there’s the creation of iTunes and the iPod. Jobs’ passion for music and his vision of making music easily accessible (through Apple’s proprietary and extremely profitable portal and gadgets) not only resuscitated the stagnant music industry—it restructured it, and in the process also helped re-introduce greats like Bob Dylan to a whole new generation of fans.
If I had one criticism of the book, it’s that it felt lopsided toward the dramatic “dark side” of Steve Jobs. While it makes for riveting reading—almost like a Silicon Valley soap opera, with explosive boardroom drama, quirky personalities, illegitimate children, and scorned business partners—there is another side of Steve Jobs hardly mentioned in this book. That’s the side my husband, Jeffrey Aaronson, knew: one that was gracious and generous, intense, yet funny and charismatic. I wonder how many other friends of Steve Jobs weren’t interviewed for this book who had similar experiences?
Also as I read page after page, I couldn’t help feeling sorrow for the Jobs children—in a protective, motherly sort of way. Even though Jobs asked Isaacson to write this book so his kids would know him better, and even though Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell, told Isaacson, “There are parts of (Steve’s) life and personality that are extremely messy…You shouldn’t whitewash it. He’s good at spin, but he also has a remarkable story, and I’d like to see that it’s all told truthfully,” –it’s hard to imagine this would be easy for the kids. They seem worldly and wise, but my hope is they hold off reading it until they are well into adulthood, when their grief has faded, and their canvas of memories has been colored by the paintbrush of life. Perhaps then, this raw and detailed book might feel like the gift their father meant it to be.
For the rest of us, Isaacson’s book is a gift worth reading now. Even if it could have been edited tighter and had a little more balance, it captures an important moment in our history and reveals the passion, genius, and commitment of the man who changed our modern world (flaws and all).
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5.
How about you? What do you think of the book? And what do you think about Steve Jobs?
She has been called America’s greatest documentary photographer.
This photo of Dorothea Lange was taken by Rondal Partridge, son of Imogen Cunningham. She is holding a Graflex 4×5 single lens reflex camera, which takes sheet film.
After being educated in photography at Columbia University in New York City, Lange moved to San Francisco and opened a successful portrait studio.
She married, had two sons, then once the Great Depression hit, she turned her lens from the studio to the streets. Her images of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of many and led her to work for the Farm Security Administration.
In 1935 she divorced her first husband and married her second, Paul Taylor, a professor of Economics at UC Berkeley. Both were passionate about social and political issues and worked together documenting rural poverty and the exploitation of sharecroppers and migrant workers.
Lange’s best known photograph titled, “Migrant Mother, 1936″ captures this thirty-two year old mother whom she described as “desperate and hungry.” She recounted her conversation in a 1960 magazine article: “…She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”
In 1941 Lange won a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in photography, but when Pearl Harbor was attacked she gave up this prestigious award to photograph the forced relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps like Manzanar. Her powerful photographs were so clearly critical of the government’s policy that the Army impounded them.
Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of the Japanese American Internment– a book with about 100 never before published photos from her 800 picture archive, is available on Amazon, as are many other classics with her images.
Check out some of Dorothea Lange’s work if you can, and see the raw emotion she captures in the human condition. There’s a reason she has been described as American’s best documentary photographer.