I am now of the appropriate age that I can say that if the world would only stop doing things a new way and would do it the way I liked it, civilization will be saved. 

I am reminded of this as my daily newspaper slowly shrinks into nothingness.  However, today’s newspaper announced the death of the long playing album so now I am depressed about that.  But nothing takes me down quicker than people telling me the print book is dead. 

What worries me is that as we replace the print book with some other type of delivery system we may also jettison the compact a scholarly book makes with the reader.  In other words, the trust that is developed by years of research, lots of footnotes, and a dense text rich with complex language could be lost.  In my world this means a book that is so good at presenting its subject that I do not mind the bazillion footnotes included in the book.

The book I have been reading has made me think about that.   In fact, I even checked out some of these footnotes as I was reading the text.  Part of the reading experience for me with this title was an attempt to prove that there is hope for popular readable scholarship.  I was not let down. 


You should be.  Linda Gordon is the Professor of History at New York University so it is probably no surprise to figure she is a strong researcher.  She also is a talented writer.

Her new book is Dorothea Lange:  A Life Beyond Limits.  Lange is the photographer best known for a photograph called Migrant Mother.  Lange’s life was of interest to me as she had to battle polio her whole life.  Besides her physical challenges she also had to face a male dominated profession, working for the government (which makes most of her best photos public domain), and two marriages that failed to fulfill her possible opportunities. 

What also makes Lange interesting is that she is not a perfect person and Gordon is not shy about telling the reader about her weaker qualities.  Despite being a well respected photographer, Lange grew into an artistic one while raising a family in her own unique way.  Then Gordon mixes in two world wars, the Great Depression, Communist witch hunts and racism to show that Lange’s life and photography are all a part of a big and flowing world that challenged Lange every day. 

Gordon’s impressive ability to integrate the big picture historical aspects with the day to day life of a professional woman driven to improve democracy makes this book very discussable for groups looking for a good biography to read.

And you can even call it a picture book if you want to.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.


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  1. ckubala@columbiactlibrary.org' CarolK says:

    Yes, I was impressed, so much so that I went looking for the book in our state library system. Would you believe that only 1 library in the whole state of Connecticut owns this book! This would make it a difficult choice for a book discussion. Intrigued I am and will buy a used copy for future reading.

  2. apaluck@mxcc.commnet.edu' Anne says:

    My library at Middlesex Community College owns it!

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