What I love about Murakami’s running book is that he does not pretend that all life’s problems can be solved by running a faster marathon. Murakami is frank not only about the human limitations of running but about his very own, openly acknowledging that he cannot run a faster marathon anymore. To him, running is not a means to a qualifying race time--and no, it’s not a “way of life,” either: it’s an exercise for the mind and the body. You should only run if it makes you happy, and I was happy to learn that I’m not alone in this sentiment.
This could be one of your favorite D.C. memoirs if you are not into reading about policy decisions but instead tend to enjoy 21st century Peyton Place antics set in the Old Executive Office Building. The author answers an ad on Craigslist and, as luck would have it, becomes a White House stenographer traveling all over the world with “44” and witnessing history. Aside from the fact that there is way too much cheating and way, way too much drinking and that all I wanted to do was shake some sense into Stein, her writing redeems her. This memoir was so entertaining and hard to put down…enjoy!
Sarah Smarsh’s passionate Heartland (Scribner, $26) uses various narrative strategies to call attention to the overlooked “distance between how poverty is handled in public policy and what it looks like in human lives.” Specifically focusing on rural white working class poverty, Smarsh notes both how hard it is to talk about class in America and how little what sparse language there is has to do with her family of Kansas wheat farmers, carpenters, and waitresses; her relatives neither fit the definitions of “redneck,” “roughneck” or “hillbilly,” nor conformed to the stereotypes for “trailer trash.” Far from being lazy, Smarsh’s people work incessantly, often holding down three or more jobs at once. The product of generations who survived the harsh prairies by knowing that “you either work together or starve alone,” Smarsh learned early that “what poverty requires” are “creative, industrious people.” So why did these hard-workers have so much trouble paying the bills? Looking around at her mother’s and aunts’ teenage pregnancies, multiple marriages, and frustrated ambitions, she decided not to bring a child into poverty, but to break the cycle that had made her own childhood so unsettled.