Book Review: The Other Wes Moore

Author: Wes Moore

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau, 2010

Genre: Memoir

Format: Paperback

Source: Portland Public Library

Why I Read The Book: Recommended by my son-in-law

My Rating: A


The author of this book, Wes Moore, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from John Hopkins University. He earned an MLitt in International Relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. In the same Baltimore newspaper that reported on Wes’ Rhodes Scholar’s award was a story about another Wes Moore. It told of the capture of a suspect in an armed robbery and murder of an off-duty police officer. That coincidence prompted the author Wes Moore to seek out information about the other Wes Moore. From his website:

Wes [Moore, the author,] wondered how two young men from the same city, who were around the same age, and even shared a name, could arrive at two completely different destinies. The juxtaposition between their lives, and the questions it raised about accountability, chance, fate and family, had a pro­found impact on Wes.

He decided to write to the other Wes Moore, and much to his surprise, a month later he received a letter back. He visited the other Wes in prison over a dozen times, spoke with his family and friends, and discovered startling parallels between their lives: both had difficult childhoods, they were both fatherless, were having trouble in the classroom; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and had run into trouble with the police.

Yet at each stage of their lives, at similar moments of decision, they would head down different paths towards astonishingly divergent destinies. Wes realized in their two stories was a much larger tale about the consequences of personal responsibility and the imperativeness of education and community for a generation of boys searching for their way. (from the author’s website here.)

And so the impetus for this great book was born.

My Thoughts:

Comparing the lives of similar people was absolutely riveting. I couldn’t stop reading and thinking about the two men. To think that each man’s life could have gone the other way. Their single moms made different decisions about education which make some difference. But, the pivotal difference seems to be in the decisions each Wes Moore made in his teen years, a time when so many of our young men are vulnerable.

There is so much to be learned from this book by individuals and by parents. There is also much to be learned by communities. I’m very happy to know that the Portland, Oregon community has chosen this book as their “Everybody Reads” book for 2011. What that means is that copies of the book are available (in large quantities) at libraries and bookstores all over the greater Portland area. The idea is that everyone reads the same book and then joins in on numerous discussions during the month of February and early March. I counted over 30 discussion groups and four lectures and panel discussions at local library brances, bookstores and colleges. In addition, the author will speak at the conclusion. The third part of the program is the hope that individuals and community groups will say, “What can I do to help?”

For more information on the Everybody Reads In Portland program, visit their website here:

For more information on Wes Moore, visit his website here:

Check your local library for a copy of this book. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is also available at Amazon.

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16 Responses to Book Review: The Other Wes Moore

  1. Pingback: Joyfully Retired » Book Review: The Other Wes Moore | ReviewTica

  2. I’ve often wondered why some kids can rise above bad situations and others get bogged down in it. This book sounds fascinating and like the kind of book I love.

  3. I love those “everybody reads” programs. And this book sounds like a great one for their choice!

  4. Claudia Huggs says:

    This review really makes sense, I am waiting for hard copy of this book and book reviews are also good.

    You are now on my To Read list.

  5. Rural View says:

    My goodness he’s handsome. Er, what I meant to say is that this book sounds really good and I’ll add it to my list. We have an everybody reads program in this area too. Very good idea that gets people involved.

  6. Martha says:

    I love the idea of “everybody reads”. How I wish I were in Portland to read this one. I’m going to read it anyway because it sounds amazing. It sounds like an interesting look at how life choices make all the difference. And, I have to agree with Rural View, he is quite handsome.

  7. kaye says:

    you review the most interesting books 🙂

  8. My book club is reading that this summer — and it’s the selection when I’ll be leading the discussion! I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve already read it once and will read it again closer to the time of our meeting.

  9. Bumbles says:

    Adding it to my own personal Everybody Reads list – if I love it, I’ll tell everybody I know to read it!

  10. Staci says:

    I saw this young man on Oprah and wanted to read his book then. Excellent review and now I’ll be on the lookout for it!!

  11. Wow — Just fascinating. Amazing that he took this coincidence and ran with it. We have had discussions about what it is that makes two people from essentially the same background (sometimes even the same family) turn out so differently. I really want to read this. Thank you for the review. (I don’t watch Oprah and the paper down here doesn’t even have a book section, so your review is the first I’ve heard of this book and author.)

  12. Also I love that Portland has picked a book like this for it’s “Everybody Reads” challenge — it could do so much good (and I’m proud of Oregon because of it!

  13. Beth F says:

    Wow — what a concept and what a book — I hadn’t heard of this one (or I’ve forgotten about it?) and I am fascinated. Our county is reading Half-Broke Horses this year. I love the One Book / Everybody Reads program and hope that many communities are involved with such projects.

  14. leslie says:

    this looks marvelous.

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    What an interesting and fresh idea for a book. I’m gonna have to look for this one!

  16. Cerrin says:

    I heard about this one on Sunday morning a while ago. I thought it sounded really interesting. Amazing how 2 lives could turn out so different.

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