Scottís Book Club
Get a pen and write
I began in the book
business 26 years ago. In that time I have grazed over the pages of a
million books like a contented cow munching on green grass over the entire
No, donít write that
I have decided to
have my own book club and it works like this. I draw from my 26 years of
experience in the book business and mention four books highly worth
reading and you have the entire year to read them.
First of all, I think
it is very interesting when writers appoint themselves as God and create
busloads of characters and put words into their mouths and mold these
people into a story they think will sell or they think we, the readers,
will be interested in. Now just suppose a writer came along and let people
voice what is inside them instead of speaking for everyone! Imagine a book
with hundreds of people releasing their inner stories openly and naturally
and not like bugs pinned to the Styrofoam of some egomaniac.
There is such a book.
My first recommendation is Working by Studs Terkel. I found that it
is not only refreshing but it also acts like therapy because you read the
accounts and suddenly find yourself more connected with people everywhere.
Just try it; youíll see what I mean. Itís like you suddenly realize people
are not shallow, stupid, cardboard-like and boring. No, thatís what TV and
novels make people. If you really enjoy Working then by all means
go out and get another of Turkelís books, American Dreams Lost and
Found. Superb, superb, superb!
Ok, did you write
George Orwell wrote
something of a childrenís parable to answer the question: How do
idealistic people working to change the political order get turned into
the opposite of what they were once they themselves taste political power?
The publisher didnít think the book would have a big audience, but Orwell
apparently touched a universal nerve when he wrote Animal Farm.
This is a true story that has occurred all over the world time and time
again. Orwell died a couple years after Animal Farm and 1984
were published. If he had lived, I wonder if he could have written another
book, this one about how a few people who govern many can be kept clean,
honest, and idealistic without selling out and without the money and power
they touch destroying them.
The third book I
would like to recommend is quite popular at the moment. The author, Jared
Diamond, just came out with a sequel: Collapse. I havenít read it
yet, but I recommend his very well received earlier book: Guns, Germs
and Steel. (A pared-down version is available on CD and is a wonderful
companion on long, dull commutes to work). Diamond has spent the better
part of 25 years answering the question, why some peoples or nations have
advanced and dominated others. Why did some become more powerful and
obliterate others? His answers are not narrow racist stereotypes. Instead,
he argues convincingly that germs played a bigger role than guns, and that
the natives of Papua New Guinea are more intelligent, better adapted, and
more in harmony with their environment than couch potato westerners who
are growing soft inside. Jared Diamond has plenty more to say, and he is
well worth listening too. In a way he does for world cultures what Howard
Zinn did for United States history ó he sets the old presumptions on their
The last book I would
like to recommend is a personal memoir by a Mexican-American woman who
grew up in Los Angeles. I think she has the talent and the poetic touch
that Sandra Cisneros should have acquired if she hadnít gotten so
conceited and full of herself. (Maybe this is the Animal Farm
syndrome for writers: they taste success early and it completely destroys
them.) The woman I recommend is Mary Helen Ponce, and her wonderful book
Hoyt Street takes you into the world of a struggling immigrant
family trying to get a foothold in an often unfriendly land that happened
to be stolen from their forefathers. Last I checked, this book had fallen
out of print so I recommend you get a used copy from one of the many
thousands of independent book dealers that list on
www.abebooks.com. All you do is find a copy, email to see if it is
still available, and either call the store up and use a credit card or
send them a check.
Did you jot that