By Larry Walker
December 18, 2012
Storytelling, even if just a stolen skill, gave me currency to trade for . . . skinny blacktop roads in the Deep South.
Somebody Told Me
This is my 2012 book report. It’s about the twenty-four books I read – every word of every book – in 2012, and the wonderful use of the English language as above and like Bragg uses in his 2000 book, Somebody Told Me.
This article doesn’t include some good books, partially read, that I do intend to finish like The Greatest Champion (the life of W. L. “Young” Stripling) that my great friend, Bobby Jones, gave me. It only includes the twenty-four, fully read.
I will not name all twenty-four. I’m going to select my top six and write about them. These are books that I recommend your getting and reading or your getting and giving. Some, the ones I really liked, are long-ago out of print, but you can find them if you try. And, yes, I will select and talk about my favorite 2012 read.
Let’s talk about six books and start with:
Number Six: Must Win by Drew Jubera. This is a 2012 published book about small-town high school football (Valdosta High Wildcats), but is more about the power of sports and how it gives meaning to our lives.
Number Five: Somebody Told Me by Rick Bragg. This is the book mentioned above. This book is a compilation of Bragg’s favorite articles – at least those he liked best as of 2000. I bought this book at Page and Palette Book Store, Fairhope, Alabama on Friday, August 24, 2012. If you like southern writers, in my opinion, Bragg is currently the best. Buy and read this one (mine is paperback). You’ll be glad you did.
Number Four: Georgia Planter by E. Merton Coulter. This book, given to me by my friend, Dink NeSmith, would get my prize as “Surprise Of The Year”. It was copyrighted in 1961 and published by the University of Georgia Press. It’s about James Monroe Smith, Georgia planter, and as the book says, “Before Death and After”. It’s farming on a massive scale (16,000 acres or more, thousands of farm employees or ‘hands’, a railroad built through the property, etc.). It’s about the legal wrangling after Col. Smith’s death. I was enthralled by my surprise of the year. Incidentally, Pam and Dink NeSmith have bought 200 acres, or so, and this property in Oglethorpe County (15 miles from Athens) which used to be owned by Kenny Rogers.
Number Three: The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro. This had to be a good ‘reading year’ for this to be just my third pick. Caro’s book four in the Years of Lyndon Johnson is an astounding, fascinating and gripping book. I’ve read all of Caro’s books, a total of 2,825 pages, and I still don’t know what to think of Johnson. There is so much in this book, but just the relationship between Johnson and Georgia’s Senator Richard Brevard Russell is, by itself, enough incentive to tackle this to me.
Number Two: The Racketeer by John Grisham. Yes, I know ‘number two’ is pretty high for a Grisham book. But, I think this is the best Grisham book since his first (the first written, but not the first published), A Time To Kill. This one will hold your attention. Just Grisham’s description of the federal government’s ‘Witness Protection Program’, alone, is worth the cost of the book.
And now, my favorite book of 2012, and a surprise even to me at that.
Number One: The Fish That Ate The Whale with the subtitle, The Life And Times of America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen. This is from Cohen’s obituary carried on the AP wire: “Samuel Zemurray, a former President of the United Fruit Company, who came to the United States as a penniless Russian immigrant and accumulated a $30,000,000 fortune selling bananas, died here last night (November 30, 1961) of Parkinson’s disease. In the banana belt of the Caribbean, Sam Zemurray was known as “the fish that swallowed the whale”.
On the jacket of the book, Alexander Hemon, author of The Lazarus Project, writes this: What a story, and what a storyteller! You’ll never see a banana – and for that matter, America – the same way again.
Incidentally, like my Number Five selection, above, this winner, Number One, was also bought at Page and Palette Book Store in Fairhope, Alabama.
So, there you have it for 2012. Like I say, “so much to read and so little time.” I hope I’m back at the end of next year for another report. In the meantime, “happy reading”!
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