Turn This Car Around (BenBella)
Former governor Ehrlich must be pulling at his thick hair about now. If he’d beaten O’Malley in the 2010 election, he might be a viable presidential candidate—after all, Bachmann and Cain got serious looks—instead of being relegated to chairing Romney’s campaign in Maryland. Here, Ehrlich lays out his vision for the country, with nods to Tea Partiers and social conservatives, though a few of his positions might irk the party faithful. He states, for instance, that the war on drugs “never had a chance to succeed since we are the enemy,” hints that mainstream views of marriage need not conflict with rights granted to “nontraditional couples,” and notes that, as governor, he granted 228 pardons, including five lifers. He even chides his predecessor, Parris Glendening, for not considering lifers for parole, a stance that actually aligns him with another Massachusetts-governor-turned-presidential candidate—Michael Dukakis. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Bigger than a Bread Box (Random House)
Snyder, a Baltimore native, infuses this young-adult novel with genuine emotion, magical doings, and some well-placed references to her hometown. In it, 12-year-old Rebecca moves to Atlanta from Baltimore after her parents split. Laurel depicts the breakup with great sensitivity and an incredibly light touch, and it’s unclear whether mom’s too impulsive or dad’s a slacker—either way, it’s confusing for Rebecca, who misses her old life and doesn’t understand why she’s been uprooted. That’s all made a little easier after she discovers a bread box in her grandmother’s attic that grants wishes (at least ones that are smaller than a bread box). Like any good displaced Baltimorean, she wishes for essentials such as Berger Cookies, Old Bay-spiced chips, and fries with gravy from Jimmy’s. Rebecca receives such goodies and various other items before eventually finding that wishes have consequences, and the most important things in life aren’t really things.
Lauren R. Silberman
Wicked Baltimore (History Press)
This slim volume explores the underside of Baltimore or, as its subtitle states: “Charm City Sin and Scandal.” Thanks to a cast of lively characters and an ample selection of vintage photos, it’s a great read with fascinating historical tidbits at every turn. The likes of Poe and Billie Holiday make requisite appearances, but it’s the Plug Uglies (the Westside street gang/political party), speakeasy denizens, and long-forgotten criminals that make things truly interesting.