Just one volume in Nelson’s long story that remains much like its author: funny, inspirational and bawdy, with a well-honed...

ROLL ME UP AND SMOKE ME WHEN I DIE

MUSINGS FROM THE ROAD

Legendary musician Nelson and his friends share a year’s worth of stories, lyrics, riffs and dirty jokes.

At age 79, the prolific Nelson (A Tale Out of Luck, 2008, etc.) shows no signs of slowing down as he continues to travel the world with his “band of gypsies.” This funny, heartwarming collection doesn’t quite capture the experience of being on the road with the circus, but Nelson’s unmistakable voice shines through. The songwriter shares tales from the road, thoughts of the day, early memories, classic lyrics, and recollections of people like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, among a host of lesser-known collaborators. Sister Bobbie Nelson and various children also chime in, while Kinky Friedman offers an affectionate foreword and Nelson’s son Micah contributes some terrific portraits of everyone from Ray Charles to Django Reinhardt. There are some semi-serious moments, but the best characteristic about the book is its sense of being mostly unplanned. Page by page, you might get a list of the best pickers Willie has ever heard, the lyrics and the inspiration for “Shotgun Willie,” or musings on golf, addiction, biodiesel, Farm Aid or the Occupy movement. However, it is neither as immaterial as The Tao of Willie (2006) nor as essential as his autobiography. Like another collection, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes (2001), how closely readers follow Nelson’s meandering path may largely depend on their own lucidity at the time.

Just one volume in Nelson’s long story that remains much like its author: funny, inspirational and bawdy, with a well-honed sense of humor.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-219364-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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