Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

29 Nov 2004, 15:44 p.m.

Books I Read When I Was Too Young to Really Understand Them

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2004 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Back to Eden. A denunciation of modern, unholy, unhealthy eating patterns, and a handbook of herbs and more natural healing methods. Lots of enemas. This fascinated me for the anecdotes; I just flipped through the real reference material. He and his kids and grandkids talked about life on a farm, the virtues of a vegan diet, what God wants, and grotesque cases (ER meets All Creatures Great And Small). The guy had a clinic that used "electric therapy" -- I'm not sure what that means.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I was about eleven when I picked this one up. Why it was in our house I have no idea. I learned from this book the sorts of things that other people my age probably learned from the kinds of movies that my parents wouldn't let me watch, e.g., a passing reference to key parties. The introduction contains one of the best Malcolm X quotes, "My coffee is the only thing I like integrated." Looking back, I am surprised that I never confused Alex Haley (who took X's dictation) with Aldous Huxley, and that despite the LeVar Burton obsession I share with Leonard, we still haven't seen Roots.

I Never Played at the White House, Art Buchwald. A watergate-era column anthology. Dave Barry : Art Buchwald :: humor : satire, right? I was twelve. Like Mort Sahl, Buchwald was cheerfully chauvinist in ways I now find annoying. I learned most of what I know about Watergate from this book and from old Doonesbury cartoons.

A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney, Andy Rooney. I think someone gave my dad this book as a gift. Mom and Dad used to call me downstairs when 60 Minutes had 10 minutes left to make sure I wouldn't miss Rooney's stand-up/journalism/blogging. If you ever read the passage in Richard Wright's memoirs where he reads Mencken for the first time....take away most of the profound and awesome power of the experience and you get a sense of Rooney's influence on me. I mean, come on. I'm not Richard Wright! I think the honesty of his voice and the variety of his subjects got to me. I might not love Malcolm Gladwell now except that Rooney got me when I was young.

Sex And The Office, Helen Gurley Brown. Hoo boy. How that book got into my dad's library I have no clue. I may be the only person who's read this book and not Sex and the Single Girl, which came first. If I recall correctly, this book has absolutely no depictions or descriptions of actual sex, but lots of explanations of office politics. I have never used the techniques that the book recommends to succeed in the workplace (maybe I should) or romance (thank heaven I'm fine there).

Don't get my family started on Lee Iacocca's autobiography. It was the only English-language book around at a house in India that I visited when I was nine. I know a lot more about the Chrysler bailout than most people. Most people who dislike the Ford family do so because Henry Ford was an antisemitic wacko; I did because of Iacocca's description of his firing.