TV journalist Bill Geist's folksy take on out-of-the-way places, plus reader picks.
Way Off the Road, By Bill Geist
I grew up in a town of 7,000 and have always considered myself a small-town girl. That is, I did until I picked up Way Off the Road by TV journalist Bill Geist. Geist hosts a tour of America's back roads that will give many of us a whole new take on the meaning of "small."
Geist is an affable, enthusiastic writer, and his narrative arcs in a smooth cruise from a standstill parade in Whalen, Minn. (pop. 62) to a cowchip-throwing competition in Beaver, Okla, (pop. 1,478). In between, Geist pops in on folks in places like Monowi, Neb., (pop. 1, where a folksy widow serves as mayor and everything else) and Chattanooga, Tenn., (pop. 14,762, home of the Museum of Towing.)
Geist's criterion isn't so much size as way of life. He seeks "a world where money, celebrity, and raw ambition don't always hold sway, and where people tend not to take themselves quite so seriously."
You could argue, of course, that it'd be difficult to both take yourself seriously and be a professional cow photographer, as in one encounter in New Glarus, Wis., (pop. 2,111). But Geist isn't laughing. A small-town boy himself (Fisher, Ill., pop. 1,647), he clearly loves this terrain of "seemingly ordinary people doing extraordinary things."
Readers shouldn't sneer either. In this summer of high gas prices and ongoing speculation about Britney, "Way Off the Road" may offer a particularly pleasing way to tour America.
– Marjorie Kehe
I rarely read nonfiction, but a friend highly recommended Jan Crawford Greenburg's Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. It is a fascinating book, well-written and, best of all, not plagued by partisan bias.
– E. O'Shea, Keene, N.H.
I just finished Blink by Malcomb Gladwell, a fascinating look at decisionmaking based on "thin slicing" information. The author shows how decisions based on complex issues are often better made with less information than with more. In spite of getting off track on a couple of occasions and providing more details than needed in others, gaining this insight, or confirming it, was worth the read.
– Bill Barrons, Astoria, Oregon
I am reading Talking Back by Andrea Mitchell. This is an excellent book with insider info on the people that she has been assigned to cover.
– Molly Pace, Zirconia, N.C.
What are you reading? Write and tell us at Marjorie Kehe.