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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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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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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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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:

  

« September book giveaway: John Shors, Beneath a Marble Sky | Main | Rubenfeld, Jed: The Interpretation of Murder »

Newhart, Bob: I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This

  

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Hyperion © 2006, 256 pages [amazon]
4 stars

Bob Newhart's I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This (accent on the This; as Newhart explains in his introduction, the title comes from the punch line of a joke) is not, the author admits, a traditional memoir:

"A memoir is a weighty tome. Former presidents and the Marquis de Sade write memoirs; Bob Newhart doesn't write a memoir."
Instead Newhart offers a collection of stories from his personal and professional lives, arranged thematically across 14 chapters. Newhart tells the story of his life in more-or-less chronological order: his childhood in Chicago (the setting, later, of his eponymous sitcom), his pre-comedy careers (including accounting and military service), the radio skits that culminated in his bestselling Button-Down Mind albums, movies and television. Along the way he also writes about other comedians, about golf and hecklers, family and famous friends. Some of these stories translate well to the page. I can picture very well, for example, this small scene at Don Rickles's house:
"If Don can avoid doing something, he will. We were sitting around his den one day when he turned to a comedian named Bobby Ramson. 'Bobby,' Don said, 'You're good at that. Would you open the window?'"
And this line from Tony Randall is perfect, the scene likewise perfectly easy to imagine, the necessary background being that Newhart's new father-in-law was actor Bill Quinn:
"On January 12, 1963, we made it to the altar. As we took our places, before the procession began, Tony Randall took one look at Ginnie's Dad and quipped, 'Look who they got to play the father.'"

You'll come away from the book thinking that Bob Newhart's a nice guy (but you thought that anyway, right?), with a nostalgic longing for his classic TV show and some curiosity about his early comedy albums.Newhart writes a lot about his early routines--"The Driving Instructor" and "Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue," for example. He explains where the ideas for the routines came from, and he transcribes a number of them in the book. One can read the routines with Newhart's stammering delivery in mind, but I found myself wishing that the book came with a CD, that I could hear the humor rather than try to imagine it. I'm not an aficionado of audio books, as I prefer reading to listening, but in this case, because delivery is such an important part of Newhart's storytelling, you might want to spring for the unabridged CD, read by the author.

Newhart suggests in his introduction, perhaps in jest, that writing I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This was not a cathartic experience for him. This isn't surprising. The book is not a soul-searching reflection on his life, just a collection of anecdotes, some funny, some not as much, delivered conversationally. A quick read. You'll come away from the book thinking that Bob Newhart's a nice guy (but you thought that anyway, right?), with a nostalgic longing for his classic TV show and some curiosity about his early comedy albums. Which is another reason you might want to spring for the CD.

Review summary: In I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This Bob Newhart tells a number of stories from his personal and professional lives, arranged thematically across 14 chapters. The book is not a soul-searching reflection on his life, just a collection of anecdotes, some funny, some not as much, delivered conversationally. He discusses and transcribes a number of his early comedy routines. Because Newhart's delivery is so important to his storytelling, you might want to buy the unabridged audio CD of the book, which is read by the author.

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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.