Sunday, April 16, 2017

Books (Nothing About The Bakken) -- April 16, 2017

One of my favorite weekly columns in The WSJ is the "Five Best: A Personal Choice." This column is written by a guest contributor who provides a list of his/her five favorite/best books, and then defends that choice in a small essay.

This week the contributor is J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He is the author of All Falling Faiths: Reflections on the Promise and Failure of the 1960s. (I will look for a used copy at Powell's Bookstore this week while I'm in Portland, Oregon).

His five best:
  • Losing Mum and Pup, Christopher Buckley, 2009
  • The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion, 2005
  • Avid Reader, Robert Gootlieb, 2016  -- this was reviewed elsewhere (The New Yorker? -- incredibly interesting)
  • Yazoo, Willie Morris, from the essay:
He ventures down from New York in 1970 to his boyhood home of Yazoo City, Mississippi, a town of “many broad old streets and beautiful homes” where “the smell of the spring” wraps the senses.
Yazoo City is Goldwater and Wallace country but also more than 50% black, and Morris wonders what changes federal court decisions have brought to daily life.
His verdict on Yazoo City then could be our verdict on America now: Not everything has changed, but not everything is the same.
Morris makes one wonderful discovery: the enduring affection of many blacks for the country that mistreated them and “expressions of love and loyalty to Mississippi as a society worth working for.” White and black teammates exchanging “soul-slaps after touchdowns” may not seem like much, but in another sense it is everything.  
  • And finally, My Grandfather's Son, Clarence Thomas, 2007. From the essay:
Clarence Thomas’s memoir may never meet an equal in raw honesty.
The title expresses in but three words the anguish of a lost generation and the helping hands of grandparents, “nuns, neighbors, teachers, and friends” that, barely, managed to close the parental gap.
The story shows a man who clawed his way from “hunger without the prospect of eating and cold without the prospect of warmth” to become one of the most consequential justices in the history of the Supreme Court.
Alcohol, divorce, insecurity and prejudice threaten to derail the journey; perseverance and the power of conviction ultimately prevail. Part of the memoir is about setting matters straight: “The mob I now faced [at my Senate confirmation hearings] carried no ropes or guns.” Yet “its purpose—to keep the black man in his place—was unchanged.” But alongside any lingering bitterness are an affection for the steadfast Missouri Sen. John Danforth, love for his wife, Virginia, and a capacity for friendship that transcends racial bounds. The book ends, but the final chapters are yet to be told.
Again, note, the individual writing that Clarence Thomas became one of the most consequential justices in the history of the Supreme Court is a Federal appellate judge for the Fourth Circuit.

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