But I read a lot of great books:
- The Joy of Drinking by Barbara Holland. I love her stuff in general, and starting my trip to the City That Care Forgot with a light-hearted and funny look at the history of human alcohol consumption seemed apropos.
- Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen. Roahen is a medical school widow, food writer, and New Orleans transplant who looks at the Crescent City through the lens of its unique and wonderful food culture and the amazing characters who make it happen, even in the face of the almost overwhelming odds they've faced since Hurricane Katrina. Just try to read it without a) getting hungry and b) wanting to move there.
- Nine Lives by Dan Baum. Baum writes about the life, near death, and fragile beginnings of rebirth of a beloved and unique city through the medium of following the lives of 9 fairly typical New Orleanians, from the 1960's through 2007: "Dr. Jazz," the city's trumpet-playing long-time coroner; an uptown business man who married into the Rex family (and mansion); the widow of one of the Mardi Gras Indians' biggest Big Chiefs; a petty criminal; a high school band director; the band director's wife; a Lower 9 resident who worked the street car lines for 30+ years; a cop; and a transexual bar owner. Yes, those *are* typical New Orleanians. And I guarantee that you'll learn things you never knew about the city, the storm, and its aftermath reading this engrossing book.
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. Hell, when I was growing up, I wanted to *be* Harriet the Spy. Which, now that I think about it, is probably pretty revealing.
- The Road to Wellville by TC Boyle. Is there any writer I love more than TC Boyle? I think not.
- Just starting 1 Dead in the Attic by Chris Rose. Rose is part of the multiple Pulitzer-winning New Orleans Times-Picayune staff who covered Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, even as they themselves were forced to evacuate the city, racing just ahead of the rising flood waters. As one t-shirt I saw down there read: "Times-Picayune: We report come hell AND high water." Nearly 4 years after the hurricane, much of the city is still struggling to come back, although you'd never notice if you don't leave the traditional tourist areas. But a lot of people are still hurting, still homeless, and still missing their families, friends, neighborhoods, and beloved city. Got a few spare bucks or a little spare time? Do something to help.