Monday, October 09, 2006

Books: Why Do I Love These People?

"Why Do I Love These People?" is the most recent book from novelist turned social commentator Po Bronson.

After writing two excellent satirical novels ("Bombardiers", an absurdist comedy about bond trading, and "The First $20 Million Is Always The Hardest", a novel of Silicon Valley that appears a bit dated because it centers around the concept of a Java-based network computer) and a trifle of a bubble-era survey of the Valley ("The Nudist on the Late Shift"), Bronson made an abrupt shift into writing about the big questions in life.

I did not read his best-selling "What Should I Do With My Life?" (though I admire the chutzpah of the title!), but recently picked up "Why Do I Love These People?", which is his examination of family.

Bronson rips apart the common tendency of Americans to believe that the institution of the "Leave It To Beaver" family endured for countless eons until the hippie 60s, disco 70s, greedy 80s, and grungy 90s. With careful statistics, he shows that on most measures, family is as strong as ever, and in many ways, is stronger than during the mythical "golden age" of authoritarian parenting, unwanted pregnancy, and repression.

He illustrates his points with 20 tales of successful families that managed to overcome tragedy, circumstance, and their own stupidity and stubbornness to find some kind of working love. The stories include abandonment, death, and hardship as well as redemption, love, and understanding.

It is a masterpiece. I found it hard to put down, and ended up devouring it in less than two days (pretty tough, given my busy schedule!).

One of my conventional summaries is impossible. Just take my word for it, and read this book.

P.S. Don't be turned off by the mixed reviews on Amazon. These books are polarizing because of their emotionally sensitive topics. Either you believe in what Bronson is trying to do, or you think he's a namby-pamby girlie man who churns out "huggy-lovey-touchy-feely sugar-coated" garbage (an actual quote from an Amazon review--I'd hate to think of what they'd have to say about Mitch Albom!).


Tim Taylor said...

It's officially on my list. Thanks for the recommendation Chris.

Chris said...

You won't regret it, Tim.

Jackie Danicki said...

Argh, I ALMOST bought this at the SFO airport a couple of months ago, but balked at the price (my books are almost exclusively secondhand purchases; Amazon is a splurge for me). Will consider it an investment.

Chris said...


I got my copy (used) for $3.50. I can loan it to you the next time you're in the Bay Area. You just have to spend the $1,000 on a trip out here.

Anonymous said...

Glad you took the recommendation got a chance to read it. I knew it would resonate with some of the themes we discussed at lunch. :)

- kai

Laura said...

I cited your post in my own review of the book. Check it out!