Best books … chosen by Geraldo Rivera
Award-winning broadcast journalist Geraldo Rivera is the host of Fox News’ Geraldo at Large. His new book, His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S., will be published this week.
La Vida by Oscar Lewis (out of print). Lewis, a pessimistic rabbi’s son, was the first author I ever encountered who chronicled the culture of poverty that, in his theory, straitjacketed transplanted Puerto Ricans in New York’s harsh ghetto. While Lewis was entirely too gloomy about the community’s prospects, he did vividly portray the struggle of so many who came from the island in the 1940s and 1950s.
Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (Penguin, $13). The lure of the ocean is irresistible not just because the ocean is a highway to the world but also because of the constant challenge of literally keeping your head above water. Slocum’s was a breathtaking feat, and he writes about it in an almost casual style that makes it all the more vivid to other seafarers.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Signet, $5). Burroughs’ classic account of the lost Lord Greystoke is condemned today as racist. But when I read it as a teenager, I was transported to the deep jungles of Africa. There, I too was master of the wild beasts, enamored of Jane Porter, and a force for good against big bad animals and evil men. Even today, under the influence of a particularly primal setting and appropriate amounts of tequila, I occasionally practice my bloodcurdling roar.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, $20). No better fantasy was ever written, nor magic world created. The morality of the good guys and the terror generated by the bad may be oversimplified metaphors for a far more complex world. But never did I finish an epic with greater regret, nor have I revisited one as often.
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (Picador, $16). This is the best book to come out of World War II—the most written-about war of all. Mailer is as adept at describing the strategy of the battle to take the Pacific islands as he is at describing the men who fought and died doing it.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence (Wordsworth, $11). As much as I wanted to be Tarzan or Aragorn, I wanted to be Lawrence of Arabia—subject of the greatest movie ever made. In his autobiography, the legendary soldier-scholar proved himself a great military strategist who understood the Middle East better than any contemporary observer.