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Books by the Blogger:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Bete, Tim: In the Beginning...There Were No Diapers | Main | Lileks, James: Mommy Knows Worst »

O'Keefe, Kevin: The Average American

  

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PublicAffairs © 2005, 257 pages [amazon]
3.5 stars

In The Average American author Kevin O'Keefe chronicles his attempt to discover the archetypical resident of the United States, that one man or woman whose quantifiable attributes, preferences, and living conditions are as close to "normal" as possible (normal as determined by the 2000 census and a number of other polls and reports). O'Keefe arrived at a list of 140 criteria that his Average American had to meet, most of them suggested to him by conversations he had with regular folk while traveling around the country on his quest. In the end, the identity of O'Keefe's quintessential American came as a surprise to him, and makes for a very tidy finish to the book, particularly given O'Keefe's secondary motive in undertaking the project. The author portrays himself in the book as an unduly competitive, unlikable type-A character who's never accepted average performance from himself, who's racked up accomplishments not so much because he enjoyed himself in the doing, but because he needed to be better than everyone else. He suggests that in finding the average American he may find as well something that's been missing in himself.

The average American falls asleep within seven minutes of going to bed and eats three pounds of peanut butter annually.O'Keefe's chronicle is certainly interesting, sprinkled as it is with statistical tidbits which readers will inevitably want to measure themselves against. (The average American falls asleep within seven minutes of going to bed and eats three pounds of peanut butter annually.) And there is a certain frisson in the idea that every American reading the book was, for a short time at least, at the beginning of the project, a candidate for O'Keefe's Everyman.

Except.... Except that some of O'Keefe's candidates were more equal than others. Among the criteria he uses to winnow out the un-average Joes are two geographical filters that alone knock much of the country out of consideration. O'Keefe required that his Average American live in the eastern or central time zones and that he or she live no more than 100 miles from the shore. Residents of California, for example, never really had a chance. O'Keefe similarly applies various political criteria to his candidates. The Average American, for example, is required to live in a state that is represented by at least one Democratic senator (as most Americans do). Thus the majority of O'Keefe's sifting of candidates is done by applying to the population criteria that are external to the individual. Whole communities, whole swaths of the country are thrown out on political or geographical grounds. It would have made for a far more interesting project and book if all of O'Keefe's criteria were instead centered on the individual. As it is, it feels as if much of the population was removed from consideration unfairly.

Two other small additions would have made for a better book. First, I would have appreciated the inclusion of a series of maps in which areas being removed from consideration were shaded out. And it would have been more fun if O'Keefe's 140 criteria were presented in checklist form rather than in paragraphs.

By now you'll be wondering whether your intrepid reviewer comes close to meriting the appellation of Average American. Decidedly not! My annual consumption of eggs and peanut  butter is on the low side, and I buy far fewer clothes per year than most. I can't be certain, moreover, but my guess is that I won't be losing twelve of my teeth over the next nine years.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.