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Book Review – Gang Leader for a Day

So I’ve been traveling a lot lately (actually the last year). Lots of pros/cons with traveling in general but my favorite part of traveling is reading books on the airplane. I’m a fast reader so I usually read a book per flight (one each way – 2 for a week trip). Plus, my lady friend is a professor at the local university so I have a dozen books waiting to be read in my office (with the 6 month professor loan period – awesome)

I have a pretty big list of books that I’ve just completed that I need to review – Clay Shirky, Groundswell, etc. So I’ll try to do some short reviews on books I’ve been reading and some I just got finished.

I’m actually on the plane now with nothing to read as I just finished the book “Gang Leader for a Day - A Rogue Sociologist Takes to The Streets” If you have read Freakonomics (if you haven’t, you should), this is the full-length book based on a young graduate student in Sociology from the University of Chicago who spends six years hanging out with a gang in Chicago. The book details the operations of a housing project in the early 1990s and you learn how the gangs really operate it, tales from the unofficial building leader, and the rest of the community players from the local janitor, to drug addicts, to mechanics, to babysitters, and prostitutes.

Basically, it is a book version of “The Wire.” What I liked about The Wire was the gray-ness of the subject – good cops/bad cops, drug dealers doing charity and vicious crime, and the wild world of politics. This book is similar and focuses on three main groups – gangs, unofficial leaders of community (housing association leader, pastor, etc), and police.

As a recovering graduate student in Sociology, it reminded me what drew me to Sociology in the first place. The curiousity to understand what makes things work and people tick – in this book, the author takes you inside a world many know nothing about.

Anyone else read the book? What did you think?

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