by Janet Ross
Heading the list, Dave Barry is one of the most prolific and varied. He began his writer's career in journalism, but has branched into fiction, music, and film as well. Considered primarily as a humorist, one of his latest books is a tribute to his home state of many years, Florida.
“Best.State.Ever” takes a look at the wild and crazy side of Florida. You can expect clever titles from Barry; his first was “The Taming of the Screw”. He stepped into the Millennium with “My Teenage Son's Goal in Life is to Make Me Feel 3,500 Years Old – and Other Manly Insights from Dave Barry”.
Barry's newspaper humor columns are available in several collections; again, the titles are indicative of hearty laughs “ Boogers Are My Beat” was published in 2003. His novels are great fun as well and one, “Big Trouble”, was made into a movie in 2002. Barry has received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. If you've never read him and need a laugh, do grab one of his books.
Rick Bragg is a little younger than Barry and a Southerner through and through. Born in Piedmont, Alabama, Bragg grew up in Possum Trot, Alabama. He writes mainly about his family, but also has a background as a journalist and won a Pulitzer Prize for his work for the controversy surrounding the Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, while working at the Miami bureau of the New York Times.
Bragg's best books (in my opinion) are centered on his family. His autobiography, “All Over But the Shoutin'” details the times and trials of his Alabama childhood with an absentee alcoholic father and the efforts of his mother to keep three boys in food and clothing. Bragg's newest book is a tribute to his mother, and includes many of her recipes (”Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table”). Even though there is sadness in Bragg's family stories, there is humor, too. Bragg is well worth getting to know.
Michael P. Branch is a local writer, a professor of literature and environment at UNR, who lives high on a mountain northwest of Reno. Married, with two young daughters, Branch approaches the Great Basin Desert with an awareness of its dangers and inherent beauty.
He is often at his best when recounting the misadventures of living on the edge of total wilderness, especially as he interacts with his daughters. Unafraid to laugh at himself, Branch is the author of four Nevada chronicles: “The Height of Our Mountains” (a collection of nature writers), “Rants from the Hill”, “Raising Wild – Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness”, and “How to Cuss in Western: and Other Missives from the High Desert”. If you have never ventured into Nevada's desert regions, Branch is an excellent guide to read by way of introduction.
Bill Bryson has long been one of my favorite writers. As a traveler he can be both funny and cranky. As an educator, his scope is always broad and fascinating. Although born in the United States, Bryson has spent many years living in Great Britain; he even holds honorary doctorates from eight British Universities.
Bryson tells the story of his Iowa childhood in “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” and the book is one of his funniest. “Notes from a Small Island” recounts his early years in England. More fun is on tap with “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” read the book and skip the movie. If you are in the mood for all kinds of information, Bryson has written “Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words”, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, “Shakespeare: The World as Stage”, “At Home: A Short History of Private Life”, and “One Summer: America, 1927”. His latest book is the delightful “The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island”.
Rinker Buck is our fifth guy writer. He, too, began his writing career as a journalist. Buck was one of eleven children born in New Jersey to an eccentric publisher father. His first book, “Flight of Passage” tells the story of his 1966 cross-country flight with his older brother. Because of their ages, 15 and 17, the flight from New Jersey to California was a record achievement. “The Oregon Trail: a New American Journey”, lets us ride along in a wagon pulled by mules as Buck travels with another brother to recreate the original Trail. Both of Buck's adventures are a pleasure to read.
All five guys will be found on the shelves of local libraries, in bookstores and online. They are well worth your time. Smiles and laughter are guaranteed.