The month of November leading into the holiday shopping season has been hectic and busy here at Amazon. I have missed writing Media Monday, and hopefully a few of you have missed reading it. It's late here in Seattle, the end of a long Cyber Monday, and I've been looking forward to writing this since this morning.
First things first: For those readers who like biographies, I highly recommend Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. It's the best thing I've read in the last month-- one of those histories that's more novelistic than most fiction you'll read. It's also very difficult to put down once you get into it. A few months back my colleague, Jason Kirk, called it the best biography he'd read all year. I'll admit I was skeptical going in, but he was right.
Christopher Buckley reviews And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields, a book that Buckley calls a "sad, often heartbreaking biography." Vonnegut's life didn't start out very well-- like Mark Twain, to whom his writing and general disposition are often compared, he seemed to have earned his dark view of life. As Buckley points out, "It’s a truism that comic artists tend to hatch from tragic eggs." In this case, that egg was first laid by Vonnegut's mother. "When he was 21," Buckley tells us, "his mother successfully committed suicide — on Mother’s Day."