Monday, October 3, 2011

Surviving Newspaper Deadline, Keeping Promises and Bootlegging

In the world of amazing things, let's toss last week in there.

The fact that somehow the journalism gods smiled and the school newspaper went to press (minus all the things that will get you fired) and without the arrest of a certain crazy adviser (that would be me) who was nanoseconds from setting her hair on fire, smacking the children upside their little pointy heads and driving off into the sunset in true Thelma and Louise fashion.

Yep, it was that kind of deadline. Now, I get to concentrate on all things yearbook. Oh, joy. And finalize my six weeks grades. Oh, more joy. And update Blackboard. Oh, geewillikers, more joy.

So instead of re-hashing, re-living and re-igniting those set-your-hair-on-fire-moments of last week, I thought I would honor some commitments I made before school started. I promised Karen Blumenthal, a former Dallas Morning News coworker, former Wall Street Journal editor and Dallas journalist,  that I would read her two new books and provide a little review (which I would have done earlier but that pesky newspaper deadline got in the way).

She sent me two books, Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine and the Lawless Years of Prohibition and Mr. Sam. Both nonfiction books target adolescent type readers, which is why I love these books. They are even perfect for someone old like me because they are filled with interesting information in an easy to read format.

Of course, I read the Bootleg one first, and now her book is particularly timely since PBS just started airing a documentary on prohibition. With only 127 pages and filled with all sorts of interesting photographs, this book provides a quick, interesting and informative read for all age groups. I actually learned all sorts of things that became fodder for dinner conversation. Stuff about Morris Sheppard, Al Capone and Henry Ford among others. I never knew that one of the founders of NASCAR racing had his beginnings in bootleg running.

Yep, all kinds of interesting stuff.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't as thrilled to pick up the Mr. Sam book which chronicled how Sam Walton built Walmart and became one of the richest men in America. The book surprised me though when I became interested in it after reading just a few paragraphs. It's a fascinating read. Like all of Blumenthal's books, it's well-written and filled with all sorts of interesting stuff. Particularly helpful were the infographics that broke down how families spent their money as the book progresses through Sam Walton's life.

Probably the best compliment I can give any book is when that book gets you to look at something from a different perspective, and this book did exactly that. I can't walk into a Walmart now without looking at the store and its founder in a different light.

I highly recommend both books and encourage school libraries to get these two titles on their shelves speedy quick. And, if you don't already have Blumenthal's Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929, well shame, shame, shame. That, too, is a great book–informative and easy to understand even for those of us who struggle with understanding financial matters.

You know, people like me.

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