Have a Little Faith, by Mitch Albom
It was a lesson you learned the moment you were old enough to sass back: always respect your elders. When Grandma spoke, you listened. If Grandpa said to do something, it was as good as done. If you valued your life, you answered Mom or Dad respectfully, and Heaven help the kid who spoke to a neighbor in a snide manner.
Always respect your elders. But what if the elder makes a difficult request? In the new book, “Have a Little Faith,” by Mitch Albom, it took eight years to make good a promise.
Albert Lewis almost wasn’t a Rabbi. Having failed divinity school, he almost gave up, but was encouraged to try again. Later, when he finally got his own synagogue, the tiny congregation consisted of just a handful of families. One of them was Mitch Albom’s.
As a child, Albom remembered the Reb as an imposing man with an inexplicable love of song and of sermon; basically, someone to avoid. Despite his parents’ anchoring and years of lessons, Albom grew up and grew out of his faith, learning that mouthed prayers, uttered mechanically, were somehow acceptable. He moved away from home and looked upon religion as quaint, invisible.
So Albom was surprised when Rabbi Lewis asked him to do his eulogy. Because one cannot speak well about a man without knowing him, Albom agreed to the request, but told the Reb that they needed to set meetings so that questions could be answered. And it came to pass that Albom made the trek from his home in Detroit to New Jersey several times a year for eight years.
Back in Detroit, the economy was lashing at the city, jobs were lost, and so were homes. But in a sagging old cathedral near Tiger Stadium, a former drug dealer was feeding the homeless and preaching the gospel, all but abandoned by his mother church, trying to do good with what God was giving him.
As Albom began to examine the disparity between the congregations – the wealthy synagogue and the poverty-stricken, inner-city shelter-church – he began to wonder about God, trust and faith, and he learned a lesson you won’t soon forget.
I wasn’t crazy about this book at first. Albom, like one of his subjects, loves to savor an anecdote before he lets it go, and that bogs down the beginning of this book. But once you get past the stage-setting and you move a few pages in, “Have a Little Faith” soars.
By telling the story of two men who are similar, but different, Albom forces his readers to examine their own beliefs, as well as the meaning of hope and miracles. I won’t tell you how this book ends, but suffice it to say that you’ll come away with your heart lifted to the rafters.
Fans of Albom’s first book and anyone who’s ever pondered the nature of belief will want to make room on their bookshelf for a new favorite. “Have a Little Faith” is a book I believe you’ll love.
Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, by Colin Dickey
c.2009, Unbridled Books
What, exactly, were you thinking? Obviously, not the right thing, that’s for sure. And now it’s time to face the music, time to eyeball the problem and go cheek-by-jowl with everybody to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You’re bone-tired at this point, but your chin is up. By the sweat of your brow and without too much lip, you’ll sink your teeth into a solution and make things better. You just weren’t using your head, that’s all.
So, why not let somebody else use it? Pick up “Cranioklepty,” by Colin Dickey and read ahead.
While people throughout the centuries have collected some odd things, a fad that started in the late 1700s made some Europeans lose their heads – literally. Phrenology, or the study of intelligence through the terrainium of the cranium, was considered a “science”, and phrenologists were generally quite eager to get their hands on the heads of brilliant men of the time.
Never mind that these (mostly) guys – Haydn, Mozart, Goya, and Beethoven, to name a few – were dead. Desperate phrenologists were only happy to pay through the nose for the noses (and then some) of the famous, and grave diggers were happy to take the cash and steal the noggins right from the crypt.
Grave robbing, of course, was nothing new. Wanting someone’s body in a “scientific” way had been going on for ages. But this skull-stealing was head and shoulders worse, mostly because the grinning skulls, once collected, were oftentimes displayed in beautiful glass cases for all to see.
Although phrenology eventually did become somewhat of a real science when brain-studying got involved, and although some still saw phrenology for what it was (a scam), many prominent people went head-over-heels for personal “skull readings.” Author Walt Whitman was said to have carried his reading with him for years. George Eliot, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens added phrenology to their stories. Even Mark Twain was said to have dabbled, but was skeptical.
After awhile, though, when multiple skulls were claimed to belong to singular bodies and collectors were going head-to-head over authenticity, it was obvious that the whole thing had come to a head. Eventually, the craze flattened, cooler heads prevailed, and the skullduggery faded away.
Although there are way too many names to keep track of (which can make it hard to follow), “Cranioklepty” is, overall, a deliciously gruesome, quirkily odd look at history and science from – thankfully – time past.
Head Honcho Dickey does a great job setting the stage with a sense of time and the social mores that would allow someone to justify removing the head from a days-old corpse for the sake of owning a piece of the person it once belonged to. Dickey’s writing gives this book a Jack-the-Ripper feel and lends just a touch of the macabre.
If you’re looking for something Victorian-dark and gently shivery, don’t beat your head against the wall; look for “Cranioklepty,” instead. For fans of the odd and strange, or for little-know history lovers, this is a book to head for.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.