Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha Sandweiss
In 1917, John R. Brinkley–America’s most brazen con man–introduced an outlandish surgical method for restoring fading male virility. It was all nonsense, but thousands of eager customers quickly made “Dr.” Brinkley one of America’s richest men–and a national celebrity. The great quack buster Morris Fishbein vowed to put the country’s “most daring and dangerous” charlatan out of business, yet each effort seemed only to spur Brinkley to new heights of ingenuity, and the worlds of advertising, broadcasting, and politics soon proved to be equally fertile grounds for his potent brand of flimflam.
Culminating in a decisive courtroom confrontation, Charlatan is a marvelous portrait of a boundlessly audacious rogue on the loose in an America ripe for the bamboozling.
He's the porn world's Everyman. Blessed with an enormous "talent" yet average looks, he's starred in more than 1,700 adult films, directed 250 of them, and over the last twenty years has become porn's biggest ambassador to the mainstream. He's appeared in 60 regular films, 14 music videos, and VH1's Surreal Life, starred in the critically acclaimed Porn star (a movie about his life), and in Being Ron Jeremy (a take off on Being John Malkovich), co-starring Andy Dick. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Ron Jeremy is a born storyteller (funny, considering he doesn't do a lot of talking in his films). He knows where all the bodies are buried, and in this outrageous autobiography he not only shows you the grave but also gives you the back story on the tombstone. Get ready for Ron Jeremy—a scandalously entertaining deep insider's view of the porn industry and its emergence into popular culture, and a delectable self-portrait of the amazingly endowed Everyman every man wanted to be.
In fall 1985 Verghese--who was born in Ethiopia of Indian parents--returned with his wife and newborn son to Johnson City, Tennessee, where he had done his internship and residence. As he watched AIDS infect the small town, he and the community learned many things from one another, including the power of compassion. An AIDS expert who initially had no patients, Verghese describes meeting gay men and then eventually others struggling with this new disease. Verghese's patients include a factory worker confronting her husband's AIDS, bisexuality, and her own HIV status and a religious couple infected via a blood transfusion attempting to keep their disease secret from their church and their children. This novelistic account, occasionally overly detailed, provides a heartfelt perspective on the American response to the spread of AIDS.
Intense loyalty, painful separation, incredible hardship, and, above all, overriding love are all in Matthews's chronicle of his family's love-hate relationship with an evolving Russia. Moscow bureau chief for Newsweek, the author ably captures both the Soviet Union of the past and the present atmosphere of the new Russia. From his grandfather's execution during the Stalinist purges in the 1930s, through his mother's and aunt's deprivations in World War II, to his own fascination with the changing Russia of the 1990s, Matthews has created a testament to how deeply a country and a people can get into your blood.
On a clear California morning when Cox (Swimming to Antarctica) was 17 years old, she had an unusual experience that stayed with her for 30 years, creating a spiritual foundation for her personal and professional success. In this slim and crisp memoir, Cox details a morning swim off the coast of California that took an unexpected turn: returning to shore, she discovered that she was being followed by a baby gray whale that had been separated from its mother. As Cox developed a rapport with the whale, she took on the responsibility of keeping it at sea until it was reunited with its mother.
Veteran newsman and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert is known for his direct and unpretentious style and in this charming memoir he explains why. Russert's father is profiled as a plainspoken World War II veteran who worked two blue-collar jobs while raising four kids in South Buffalo but the elder Russert's lessons on how to live an honest, disciplined, and ethical life are shown to be universal. Big Russ and Me, a sort of Greatest Generation meets Tuesdays with Morrie, could easily have become a sentimental pile of mush with a son wistfully recalling the wisdom of his beloved dad. But both Russerts are far too down-to-earth to let that happen and the emotional content of the book is made more direct, accessible, and palatable because of it.
Tim Russert died in June 2008.