First, much thanks to all of you who took the time and patience to recall the books you’ve enjoyed this year. There are 59 of us, almost evenly divided (31-28 in favor of the females), who sent in 272 titles and comments.
Second, please forgive my endless reminders, tho the results, I believe, may have been worth the nagging. (Late additions will be posted as they arrive, without any snarky comments from the editor.)
There is a rich diversity of titles, and some of the most intriguing are those that were only mentioned once. How, for instance, can one not pay attention to Dixon Butler’s “The most important book I’ve read in years,” or Bob Thurston’s “one of the most surprising, amazing books I’ve ever read…really worth tracking down and reading”?.
The breakdown in fiction/non-fiction favored fiction 55%-45%.
A few non-fiction titles kept popping up, particularly Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Eric Larsen’s In the Garden of Beasts, Walter Issacson’s Steve Jobs, and Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
In fiction, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, Julie Orringer’s Invisible Bridge, Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (a repeat from last year) were popular.
Folks are still reading the Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Triology and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. And Jo Nesbo appears to be the ‘go to’ writer for those looking for a replacement for Stieg Larsson.
I have starred (*) titles that occur more than one time in the list.
The list will take time to peruse, but I think it gives all of us suggestions worth considering for 2012.
Finally, just a reminder that this list is not meant to be ‘the best books of 2011,’ but rather what the title of this posting states – ‘The Books Most Enjoyed by MillersTime Readers in 2011.’
And, of course, I take responsibility for any inaccuracies or mistakes in the posting of the titles, authors, subject matter, etc. as MillersTime readers rarely make grammatical mistakes in their submissions.
Books Most Enjoyed by MillersTime Readers in 2011
1. Dave Stang, DC, Ireland
Best American Essays (NF), Houghton Mifflin
Best American Short Stories (F), Houghton Mifflin
Best American Spiritual Writings (NF), Penguin
(These three books are annual editions which have each selected and reprinted the best 20 or so 2010 published pieces from thousands reviewed.)
Zen Heart (NF), Ezra Bayda, Shambala. Simple advice for living with mindfulness and compassion’ which is profoundly useful.
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor (NF), Brad Gooch, Back Bay Books, a superb biography of a brilliant writer thoroughly researched over six years.
O’Connor Collected Works (F), The Library of America, Flannery’s unabridged magnificent output.
Consciousness Explained Better (NF), Allan Combs Paragon House. The best down to earth book ever written by an academic on consciousness.
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali tr. (NF), Chip Hartranft, Shambala Classics, perhaps one of the most insightful expositions on human consciousness ever written.
Poetry As Survival (NF), Gregory Orr, University of Georgia Press, a thoughtful and sensitive set of essays on the beauty, truth and uplifting power of poetry.
Mysticism (NF), Evelyn Underhill, Meridian Books, a century old classic on mystical consciousness.
The Perennial Philosophy (NF), Aldous Huxley, Perennial Classics, one of the most influential tomes on spiritual consciousness written in the 20th century.
The Origins Of Political Order (Vol 1)(NF), Francis Fukuyama, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, a truly original and multi-disciplined approach which explains how governments were initially formed and maintained from ancient to modern times.
2. Elliott Trommald, OR
You can ruin the coming holidays for most of your friends by recommending:
Confidence (F), by Ron Suskind, and
Bomberang (F), by Ron Suskind
The Lemon Tree (F), by Sandy Tolan, a beautifully told, compelling movel about an Arab, a Jew, and the heart of the Middle East.
Gallows View (F), by Peter Robinson. I have gone through a third of it, and if it continues to grab me, I will start reading some of his later work.
All of Daniel Silva’s thriller, espionage novels (F), have now read all of them
3. Ellen Miller, DC
This was the year of outstanding nonfiction for me. In order of favorites…in both categories
In the Garden of Beasts*, Erik Larsen
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larsen
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks*, Rebecca Skloot
Unbroken: A World War 11 Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption*, Laura Hillenbrand
Steve Jobs*, Walter Isaacson
Fiction. No blow-aways except for Matterhorn, a must read
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War*, Karl Marlantes
The Invisible Bridge*, Julie Orringer
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
The Cats Table, Michael Ondaatje
Clair DeWitt and the City of the Dead*, Sara Gran
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand*, Helen Simonson
The Snowman*, Jo Nesbo
The Surrendered, Chang-Rae Lee
4. Sam Black, DC/ME
Anna Karenina* (F), Leo Tolstey — Deep portraits and characterization, a novel of relationships, intense introspection on the part of the dramatis
personae; painterly, observant, subtle descriptive writing. Gorgeous
and heartbreaking at the same time. And more.
The Lightness of Being (NF), Mila Kundera — a short and accessible introduction to aspects of modern physics.
Cutting for Stone* (F), Abraham Verghese — It just gets better and better.
The Cuckoo’s Egg (NF), Clifford Stoll — NY Times says it’s the best hacker detection account ever. Very accessible. A first-person true story.
Shantaram (F), Gregory David Roberts– sensational partly autobiographical novel of an escaped Australian convict who created and ran a clinic in the Bombay slums. And more.
Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman (F), Margaret Drabble’s collection of short stories. I think her best work since The Garrick Year, her very early and marvelous short novel; all the later Drabble novels
I’ve read have been disappointing to me.
Friday Night Lights (NF), H.G. Bissinger — a year in the life of a small town Texas high school football team (later became a prize-winning documentary). Recommended for teachers, child psychologists, and parents of athletes.
Strength in What Remains (NF), Tracy Kidder – a medical student escapes from Burundi, becomes a homeless immigrant in NY, and graduates from Columbia.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand* (F), Helen Simonson — wickedly funny, and compassionate, novel set in contemporary England.
Brothers, Rivals, Victors (NF), Jonathan W. Jordan — the relationship and WW2 careers of three close friends – Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton.
The Likeness* (F), Tana French – a spellbinding undercover police
procedural from today’s Dublin. Almost as good as her debut novel, In
the Woods, which is a masterpiece. Gradually renders you astonished
at the plot development and the main character’s self-awareness. And
Game Change* (NF), John Heilemann & Mark Halperin — the 2008 primaries and campaign. A page-turner.
Methland (NF), Nick Reding — a portrayal of a small town in Iowa emblematic of the epidemic of meth abuse and addiction in countless American small towns.
5. Kathleen Kroos, DE
The Condition (F), Jennifer Haigh about a dysfunctional family.
The Art of Racing in the Rain (F), Garth Stein, written from a family dogs view.
6. Richard Miller, DC
Steve Jobs* (NF), Walter Isaacson, a deeply flawed individual leaves his mark on many of us.
Unbroken* (NF), Laura Hillenbrand, an almost unbelievable sequence of events and ability to survive that amazes, plus another example of man’s inhumanity to man.
In the Garden of Beasts* (NF), Erik Larsen, Why read about the lead up to WWII and Hitler’s rise to power? Because it’s fascinating and chilling to see how the US failed to provide any leadership or push back against this monster. Plus, the two main actors, the ambassador and his daughter, will stay with you.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* (NF), Rebecca Skloot, a wonderful, true story about something you probably never, ever thought about.
Willpower (NF), Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney. A researcher and a NYTimes reporter make an argument that self-control is one of the most crucial aspects leading to successful lives.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (NF), Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheyl WuDunn, the moral outrage of our time and some things we can all do about it today.
The Invisible Bridge* (F), Julie Orringer, a lengthy saga, set in Hungary, about a different aspect of the Holocaust than we are accustomed to reading.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand* (F), Helen Simonson, simply a lovely story about two characters who will stay with you long after you finish the book.
The Snowman* (F), Jo Nesbo, for those looking for a substitute for Erick Larrson’s Millenium series, Nesbo comes pretty close and writes good, escapist novels.
Matterhorn* (F), Karl Marlantes — Why read something about Vietnam? Because it’s probably the single best view of what that time was like for soldiers in the field and how those back at headquarters were more concerned about their reputations and advancement and often clueless about what was truly happening.
7. Ellen Sudow, DC/ME
Sea of Poppies (F) and River of Smoke (F), Amitav Ghosh – These are the first two books of the Ibis Trilogy. I loved them, the first more than the second for the wonderful characters; and the second more than the first for understanding the immediate history surrounding the Opium Wars.
8. Mike White, OH
Every Man In This Village is a Liar: An Education in War (NF), Megan K. Stack. Wonderfully written account of her time in Afghanistan by a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist.
We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (NF), Peter Van Buren. Incredible report on the efforts of the State Dept. and military to bring development to Iraq. The scale of the expenditures — and stupidity — is mind-blowing.
9. Judy White, OH
The Warmth of Other Suns (NF), Isabel Wilkerson. Great reporting and interviewing of black emigrants from the South to Northern cities. Debunks many myths about the effects of this movement with facts. Very readable.
Let the Great World Spin* (F), Colum McCann. Haunting story of interlocking lives the day Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the World Trade towers.
Wilderness Warrior (NF), Douglas Brinkley. I never intended to finish this exhaustive (800-some pages) review of Theodore Roosevelt’s impact on creating our public lands at a time when they could have easily disappeared into private exploitation, but I did, less for all the detail than for the story of an amazing life which affects us even now.
No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (NF), Melissa Faye Greene, fun and inspiring story of a family who adds five international adoptions to their four children born to them.
Destiny of the Republic (NF), Candice Millard. I never expected a book about the short Presidency of James A. Garfield to be a pageturner, but the writing of Candice Millard, who wrote another favorite, The River of Doubt, made it that. Garfield, one of those Ohio presidents with a beard that I always mixed up with Harding, would have been one of our greatest presidents, I believe, if he’d been president longer than the 5 months before he was shot. I learned amazing things about politics, medicine, and the condition of D.C. and the White House at that time. Take a chance on this one even if it sounds boring.
10. Elizabeth Miller, FL
Steve Jobs* (NF), Walter Isaacson
The Weird Sisters* (F), Eleanor Brown
Clare DeWitt and the City of the Dead* (F), Sara Gran
King of Lies (F), John Hart
Robopocalpyse (F), Daniel Wilson
Before I Go To Sleep (F), S.J. Watson
11. Cindy Olmstead, CA
Sarah’s Key* (NF), Stephanie Cowell, Claude and Camille re Claude Monet’s life.
The Paris Wife* (NF), Paula McLain, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, interesting read.
The Glass Castle (NF), Jeanette Walls
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (NF), Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. This is a story about one woman who quietly triumphed under the Taliban for the sake of her family. It reads like fiction but is all true. A story of courageous community building.
Would love to hear others’ thoughts about David Brooks’ The Social Animal (NF). Just starting to read it…..he is an amazing thinker!
12. Larry Mackinson, OR
Steve Jobs* (NF), Walter Isaacson – And how could I read this on anything but an iPad?
Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory (NF), Peter Hessler, the New Yorker’s former China correspondent. This book, better than anything I’ve read, really captures the atmosphere of life in modern China.
In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives (NF), Steven Levy, the definitive word on the phenomenon of Google.
The Help* (F), Kathryn Stockett. Well okay, I sometimes DO read the same novels as everyone else…
13. Dixon Butler, DC
1493 (NF), Charles C. Mann. It was terrific. (Ed.—US Natl. Academy of Sciences named 1493 “Best Book of the Year” for 2011.)
Where Good Ideas Come From (NF), Steven Johnson. The most important book I have read in years.
The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood (NF), James Gleick. I highly recommend it.
The Fire People (F), Ray Cummings — an early sci fi novella but for the 1920’s it is a story surprisingly laced with strong feminist themes.
Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story (NF), Jill Jonnes — gives terrific insight into the second half of the nineteenth century in Europe and America.
The Coldest March (NF), Susan Solomon — another recommendation. It is an account of Scott’s mission to reach the South Pole. This is the centennial of both the Scott and Ahmundsen missions.
14. Ian Shapira, DC
1) Sunset Park (F), Paul Auster
2) The New Yorker Stories (F), Anne Beattie
15. Anita Rechler, DC
Elegance of the Hedgehog* (F), Muriel Barbery. I almost put it down…didn’t like the first 25%. Persevered and how glad I am that I did. How elegant, beautiful, sad, and liberating all at the same time.
The Paris Wife* (F), — enjoyed. Hmm. Two very different books that connect to Paris.
In the Garden of Beasts* (NF), Erik Larson. Found it frightening for the similarites of rising Nazism and rising of intolerance among segments in US.
16. Barbara Friedman, MA
Dovekeepers (F), Anne Hoffman — a beautifully written novel about four women on Masada circa 70 ad. It gives you a flavor of what life might have been like on Masada (if anyone knows), but the book goes beyond that to make you think about what life was like for women at that time.
The Paris Wife* (F), Paula McLain — a well researched historical novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley in Paris. I found it so interesting that I went back and read the new version of AMoveable Feast. Bottom line is that Hemingway was a real cad!
Dreams of Joy (F), Lisa See — about an American Chinese girl who goes back to China to find her real father and seek her roots at the time of the Great Leap Forward (or backward, depending on your point of view).
17. Eric Stravitz, MD
Since I last reported to you, I’ve read three or four books from Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series (so glad I learned about these books from you).
The Big Jewish Book for Jews: Everything you Need to Know to Be a Really Jewish Jew (NF), Ellis Weiner &Barbara Davilman. I found it both amusing and educational. .
18. Elizabeth Lewis, MA
Cloud Atlas (F), David Mitchell. Brilliant writing, compelling connections if you stick with it.
Death of the Adversary (F), Hans Keilson – a consciousness twister.
Let the Great World Spin* (F), Colum McCann. Despite some predictability, great writing and wonderful characters.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* (NF), Rebecca Skloott. Crummy writing, needed lots of editing, overwhelming and important information.
The Book Thief (F), Markus Zusak. I know this is pretty old but I did read it this year, and it’s GREAT; the US is the only place that considers this book a ‘young adult’ novel.
19. Todd Endo, VA
I bought a Kindle this year and like it — at least for some books.
1. The first was Diane Ravitch’s Rise and Fall of Great American (NF). I worked against Ravitch’s views when she was Asst Secretary
of Education in the Bush I administration. I liked her book because
she clearly states how she got to the views she held in the 1980s and
how and why she changed her mind. I admire her reflective abilities
to stand somewhat apart from herself and write in clear prose. It
doesn’t hurt that she has come around to my point of view, especially
her change from advocacy for high stakes testing to staunch
2. For the second, I downloaded, for free, a classic, Tale of Two
Cities (F), Charles Dickens, that I started a few times when I was in the eighth grade and never finished. I knew that the opening lines were often quoted, but I had forgotten that the last line is also often quoted. You can download any book published before 1923, I believe. So, all classics
qualify. I chose Uncle Tom’s Cabin for my second, and have Moby Dick
3. In print books, I recommend Linda Darling-Hammond’s Flat World and
Education (NF). Darling-Hammond was Obama’s education advisor during the campaign and in the running for Secretary of Education. She has researched and developed educational policy in education for decades
and I have appreciated and often quoted her work. This book is a
synthesis of her work over the years. For me, the new part was her
analysis of the educational reforms of Finland, South Korea, and
Singapore. I’m using her book, as I work to set up a new high school
in Arlington Virginia.
4. A few years ago two friends recommended James Carroll’s
Constantine’s Sword (NF). So, I bought it and promptly put it aside. It’s long, and, I thought, a dry history of Christian anti-semitism. I’m
about a third of the way through now and find it captivating.
Carroll’s approach is both autobiographical (he’s a former Catholic
priest turned writer after facing a crisis of faith during the Viet Nam
War) and historical-theological. I like this genre, in which authors
reflect upon their autobiographies as they pick their way through the
evidence. Ravitch does this, as well. We all use our frameworks to
create our thoughts, and I appreciate authors who are upfront about
5. A totally unknown book is Bill Milliken’s The Last Dropout (NF). Bill is the founder and retired CEO of Communities in Schools, and The Last
Dropout is an easy read of Bill’s philosophy and the activities of
Communities in Schools over the last three decades. It discusses the
importance of relationships in working with dropouts and in developing
partnerships in schools with students and their families. I’ve known
Bill since the 1960s in our related work with high school dropouts and
have appreciated his perspective over the years. Rick may remember
that in the summer MAT program at Antioch-Putney, I took grad students
to NYC to visit Bill and the Street Academy Program.
20. Jeff Friedman, MA
Thinking Fast and Slow (NF), Daniel Kahneman. A terrific overview of a Nobel Prizewinner’s research and views on how the mind works. It is very readable and it is fun. Kahneman provides many examples of problems that you can work through in your head and see how you (like everyone else) get them wrong.
Feynman (F), Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick. A graphic novel adaptation of the Surely You’re Joking and What Do You Care stories. It is very enjoyable and endearing.
Built By Animals (NF), Mike Hansell. A book about “animal architecture.” Bird nests, termite mounds, amoeba cases, bower birds — some of this stuff is absolutely fascinating, and it ties into some very interesting conversations about animal intelligence.
21. Chandresh Shah, India
Chanakya’s Chant (F), Ashwin Sanghi
Malgudi Days (F), R.K.Narayan
Five Point Someone (F), Chetan Bhagat
Kite Runner (F), Khaled Hossein
Paths of Glory (F), Jeffery Archer
22. Jane Bradley, DC
Galore (F), Michael Crummey
Nightwoods (F), Charles Frazier
Team of Rivals (NF), Doris Kearns Goodwin
Unbroken* (NF), by Laura Hillenbrand
The Lacuna (F), Barbara Kingsolver
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin* (NF), Erik Larson
The Night Circus (F), Erin Morgenstern
I Curse the River of Time (F), Per Petterson
The Imperfectionists (F), Tom Rachman
An Atlas of Impossible Longing (F), Roy Anuradha
Land of Marvels (F), Barry Unsworth
Cutting for Stone* (F), Abraham Verghese
23. Laura Picard, DC
Bitter in the Mouth (F), Monique Truong
The Shadow of the Wind* (F), Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Discovery of Witches (F), Deborah Harkness
The Dirty Parts of the Bible (F), Sam Torode
The Hunger Games Series* (F), Suzanne Collins
The Great Stink (F), Clare Clark
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (F), Ransom Riggs (reading this now and really like it!)
24. Fran Renehan, MD:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo* (F), Steig Larsson
(Someone talked me into a Janet Evonovich book, which I cannot recommend (not even sure I can finish it)
25/26. Elaine & Seymour Samet, NJ
Strange Haven (NF), Sigmund Tobias. A Jewish childhood in wartime Shanghai. Not great writing but interesting information about Jews who went to the far east to escape.
Let the Great World Spin* (F), Colum McCann. Wonderful writing and character development but depressing subject matter. Several seemingly unrelated stories in NYC on the day of the tight rope walk between the twin towers.
FreeFall (NF), Joseph Stiglitz, about the sinking of the world economy by Nobel prize winner in economics. Clear and readable treatment of complex material.
Disturbances in the Field (NF), Lynn Sharon Schwartz. Life stories of four bright young women in NYC, their dreams, hopes, philosophies, and tragedies. Remarkable writing but perhaps too much showing off by author of her knowledge of class.
To the End of the Land* (F), David Grossman, wonderful Israeli author. Fiction but so close to reality.
27. Beth Noveck, NY
You think I read? I have a two year old! But I did like Honeybee Democracy (NF), Thomas D. Seeley, and Modigliani: A Life (NF), Meryle Secrest, a new biography
28. Diana Bunday, MD
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo* and the other Girl Who books (F), Stieg Larsson. Scary, thrilling, and hard to put down.
Anna Karenina* (F), Leo Tolstoy. Fascinating and surprisingly modern especially in the psychology of the characters.
29. Carrie Trauth, MD
Anna Karenina* (F), Leo Tolstoy. I read it years ago, and I forgot how much I enjoyed reading about the lives of families back then. The history of the time was explained so well as the stories were told.
The 13th Hour, (F), Richard Doetsch, the story of an innocent man accused of murder. What was so interesting was that the lead character is given a talisman that allows him to go back in time an hour at a time. By going back in time he is able to find clues to who really murdered his wife and perhaps save her.
London Bridges (F), James Patterson, another Alex Cross mystery. In this exciting story, Alex Cross travels through out the world chasing his two most dangerous enemies — The Weasel and The Wolf.
30. Bob Thurston, DC
Russell Hoban, known mostly for children’s books, died last week. His book Riddley Walker (F) is one of the most surprising, amazing books I’ve ever read, and it’s really worth tracking down and reading. This story takes place about 2000 years in the future after a nuclear disaster. You have to be patient with the language, which Hoban invented — almost as a speculation as to how English might change over that much time given the circumstances. But gradually you’ll understand more and more . . .
31. Laurie Kleinberg, CA
fathermothergod: My Journey out of Christian Science (NF), Lucia Greenhouse. I love memoirs, and this was a riveting one about growing up with Christian Science parents, unswerving in their beliefs no matter what the health crisis of their children or themselves.
Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point (NF), David Lipsky, award winning writer who “embedded” himself for four years at the military academy to follow many of the most fascinating “characters” through their four challenging years there.
32. Leslie Lieman, NY
Peace Like a River*(F), Leif Enger. Reuben Land, finally ready to speak about a life-changing story as an adult, narrates much of it through his 11-year-old eyes. Reuben is a compelling character because through a real tragedy, he is fragile, self-absorbed, self-depreciating, reflective, loving, loyal, spiritual, cocky, strong, stupid, selectively honest – many recognizable traits of a pre-teen boy. Yes, a tragedy at its core, but as the Good Reads review states, we also “witness a wondrous celebration of family, faith, and spirit.
The White Tiger* (F), Adiga Aravind. What a way to learn of those who live in the darkness and underbelly of India. The sleeper/hit Slumdog Millionaire burned this side of India into our collective conscience. Return there and you would meet Balram, the narrator and admitted murderer, who leads us to a justification of his act. As an audio book, I was deeply engaged in Balram’s clear, cynical, flippant, analysis of his conditions and plight (which is the majority of the narrative). The analogies are strong throughout (i.e. rooster coop). However, I am not sure I was convinced of the outcome.
The Hunger Games* (F), Suzanne Collins. The heroine, Katniss, is a very strong (both physically and mentally), thoughtful, perfectly drawn adolescent. She is bold, daring, naive and very protective of her family. Thus, getting to know her and the plight of the districts of Panem drew me in. I recognized why, especially in this day and age of reality shows, the book is so popular with teenagers. And yet, the basic premise was too gruesome to for me to imagine. No, the plot was not my cup ‘o tea, but the characters were compelling.
33. Micah Sifry, NY
First, a few books to re-recommend:
Matterhorn* (F), Karl Malantes has stayed with me, even though I read
it months ago. A searing novel of Vietnam and one of the best anti-war novels I’ve ever read.
To the End of the Land* (F), David Grossman. This has also stayed with me, and I’m looking forward to re-reading it in anticipation of
discussing it in early January with an Israel book reading group that
my synagogue has just launched.
Consent of the Networked (NF), Rebecca MacKinnon. This book is about to come out, and I’ve been lucky to get an advance copy. Rebecca is a friend and a leader (with Ethan Zuckerman) in creating the Global
Voices journalism network and in fighting for real internet freedom
worldwide. She writes, “corporations and governments that build,
operate, and govern cyberspace are not being held sufficiently
accountable for their exercise of power over the lives and identities
of people who use digital networks. They are sovereigns operating
without the consent of the networked.” Her book makes the case for a
new Magna Carta to protect our rights as citizens of a global digital
public. Trust me, read it.
The Filter Bubble (NF), Eli Pariser. A very readable and provocative
excursion into our brave new world of algorithmic editing. Did you
know that Google fine-tunes its search results based on what it knows
about you, and Facebook’s news feed is tweaked to show you more stuff
from people you like who are like you? You may think these services
are neutral platforms, but they’re actually subtly shaping how you see
the world. Creepy and important.
Barefoot into Cyberspace: Adventures in search of techno-utopia (NF), Becky Hogge. I’m sure you haven’t heard of this e-book, but it’s a great ramble through the underworld of cyber-activism. Hogge has
worked for years in the same semi-obscure trenches as people like
Julian Assange, Ethan Zuckerman, and TK, and she brings the whole scene
to life in a vibrant and highly accessible way.
WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy (NF), David Leigh and Luke Harding. Ok, these guys did screw up by publishing (as a
chapter title) the secret password to an encrypted file containing the
entire State Department cable set posted by WikiLeaks for safekeeping,
and the resulting brouhaha has burned everyone. (Though interestingly
enough, the sky has not fallen and world war three has not broken out,
despite all those cables now being accessible.) But as the journalists
at the Guardian closest to the whole story, their account of the
WikiLeaks saga adds lots of valuable context and is much much better
at explaining the importance of WikiLeaks’s disclosures than that lump
of self-regarding sludge produced by the Grey Lady.
Inside WikiLeaks (NF), Daniel Domscheit-Berg. A fascinating and
brutally honest first person account by Assange’s one-time
collaborator. I think the book didn’t get the best translation into
English that it deserved, so be prepared for some choppiness. But the
story Domscheit-Berg tells is still worth knowing.
Linchpin, (NF), Seth Godin. Read this book if you want help fighting
your lizard brain, the part of you that instinctively says, “No, I
can’t do that.”
Public Parts (NF), Jeff Jarvis. Provocative polemic on the power of
sharing, rather than hoarding, information. It’s not quite as fresh as
his first book, What Would Google Do?, but Jeff (a friend) makes a
compelling case for publicness at a time when we seem to have a
Daemon (F) and Freedom (F), both by Daniel Suarez. Sci-fi escapist trash of the highest order.
34/35. Nick & Susan Fels, DC
Here are three worthwhile books that one, or both, of us has read in the recent past (don’t press us on the exact dates):
On China (NF), Henry Kissinger – history of Chinese diplomacy, particularly post 1949;
Mrs. Adams in Winter (NF), Michael O’Brien – an account of the journey by John Quincy Adam’s wife from Moscow to Paris by sleigh and carriage at the end of the Napoleonic wars; and
This Republic of Suffering (NF), Drew Fausts – on attitude about death during the Civil War.
36. Nick Nyhart, CT
Read escapist fare – usually crime novels. My favorites for this year are:
Power of the Dog (F), Don Winslow– Epic saga of the Mexican-US drug war – Mario Puzo by way of Quentin Tarantino.
The Devils Star (F), Jo Nesbo – Nesbo’s on a line plotted halfway between his Scandinavian neighbors Steig Larsson and Henning Mankell. His lead protagonist, detective Harry Hole, is a Norwegian Harry Bosch, for those familiar with Michael Connelly’s novels. I’ve read the first three of Nesbo’s Hole books, this being the third – and I liked this one best.
The Cut (F), George Pelecanos. Pelecanos is back in business with a new investigator, Spero Lucas. Younger, more charming and energetic than his recent characters, it is a very quick read, but fun. As usual, questions of race ripple through the narrative.
37. Hugh Riddleberger, ME, LA
Steve Jobs* (NF), Walter Isaacson — well written and insightful not only about Steve Jobs but about our culture.
Unbroken* (NF), Laura Hillenbrand — amazing account of man’s ability to survive.
Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime* (NF), John Heilemann & Mark Halperin – – as I read I kept saying to Louise, this is unbelievable. Power can corrupt. Just ask John Edwards.
Open (NF), Andre Agassi — great insight into one of the greatest players in tennis history but also a principled man with a keen intellect.
38/39. Lydia & Michael Slaby, IL
So, except for Fall of Giants (F), Ken Follett, (which was fantastic) I’ve got nothing.
Michael has enjoyed:
Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (NF), Mark Danner
Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places (NF), Paul Collier.
40/41. Eric Lantzman & Maggie Feinstein, AK
Life, Inc. (NF), Douglas Rushkoff
The Hunger Games* (F), Suzanne Collins
Winter Garden (F), Kristin Hannah
Free-Range Parenting (NF), Lisa Zamosky
Unaccustomed Earth (F), Jhumpa Lahiri
42/43. Claire and Keith Bolek, MD
Nemesis (F), Philip Roth — a very interesting book about a conflicted young man during the time of the polio outbreak. I haven’t finished it but could really relate to the character.
Zeitoun (NF), Dave Eggers – very good detailed story of a Muslim family in New Orleans and life after Katrina.
The Mill River Recluse (F), Darcie Chan — a book I found from last year’s book list. Easy read, but shows the power of community.
Down River (F), John Hart –– This was another one I got from the list (I think). I enjoyed it. Mystery and full of interesting characters and an easy read.
The Help* (F), Kathryn Sockett — I loved this book. I have yet to see the movie, but I felt it (the book) really captured Mississippi well. It made me ask my father if my grandmother had ever had any “Help”. I had never heard the stories of these women who worked in my grandparents’ home, but they were very special to my dad and my grandparents.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay *(F), Suzanne Collins- Your daughter’s reflection helped me realize I should read these books.
The Millennium Series* (F), Stieg Larsson — I love these books. I want to name a daughter Lisbeth (Keith does not)
Cookbooks– These are more Keith’s Suggestions: (Ed. – Keith is a wonderful cook who has a food blog that is worth checking out: http://chefbolek.blogspot.com/)
Fish Forever: The Definitive guide to understandin selecting and preparing healthy, delicious and environmentally sustainable seafood, Paul Johnson
Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook, Braiden Rex-Johnson — this is where we get our Bordetto recipe and seafood risotto
Bottega Favorita; A southern chef’s love affair with Italian food — We used this cookbook to base a wine dinner we hosted. Very wonderfully written, beautiful photographs and wonderful restaurant to visit if you ever make a trip to Alabama
The Best-Ever Vegetarian cookbook, Linda Fraser — I cook from this book very often. Pictures for every step and the final product. A wonderful gift from my MIL.
Italian Grill, Mario Batali- Great book, a go to whenever we want to grill.
Molto Italiano, Mario Batali- We like Mario Batali. He tweets a lot but is an amazingly creative with food.
The Flavor Bible; The essential guide to culinary creativity, based on the wisdom of America’s most imaginative chefs, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg – This book is a must have for any home chef. You look up a food, then it lists everything the authors could think of that goes with it. Amazing.
Bernard Clayton’s New Complete book of Breads– This is a book of my childhood. My parents gave it to me when I started making my own bread. Mr. Clayton has a story/history with each bread recipe and tells the baker the subtle differences of using a mixer or by hand.
44. Stan Kessler, AK
Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle (NF), Dan Senor & Saul Singer… my best read of this year
45. Ellen Shapira, KY
The Invisible Bridge* (F), Julie Orringer
The Kitchen House* (F), Kathleen Grissom
Saving Cee-Cee Honeycutt (F), Beth Hoffman
Room* (F), Emma Donohue
Distant Land of My Father (F), Bo Caldwell
The Sense of An Ending (F), Julian Barnes
Caleb’s Crossing* (F), Geraldine Brooks
The Girl in the Blue Beret (F), Bobbie Ann Mason
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand* (F), Helen Simonson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* (NF), Rebecca Skloot
46. Mary Lincer, DC
A Kingdom Far and Clear: The Complete Swan Lake Trilogy (F), Mark Helprin, illustrated by Chris van Allsburg
Finishing the Hat (NF), Stephen Sondheim
47. Kate Latts, KY
Unbroken* (NF), Laura Hillenbrand. This was one of the most grueling, hard to read books of the year, but one that really stuck with me. I learned a lot.
The Invisible Bridge* (F), Julie Orringer. Probably the most enjoyable saga book I read this year.
Room* (F), Emma Donoghue. Quite engaging
The Kitchen House (F), Kathleen Grissom. Very good slavery book
Rules of Civility (F), Amor Towels. A very good Gatsbyesque book.
48. Kathy Camicia, DC
Best of the year:
Just Kids (NF), Patti Smith. Beautifully written; a love song for the departed.
Open City (NF), Teju Cole. Ramblings by a young man in NYC that evoke time, history, culture, alienation, and questions of truth.
Caleb’s Crossing* (F), Geraldine Brooks. Based on a true story of the first Native American graduate of Harvard in 1665 Brooks brings alive the time and place of Martha’s Vineyard. This is the first book I have read by Brooks and I plan to read her other works after enjoying this one.
Cleopatra (NF), Stacy Schiff. She’s not what you thought and the truth is far more interesting. If you avoid non-fiction this one is worth the risk.
Norwegian Wood (F), Haruki Murakami. This is an old book, but I wanted to try out this author’s work, and this is apparently his most accessible. Tokyo in the late 60’s; very interesting.
49. Donna Pollet, GA
A Beautiful Place to Die (F), Malla Nunn. For those who enjoy crime fiction, this is an intriguing murder mystery and debut novel, set in 1952 South Africa. A compelling and troubled police detective, Emmanuel Cooper, investigates the murder of an Afrikaner police captain in a small community rife with personal secrets and byzantine relationships, reflecting the politics, culture and history of a racially divided society.
Let the Dead Lie (F), Malla Nunn. A sequel to A Beautiful Place to Die set in South Africa in 1953. Another suspenseful and complicated case which not only reflects the politics of South Africa but the international, cold war era of the 1950s.
Moon Over Manifest (F), Clare Vanderpool. This is the most recent Newberry Award winner for grades 5-8. Written from several vantage points, this historical novel goes back and forth in time from the 1930s and WWI. It has all the elements of a good story told with humor and sadness including a coming of age character, odd-ball characters, mystery and an ending that pulls it all together.
Room* (F), Emma Donoghue. Not sure this is a favorite, but would like to hear what others have to say about this original and profoundly disturbing premise of a young woman who is kidnapped and repeatedly sexually abused, raising her son in an 11 x 11 shed and the ensuing consequences of captivity and freedom. All told through the voice of the five year old narrator.
And my additions……These are the books that have stayed with me throughout the year……
Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson — Winner of the Whitbread Award, 1995.
Weird Sisters*, Eleanor Brown
The Great House, Nicole Kraus
Surrendered*, Chang-Rae Lee
The Story of Beautiful Girl, Rachel Simon
The Lotus Eaters, Tatiana Soli
The Year We Left Home, Jeanne Thompson
Shadow in the Wind*, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Psychological Thrillers, Crime, Mysteries, Page-Turners, etc.:
Jackson Brodie Mystery Series Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News, Started Early Took My Dog, Kate Jackson
These Things Hidden, Heather Gudeskauf
Iron House, Jack Hart
The Informationist, Taylor Stevens — great audio narration
Before I Go To Sleep, S.J. Watson
Juvenile and Young Adult:
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, Heidi Durrow
Shine, Lauren Myracle
In the Garden of Beasts*, Erik Larson
Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron
The Glass Castle* and Half-Broke Horses, Jeanette Walls
The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson
50. Kimo Hyatt, FL
The Shadow of the Wind* (F), Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Angel’s Game (F), Carlos Ruiz Zafron
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest* (F), Stieg Larsson
Sometimes a Great Notion (F), Ken Kesey (a nostalgic look at the past)
PS – The Swedish (film) versions of all the Larsson books were great. I have not yet seen the American version of “The Girl.”
51. Randy Candea, FL
I Know This Much Is True (F), Wally Lamb. Long, dark and tragic, an astonishing and gratifying saga of loss and redemption.
Sarah’s Key* (F), Tatiana De Rosna — a mesmerizing and tragic novel starting with the Nazi occupation of Paris and ending sixty years later in New York City.
The Help* (F), Kathryn Stockett — a poignant and wise novel dealing with southern racism in Mississippi during the 1960s.
The Tenderness of Wolves (F), Steff Penney — a 2006 Costa Book of The Year winner set in 1867 where a murder is committed in a remote and isolated settlement in Canada’s Northern Territory. Part mystery and part thriller – a story of love and loss.
I also re-read a half dozen of the more than 20 Travis McGee novels written by John D. MacDonald. Still “wary of all earnestness” McGee and the Busted Flush at slip F-18 still endure. Greedhead developers, politicians and assorted scammers are still the villains today as they were in MacDonald’s day.
52. Lane Retallick, CA
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curry, A Tale of Love and Fallout (NF), Lauren Redniss — An illustrated biography of Marie Curry’s life and times, with glimpses into the future legacy of the Currys’ scientific achievements. The images are lovely and haunting.
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris* (NF), David McCullough – The fascinating stories of 19th Century Americans — writers, artists, educators, scientists, and others — who travelled to Paris aspiring to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the world.
Among Others (F), Jo Walton — The story of a traumatized Welsh teenager stuck in an English boarding school, isolated and in danger. A passionate reader, she finds solace, friends, and protection in a book group of science fiction/fantasy fans at the local village library. This book’s author is an award-winning fantasy writer, and magic is part of the story.
The Road Home (F), Rose Tremain — Following the tragic death of his wife and the loss of his livelihood, an Eastern European man takes a bus to London in hopes of finding a way to support his mother and young daughter left behind. Engaging characters make this novel about the immigrant experience a good read.
One was a Soldier: A Clare Fergusson/ Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (F), Julia Spencer-Fleming – The seventh in a series of mysteries featuring a female Episcopal priest/helicopter pilot and the local Police Chief, set in a small town in the Adirondacks. The story concerns veterans, including Rev. Clare, returning home from military service in Iraq, and attempting to readjust to civilian life.
53. Lance Brisson, CA
The Big Short (NF), Michael Lewis — If you think you are disgusted with Wall Street now, wait until you read this best selling book. While the story focuses on a relative handful of contrarian hedge fund managers and investors who figured out how to short the subprime mortgage market and become really rich, what leaps off the pages is the greed and stupidity of the people who manage our country’s biggest financial institutions.
Lost in Shangri-La (NF), Michael Zuckoff — Fans of true adventure/survival stories should find this story fascinating. In the closing days of the war in the Pacific in World War II a U.S. Army Air Force plane crashed into a mountain in a remote area of Dutch New Guinea populated by man eating headhunters and Japanese soldiers. How three of the 24 passengers on the plane on the plane, including an extraordinary nurse, survived the crash and were ultimately rescued is a riveting and previously untold tale.
54. Fruszina Harsanyi, MD
My best reads were non-fiction:
#1. In the Garden of Beasts* (NF), Eric Larsen. Just when I thought I had read about Hitler’s Germany from every angle, along comes this book about the American ambassador and his family in Berlin making nice with Hitler and his henchmen during the years before the war when America still had diplomatic relations. For me, it raised questions about that period, our attitude toward a government that was already acting outside the boundaries of civilized behavior, and our own government’s priorities about what we valued.
#2. Steve Jobs* (NF), Walter Isaacson. An interesting and timely book exploring the life, mind, and personality of a genius. Isaacson is up to the task, having written about Ben Franklin and Einstein. He is interested in understanding “the creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences combine in one strong personality.” That that personality can be quirky, weird, mean, self-absorbed raises questions about what it is to be a genius and whether one can also be a normal human being (whatever that means.) I’m also interested in the qualities that make a leader – vision, ability to communicate, develop strategy, build a team, anticipate and adapt to change, innovate and execute. “Jobs” is a study in all these qualities.
#3. Unbroken* (NF), Laura Hillenbrand. (Did I read it this year? Oh well, it’s memorable). Another non-fiction that reads like fiction. The story of Louis Zamperini, runner, WWII pilot, prisoner-of- war in Japan. Three topics in which I have no interest in a book I couldn’t put down.
#4. The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family (NF), Duong Van Mai Elliott. The title says it all. I read it during a trip to Vietnam and found it satisfying on every level: historic detail, sense of place, rich texture.
#5. Speak, Memory (NF), Vladimir Nabokov. Autobiography of a literary genius. Unlike any autobiography I’ve ever read using words I’ve never heard of. He took me to places of the heart and mind and invited me to explore my own past even as he was revealing his. After reading this, I re-read Lolita, and for the first time Pale Fire.
55. Matt Rechler, MD
State of Wonder (F), Ann Patchett
Elegance of the Hedgehog* (F), Muriel Barbery
Turn of Mind (F), Alice LaPlante: (currently reading) Psychological mystery. Retired orthopedic surgeon with dementia who might have murdered her best friend. Suspense: whether she’ll learn the truth about whether or not she committed the murder before her mind completely slips away.
Bloodmoney (F), David Ignatius: Life imitates art.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (F), Jamie Ford (recommended by Todd Endo and others last year.
The Help* (F), Kathryn Stockett
A Quiet Flame (F), Bernie Gunther — Nazis in Argentina
India Calling (NF), Anand Giridharadas
56. Kevin Curtin, NY
Addict in the Family (NF), Beverly Conyers. A book about what it is like to be a family member of an addict. She interviews multiple families, addicts, and those in recovery, plus provides important psycho-educational information to further our understanding about addiction. She herself has a daughter addicted to heroin. I really liked it.
Who Moved My Cheese (NF), Spencer Johnson. I plan on using this in my career counseling class. This is a quick read (less than 45 minutes), a parable about how to deal with and adjust to change.
Diary of a Job Search (NF), Tim Johnston. Great book, or I should say, diary and “how to” book for those struggling with unemployment. Published in 2003, it certainly has great relevance today, given the unemployment ratings. I also plan on using this for my career counseling course.
57. Gabrielle Beaumont, MD
Bossypants (NF), Tina Fey
Unbroken (NF), Laura Hillenbrand
58. Sean McLaughlin, VA, FL
1) A Singular Woman (NF), Janny Scott. WOW! If you wondered where Obama came from, this is a wonderful story of his mom’s life…What a woman determined…pioneer….inspiring!
2) Maine (F), J Courtney Sullivan (Irish!) A story that takes place in Maine (DUH!)…I enjoyed this because it follows three alcoholic generations of women’s marriages, jobs, loves, hates….Is this your family or my family?
3) How I Got This Way (NF), Regis Philbin. I love Regis! and his great sense of timing, humor, and heart. This is an easy read full of Regis stories and his unbelievable life journey…If you like Regis, you’ll love the book; if you don’t like Regis: what the hell’s the matter with you ——-FUHGEDDABOUDIT!!!!
4) The Greater Journey* (NF), David McCullough. I’d buy just about anything McCullough would write! He is a gifted teller of stories with details that do not bore ya….I couldn’t care less about American artists, writers, doctors, etc. living in Paris. But leave it to McCullough to find this interesting and making me want to turn the next page to read about really interesting folks like Samuel FB Morse (the Morse code guy), James Fenimore Cooper, young Oliver Wendell Holmes, etc., etc., etc. McCullough books are enjoyable and educational…this one is no exception!
59. Penn Staples, DC
Blessed Unrest (NF), Paul Hawken. Smith and Hawken founder/environmentalist Paul Hawken offers stories of what is going right in this world as we work to redefine our relationship with the environment – great motivating read.
Join the Club (NF), Tina Rosenberg. Pulitzer Prize winner – well written study of the power of peer pressure to foment radical change in human behavior and culture. People often think of peer pressure in the negative – this shows its incredible power to propel change for good.
The Unconquered (NF), Scott Wallace (in process). Newly released book by my friend and noted photographer/writer Scott Wallace that tells the story of his journey into the Amazon to track and study ‘untouched’ tribes. Great characters – beautifully observed and truly compelling reading.
Celebrating Italy (NF), Carol Field. An armchair travelers delight that tells the stories of the food traditions and festivals of Italy. (Full disclosure – I am prepping for a Euro trip next summer with a spell in Italy…diving deeper into its food and festivals.)