A recent book review in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a new best-seller entitled Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity by Tom Payne (Picador, 2010). Critics have provided a number of favorable reviews about the book.
As we begin the new year, I wonder if you might consider an alternative to this type of book. Because the famous tell only one side of the story. For years, we have been fascinated by the way that famous people live. This includes politicians, movie stars, military leaders, athletes, upper-class societal types, among others. For many of us, these are people who live what we can only dream about. For others, they are role models. As I learned many years ago, “if you want to be rich, don’t follow the pattern of a poor person.”
But, what about unknown, non-famous people? There is a different story that revolves around them. How can we access life lessons from people who aren’t famous? While there are fewer treatises written about and by people who are not famous, they do exist. If you look hard enough, you will find them.
Here’s one that I enjoyed a few years ago. It is called Hotel Kid: A Times Square Childhood by Stephen Lewis (Paul Dry Books, 2004). The kid was rich, but not famous. Have you ever heard of him? You may know people who have invested in urban, downtown-centered condominiums, many of which are renovated from warehouses or very old office complexes. Living there is different from most of us, but not drastically so. But a hotel? What if you lived and grew up in a hotel? What do you learn? How do you cope? How do you turn out?
Or, how about Cotton Bowl Days: Growing up with Dallas and the Cowboys in the ’60’s by John Eisenberg (Zondervan, 2004)? He wasn’t an NFL star – just a kid in a Jewish family that had Sunday routines with football. It sure was different than what we do today, but his experience broadens our own perspective considerably.
No one has to be famous to have a story that others can enjoy, learn from, and put to use in certain ways. If you look hard enough, they exist. And, they can be just as valuable as any book written about someone famous.
What about you? Do you have a favorite book by or about someone who would never be included in a book such as Fame? Write back and tell me about it! Let’s share the title with others!