Now the Drum of War
By Robert Roper
Walker & Co. / 421 pages / $28
Walt Whitman (1819-1892), author of Leaves of Grass and the father of American poetry, came from a large, close-knit family. Poor and prone to strokes, heart disease and mental illness, the Whitmans were nevertheless tenacious, talented and smart. Robert Roper's book offers a family biography, which looks at Walt Whitman and his relationship with his family primarily during the Civil War. In a style reminiscent of Ken Burns, Roper focuses on Walt, his doting mother and his younger brothers, Jeff, a water engineer, and George, a Union soldier. Roper argues that Walt learned his poetic craft from his work as a reporter for various newspapers as well as from correspondence between himself and George. A Johns Hopkins University professor, Roper uses newspaper articles, letters and diaries as the source for this vivid account.
The Colts' Baltimore
By Michael Olesker
The Johns Hopkins University Press / 240 pages / $24.95
Although Michael Olesker's latest originates from his Baltimore Sun column mourning the 2002 passing of Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, this book reads more like a love poem than a funeral dirge. The narrative moves from the memorial service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to interviews with fans and former Colts to Olesker's remembrances of growing up in 1950s Baltimore to the 1958 championship football game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants. As Olesker chronicles the years leading to the 1958 "Greatest Game Ever Played," he argues that baseball is boring and that football captures the pulse of contemporary America. Even though it's a stretch to see the rise of pro football as somehow embodying the ideals of a generation, as Olesker implies, this discursive book is a moving paean to a more innocent time.
Historic Photos of Baltimore
By Mark Walston
Turner Publishing Co. / 206 pages / $39.95
Photography is a mirror with a memory. That's how Mark Walston sees it in this exquisite book of photographs and short essays. Offering both a history of photography and of Baltimore, Walston evokes Baltimore's rich past from Fells Point, which was once the nation's second-busiest immigration port - just after Ellis Island - to its tailor shops, which rivaled those of New York City. Gathered from a wide range of sources (including the Library of Congress, Harvard Library and the Baltimore Camera Club), these nearly 200 black-and-white photographs span Baltimore during the 19th and 20th centuries. A Maryland historian, Walston knows how to make history a picturesque and memorable read.
Diane Scharper is co-editor of the anthology "Reading Lips and Other Ways to Overcome a Disability," winner of the first Helen Keller international memoir competition. She teaches English at Towson University.