It would be hard to find a newspaper-reading/TV-watching American who didn’t know that Pat Tillman walked away from a promising, highly paid career in the NFL to join the Army in 2002 and that, as an elite Army Ranger, he was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004. The details of his death—that he was killed by “friendly fire” and that the Army and the Bush administration went to great lengths to cover it up, using Tillman as a poster boy and keeping the truth from his family—came out only after years of his mother’s tireless crusade. Soberly narrated by Scott Brick, Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory sets the story in the complex context of our post-9/11 entry into two wars and offers a compelling portrait of Tillman, fleshed out by interviews with his family, the wife he so adored, his friends and his comrades, as well as his diaries. The young man who emerges is a strong-willed, natural leader: curious, constantly reading, a true patriot who lived by his own set of rules. In his almost minute-by-minute description of Tillman’s sad, pointless death, Krakauer makes the “fog of war” intensely real, intensely affecting. An American tragedy, eloquently told.
If doctors could prescribe laugh therapy, David Sedaris “pills” might prove more popular than Lipitor or an unmentionable beginning with V. In lieu of Sedaris-in-tablet-form and much more fun, we have the real thing, a new, audio-only, previously unreleased recording of the divine David reading his own laugh-out-loud essays. I’d heard some of Live for Your Listening Pleasure on NPR, but that only made it better, like finding a treasured possession that’s been misplaced. Sedaris can tease out the humor in almost any situation and make it more amusing with his unique timing and delivery. And here he lets his fabulous talent for mimicry shine. I recommend keeping a Sedaris CD close at hand for those all-too-common bleak moments when you need a pick-me-up guaranteed to make you smile and see the funnier side of life.
A call to action
In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore put global warming in the global spotlight. In the next phase, Gore held a series of “Solution Summits” with cutting-edge scientists, policy makers and others to find real solutions to this staggering problem. Those potential solutions are gathered in Our Choice, his new clarion call to all of us, everywhere, to heed the warning and find the moral courage to do what needs to be done.
Audio of the month
Hilary Mantel, author of this year’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Wolf Hall, conjures up Henry VIII and his vast embattled court—including Anne Boleyn and, most especially, Thomas Cromwell—so brilliantly, so effectively that, had she been living then, she would probably have been accused of witchcraft. Her ability to get inside the characters in this extraordinary, wonderfully paced saga, to capture their essences, their language, their thoughts and cadences is amazing. And Simon Slater’s reading is equal to Mantel’s masterpiece, his voice shifting to match each speaker, with touches of rough British dialect, German and French accents expertly handled. Cromwell, a man who can “draft a contract, train a falcon, draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house and fix a jury,” stars in this pageant of the upheaval caused by Henry’s unrelenting desire to divorce Katherine of Aragon to marry Anne and his unyielding need for a male heir. In tracing Cromwell’s rise from a lowly blacksmith’s son to Henry’s most powerful and trusted aide, Mantel has set a new standard for historical fiction.