Roundup Local Interests

July 26, 2009|By Diane Scharper | Diane Scharper,Special to The Baltimore Sun

"Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown"

Edmund L. Andrews (W.W. Norton, $25.95)

New York Times business reporter Edmund L. Andrews tells the inside story of the collapse of the housing market and the resulting loss of $12 trillion from the U.S. economy. Part chronicle of economic history and part memoir of his own financial collapse, Busted is a riveting account of greed, irresponsibility and "don't ask, don't tell" economics. The book begins in 2004 when Andrews and his fiancee, Patricia Barreiro, borrowed more than $400,000 for a $460,000 house in Silver Spring. It ends with the unhappy couple on the verge of separating as they face the loss of their home to foreclosure. But Andrews and Barriero were not alone. Millions of home buyers shared their plight, causing what Andrews calls the great mortgage meltdown. Andrews discusses exotic mortgages, liars' loans, dishonest brokers, money lenders and high-profile financial institutions intent on making a fast buck while those in charge - from Alan Greenspan on down - looked the other way.

"Chesapeake Ferries: A Waterborne Tradition, 1636-2000"

Clara Ann Simmons (Maryland Historical Society, $34)

George Washington might have slept here, but he had second thoughts about ferrying across the Chesapeake Bay. A diary entry for March 1791 describes an especially uncomfortable trip via Rock Hall as Washington fumed at "the unskillfulness of hands" that caused the ferry to run aground several times. Washington is one of many luminaries mentioned in Chesapeake Ferries by Clara Ann Simmons. With black-and-white illustrations, the book offers a nostalgic account of ferries, ferrymen, ordinaries (inns connected to ferries) and the ways they affected roads, towns and history. According to Simmons, taking a ferry was as commonplace for a 17th- or 18th-century traveler as driving across a bridge is for a 21st-century commuter. Yet, aside from occasional road markers, little evidence survives of the hundreds of ferries that carried people, wagons, animals, automobiles and even trains across the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers from 1636 to 2000. With oral histories, photographs and written records - diaries, letters and newspaper archives - Simmons re-creates a bygone era.

"Inside Assisted Living: The Search for Home"

J. Kevin Eckert, Paula C. Carder, Leslie A. Morgan, Ann Christine Frankowski and Erin G. Roth (The Johns Hopkins University Press, $16.95)

A happy old age depends on one's surroundings. That's the bottom line of Inside Assisted Living. Combining personal narrative and social history, the book is a collaborative effort by J. Kevin Eckert and others affiliated with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. As horror stories about conditions in nursing homes became widespread, Eckert says, older adults looked to assisted living - a concept that refers to social care rather than just the medical care associated with nursing homes. Focusing on the residents at six Maryland group homes, the authors ask several questions: Are the caregivers professional, pleasant, courteous and caring? Is the setting welcoming, clean and well-equipped? Are the residents satisfied? Answers: generally, yes. Insightful and well-written, the book covers everything from playing games to dealing with emergencies. Unfortunately, to protect privacy, the authors do not reveal the names of the assisted-living facilities involved. While understandable from an academic point of view, this omission limits the book's appeal.

Diane Scharper writes about local-interest books for The Baltimore Sun. She teaches English at Towson University.

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