Tuesday, May 22
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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, April 13, 2008

Other's Shoes Fun To Try On

Walk a mile in my shoes is a common theme in books lately.  Writers spend a year or so eating only locally grown foods, or trying to live on minimum wage, or following their personal waste trail.  I briefly toyed with the idea of hatching my own best-seller by parking my car for a year and relying on my feet, my bicycle, and city buses, but decided I wasn’t brave enough.

These recent books allow us much insight into others’ lives without having to change our daily lifestyles

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs.  Jacobs, a New Yorker and Jewish agnostic whose claims to fame include reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, distilled the various versions of the Old and New Testaments into 700 laws.  Some, like not cutting his hair, were easier to follow than others, such as not coveting his neighbor’s goods. His observations on the basic teaches of the Bible versus its numerous interpretations are hilarious yet thoughtful.

Gang Leader for a Day: a Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Street by Sudhir Venkatesh.  We first met up with Venkatesh in the best-selling Freakonomics.  A first year University of Chicago sociology graduate student, Indian born Venkatesh ventured   into a housing project with a paper survey on poverty and walked out six years later as a seasoned veteran of an inner city war zone.  His fascinating account of an illegal underground economy humanizes its participants.

A Year without ‘Made in China’: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni.  We all bemoan the fact that everything seems to be made in China, but what if we just started boycotting Chinese-made products?  Bongiorni and her husband and two young children did just that.  She found that toys, shoes, electronics, and clothes were particularly hard to find.  Bongiorni’s intimate and humorous little book brings this phenomenon home.

China Road: a Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford.  Fluent in Mandarin, Gifford has spent much of the last 20 years studying and reporting from China, including for NPR.  He takes us along on a six week, 3000-mile long backpack trip on old Route 312, from Shanghai to the Kazakhstan border.  Packed with facts and background information, here is an eye-opening introduction to contemporary China and its place in the world.

Homo Politicus: the Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government by
Dana Milbank.  Milbank, national political columnist for the Washington Post, figuratively dons his anthropologist binoculars for an eviscerating and sidesplitting glimpse of the foibles of our Washington leaders and lobbyists.  Reading this, I must admit that I was reminded of the Biblical story about finding one good man in Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Finally, to get a crash course in Greek epics as well as a low-cost tour of the Mediterranean, read No-Man’s Land: One Man’s Odyssey Through The Odyssey by Scott Huler.  The author brings the ancient stories to life while searching out historical vestiges at sites such as Troy and the Cyclops’s Sicilian cave.