Reader's Link - October 2009 Staff Picks Archive

It's A Long Drive Down Interstate 5, or that's a lot of cotton!

The King of California, J.G. Boswell and The Making of A Secret American Empire.

Title: The King of California, J.G. Boswell and The Making of A Secret American Empire.
By: Mark Arax

This book dovetails perfectly if you happen to be reading John Steinbeck, or studying the photographs of Dorothea Lange. A biography which examines the life of a very powerful farmer (at one point owning over 200,000 acres of rich farmland) used to driving bargains across bar stools and shaking down his opponents in boardrooms. The book is written by two L. A. Times journalists who, after much convincing, are lucky to have their subject, Jim Boswell himself, drive them around in his old pickup truck and tell them his version of the story. Boswell’s company drained Tulare Lake, once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, (four times the size of Lake Tahoe). Finally it comes down to the value of water and to what extremes Jim Boswell and his business empire did to get that water. Boswell & Co. was one of the first companies to employ lasers to level fields so that water flowed evenly and efficiently. He hired the best and most creative scientists who perfected the soil and germination of cotton seed. Boswell & Co.'s special Pima cotton is considered the finest cotton grown anywhere in the world. Carefully intertwined throughout the book are the personal sacrifices and racial differences; stories of sharecroppers escaping to California; the strategy and consequence of importing laborers from Mexico in the 1930's. Did you know that it takes 257 gallons to make one cotton T-shirt? But at what cost to the environment? Includes maps and photo illustrations.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,history,biography
Posted on Oct. 20, 2009 at 10:11 a.m.

Journeys of a Passionate Traveller

A Year in the World

Title: A Year in the World
By: Frances Mayes

Mayes' most well-known work Under the Tuscan Sun and its offshoots never appealed to me so I was surprised and delighted when I discovered her more recent memoir, A Year in the World. In her day job Mayes was a writing instructor, and here she shows her craft in top form. The title is somewhat of a misnomer – her several journeys around Europe were actually conducted over a five-year period – but they are arranged in calendar order, beginning with a January visit to Andalucia and concluding at year-end with a trip to Mantova, Italy. Always she is looking around and wondering, 'How do place and character intertwine? What is home to those around me? Who are they in their homes, those mysterious others?' In this luminous, beautifully written work Mayes' observations get to the essence of place, whether listening to soul-filled fado in Portugal, wandering the souks of Fez, or finding the perfect restaurant outside Naples. For all armchair travelers and those who love beautifully crafted, evocative writing.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,biography,travel
Posted on Oct. 10, 2009 at 12:50 a.m.

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