Monday, September 26, 2011

The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier

After reading Life Beyond Measure, I knew it was only a matter of time before I read The Measure of a Man.  I had high expectations for this book and I wasn’t disappointed. There was almost no overlap between the two books and in the sections that were repeated, Poitier discusses them in much more depth in The Measure of a Man adding details that were not included in Life Beyond Measure.

From the very first paragraph, this book had me smiling. Poitier opens by discussing the lack of entertaining selections playing on the television – or the idiot box as I sometimes call it. From there, we are taken back to his childhood. Television was not an option but even with no electricity and no telephones, entertainment was never lacking.

Poitier moved to America as a teenager but was unable to deal with life in the south because of what was instilled in him while growing up on Cat Island. He was taught that other people do not determine your worth. He discusses many unfortunate incidences including almost being killed because of racism while living in Miami. After a short stay there, he heads to New York. But what would become apparent is that simply leaving Miami wouldn't be the end of his encounters with racism - even when in other parts of  the world.

By Chapter 4, we’ve seen Poitier display perseverance, entrepreneurship, and integrity. As the book continues, he gives much credit to his parents and reveals his father’s teachings about the true measure of a man. He unveils turning points in his life and discusses pivotal life changing decisions that helped him build character. By the end of the book, we understand the making of the man that is Sidney Poitier. 

What did your parents teach you that helped to define who you are? 

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The Measure of a Man on Amazon
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

National Book Festival and CBC Author Pavilion Recapitulate

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I attended the National Book Festival and the Congressional Black Caucus Author Pavilion. Here are brief, very brief, tidbits from each of the authors I heard speak……

National Book Festival

I attended the speaking session of The New York Times best-selling author Steve Berry. He gave a few tips to aspiring authors by speaking about how he wrote is first novel while practicing law full-time.


A film based on a novel by Russell Banks, The Darling, is in the works. It will be directed by Martin Scorsese and star Cate Blanchett.  Banks didn’t hold my attention for very long but I did stick around long enough to hear him say, “A writer who knows what he’s doing doesn’t know much.” He also discussed the type of research he thinks is necessary to write a novel.


Sarah Vowell read excerpts from her new book Unfamiliar Fishes. The content didn’t draw me in but during her question and answer session she revealed that she’s witty! She kept us laughing right up until she left the stage.


Terry McMillan started her session by saying, “I’m not reading from Getting to Happy. I’m tired of that book.” But she did read from a book that she’s currently writing! It’s still in the draft stages.

We learned that she doesn’t like e-books and has reservations about self publishing. Her parting words: “I pray that bookstores never become extinct; especially independent bookstores.”

Pulitzer Prize winner for general nonfiction, Siddhartha Mukherjee, was in attendance as well. He read  from his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. He shared the story behind how the book came to life; it almost seemed like fate.  

And the CBC Author Pavilion:

One of the CBC Author Pavilion sessions I sat in on was entitled The Black Writer’s Obligation to the Black Community: The Power of Words! The panelists were Isaiah Washington, Booker Mattison, Tayaria Jones, Tananarive Due, Carla Peterson and Lawrence Jackson.

Moderator, Kwame Alexander, posed several excellent questions to the panelists. A few of my favorites: 1) How do you maintain control of the image or branding once your book is with the publisher? 2) What obligation does the black consumer have to the black author?  3) What is it about your writing that makes it meaningful to the consumer?


Tayaria Jones advised aspiring authors to tell the story of today. She says everyone can’t always be consumed with trying to tell the story of our mothers or our grandmothers. Someone has to tell the story of the here and now.


Isaiah Washington spoke about using his persona to support his platform.  And oh boy, he had plenty to say. I never realized he is a person of such depth and substance. I passed on his book after seeing it at all 5 of my visits to the Border’s going out of business sale.  But after hearing him speak, I plan to purchase it.


Lawrence P. Jackson faced the same problem when trying pitch his book to several publishers. They all told him that African Americans don’t read nonfiction and we don’t read books that are several hundred pages. Sighs…… moving on…….


Tananarive Due spoke about living up to the expectations of her family due to the success of her parents. Her goal starting out was just not to embarrass them! She also shared a the story of one of her fans. The woman drew from the strength of a character in Due’s book to fight of an attacker in real life!


Booker Mattison and Carla Peterson…….yikes, I’m drawing a blank here! Their presence wasn’t as powerful as that of the other panelists. Hmmm, presence – do I feel a Déjà vu post coming on!?

There was also a panel session focusing on Common and his mother Dr. Mahalia Hines. Dr. Hines gave insightful pointers on raising a young man. She has a pleasing personality and commands your attention.  I think I’d be more interested in reading a book that she has written!

For pictures and more insight, head over to my Facebook Fan Page. You don’t need an active account to view, only to comment. Or you can check out my Twitter feed to see the live updates I posted on Sept 22nd, 24th and 25th along with my twitpics!

Is there anything else you'd like to know about the events?

GIVEAWAY!!! Pronouns by JoVonna Rodriguez (2)

Surely you all remember JoVonna Rodriguez! She graciously provided a copy of her book Pronouns for a Reading Has Purpose giveaway. Well she’s at it again! Except this time you have to head over to her place.Visit JoVonna’s website to enter the giveaway. The winner will be announced on Oct 15. Good Luck!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Bookcase Project

We’re using paper less and less these days and I believe the day is coming when paper will be obsolete. Well it looks like someone else has been thinking something similar.

Today I stumbled upon a Facebook page called The BookCase Project. According to the owner, there’s a need to photograph our bookcases before they become inutile. He’s collecting pictures of bookcases for future generations! How’s that for forward thinking!?

I need this in my life! (photo credit)

I plan to follow this project over what I think will be the next few decades. Head over to The BookCase Project fan page to share a picture of your bookcase. You’ll find a picture of mine while you’re there!

What are your thoughts about The BookCase Project? Do you think we will one day live in a paperless society?

You Asked, I Answered: Selecting Books

Q. “How do you choose the books that you read? Simply by recommendation or do you use a particular methodology?"

photo credit

A. It starts with the right price! Yes, really. Since I purchase all of my books, reading can become a costly hobby. An $8 book is expensive - to me. 
Once in the clearance section, which is where you will find me in any bookstore, I choose randomly. The books that grab my attention are those with an interesting cover or a face I recognize. Any book displaying a minority author will usually get a second look. Of the 31 books I've profiled here, 12 were written by minority authors. 
Occasionally, I'll go hunting for something if I need information on a topic: investing, home ownership, career, ect. But I still only purchase what's in the clearance section because that's where everything ends up, eventually.  
Oddly enough, I don't know many people who read regularly so I rarely receive recommendations. When I do receive recommendations, I check out a synopsis and the Amazon star rating before adding the book to my 'to be read' (TBR) list. Then I purchase it when it's the right price.
For books that receive a lot of buzz, via word of mouth or press. I also check out the synopsis and Amazon star rating before adding them to my TBR list. And I purchase them guessed it! When they fall down to the right price!

If you ask, I’ll answer! Send your questions to or leave them in the comments of any post!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why I Didn’t Finish ‘Maxed Out’ by James D Scurlock

Why I bought it
After having dinner at Busboys and Poets, I stepped into their bookstore which has a plentiful and diverse selection by black authors. This book actually seemed somewhat out of place there. I’m not sure what I expected to get from it; that may have been clue number one that I should’ve left it on the shelf. 

Why I didn’t finish it
Once I started reading, I realized that this book was about the credit industry itself and not the consumer. At least that was the case for the chapters that I actually completed. Learning how the industry was built and the tactics that are used to sustain and increase profits will leave you feeling violated.  The book includes stories of individuals who have been taken advantage of and even the story of an individual that committed suicide due to consumer debt.

The author touches on the psychology behind this industry's advertising and reveals blatantly obvious facts that we ignore because we’re only focused on having what we want right now.  We also learn from MasterCard’s Vice President that the best customer isn’t the one that pays off their balance at the end of every billing period.

Maxed Out wasn’t half bad but consumer debt isn’t a concern for me so I wasn’t really interested in how the industry works. By the time I made if half way through chapter 5 I had read enough. Now if someone wants to write a book about the scam called student loan debt, sign me up to receive the first copy!

Will I finish it?

Have you read Maxed Out? Or did you see the Maxed Out documentary? What did you think?

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Maxed Out on Amazon
View all by Scurlock on Amazon

You Asked, I Answered: Finding Time to Read

Q. “There are several books that I want to read, even some you’ve recommended. There are not enough hours in the day! How do you find time to read? ”

photo credit

A. I take public transportation to work, so I always have at least 45 minutes every morning and 45 minutes every evening to read. Some people that drive to work opt for audio books.  

Some people read before going to bed because it’s the calmest time of their day.  I’d much rather read when my energy level is up. Plus, I read a lot of books that are thought provoking which is the last thing I need before trying to go to sleep. 

But as with anything we make time for what we want to do; we find time for things we don’t really feel like doing. As long as you’re trying to find time to do something, something else will probably take precedence.

If you ask, I’ll answer! Send your questions to or leave them in the comments of any post!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

While I Was Away........

I’m back! And right on schedule Smiley

I don’t talk much about my day to day activities here because that’s not the purpose of this space. I don’t plan on changing that but for anyone who's interested, here are a few random things I did while I was away:

Artscape: Every year Baltimore hosts the country's largest free arts festival. This year was the 30th Annual Artscape. It's a great place to take in performing and visual arts.You also get  a chance to meet many of the artists.

Photo Credit

Smokey Robinson: This summer the legendary Smokey Robinson gave a free midday outdoor concert on Woodrow Wilson Plaza and performed many of his hits including songs that he wrote for other artists. Towards the end of the concert he sang one of my favorites. I’ve always liked this song but after hearing him sing it live, I love this song. It's so summer…..

Lira: I discovered an amazing artist and my new favorite song! I went to see Lira on her visit from South Africa in one of her first US performances at The Kennedy Center. I’ve been singing Valley of Darkness since I left the show and I'm still moved by it. If you want to see the performance, you can scroll to 36 min 45sec. to hear Valley of Darkness

Photo Credit

MLK Jr Monument: The Martin Luther King Monument unveiling was scheduled for Sun Aug 28th. Since I live in the area, I decided to head over and see it ahead of time. I’m glad I did because the unveiling ceremony was postponed due to hurricane Irene.

The monument looks out over the Tidal Basin which is surrounded by blooming cherry blossoms in the spring. The location is very serene; I don’t think any other monument has such an intimate setting. If you make it out to DC, you should check it out.

Earthquake: It was worldwide news that we had an earthquake! You probably know someone along the east coast that’s already shared the experience with you so I’ll spare you the details. But we did have significant damage to some structures in DC, especially the National Cathedral…….

Photo Credit

Oprah's Lifeclass: I'm obsessed with Oprah right now. I'm really just appreciating that I was able to be in her studio audience before her show ended. I recently signed up for Oprah's Lifeclass which will feature a companion online class accompanying the television series, including actual course work on I mention it briefly because you may be hearing more from me about this..... Its not too late to sign up!

Twitter: Notorious Spinks (@NotoriousSpinks) suggested that I join twitter shortly after I started Reading Has Purpose last year. I finally decided to get with the program and had I known how many opportunities are available in the Twitter universe, I would've joined a year ago! You can follow me on Twitter @Shannon_RHP

Roll Tide Roll: Last and most importantly I have a confession to make, I'm an SEC football fanatic!  I went to see my beloved Crimson Tide play the season opener in Tuscaloosa, Alabama! Of course Bama walked away with the 'W'.

Next week, I will return to regularly schedule programming!