Bookmarked: Death with Dignity, Jack Earle, and Mao Zedong

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Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader.
It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many
hidden on the shelves. In “Bookmarked,” we link to excerpts from some of
our favorites, hoping they’ll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy!

Over the past 100 years, the average life expectancy in America has
nearly doubled. While longevity is celebrated as an achievement, the
longer people live, the more likely they are to succumb to chronic,
terminal illness. At Liberty to Die (New
York University Press, 2012) by Howard Ball dissects the battle for
death with dignity in America and explores the pressing question: is it
appropriate, legally and ethically, for a competent individual to have
the liberty to decide how and when to die when faced with terminal
illness? Read an excerpt taken from the book’s introduction.

In The Long Shadows (Multicultural
Publications, 2012), author Andrew Erlich tells the inspiring story of
his uncle Jake Erlich, better known by his stage name Jack Earle. Read
the story of Jake’s exceptional life overcoming crippling shyness,
depression, temporary blindness and the physical challenges of an
8-foot-6-inch frame. Follow his lifetime of 46 years, and uncover the
story of how Jake earned widespread acclaim for his multi-faceted
artistry as a silent film star, sideshow performer with the Ringling
Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, dancer, musician, painter, poet,
photographer and sculptor whose work is in a permanent collection in the
Museum of Natural History in New York. This excerpt on Jake’s
first encounter with a Eugenics rally is taken from Chapter 18, “Major General George Moseley, U.S. Army, Retired.”

Mao Zedong was one of the most important figures of the twentieth
century and arguably the most important figure in the history of modern
China. MAO: The Real Story (Simon
& Schuster, 2012) by Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine
creates a detailed and revelatory portrait of a complex world leader.
Pantsov and Levine show Mao’s relentless drive to succeed, vividly
describing his growing role in the nascent Communist Party of China.
They disclose startling facts about his personal life, particularly
regarding his health and his lifelong serial affairs with young women.
They portray him as the loyal Stalinist that he was, who never broke
with the Soviet Union until after Stalin’s death. Learn how biographers
depicted Mao as a romantic revolutionary in this excerpt taken from the
introduction, “Myths and Realities.”  

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