Year in Review–Books

I set a goal to read 30 books this year…I ended up with 33.

I’ll give you my top five for both fiction and nonfiction–and give a few nods to some audiobooks–and give you the full list in case you’re interested.So. Here goes nothin’.Top Five Fiction:

The Help. I mean really. Who DIDN’T love this book? I loved it for so many reasons. Stockett’s story and her incredible use of voice for starters. It also reminded me of my own experiences of growing up in the South with black women involved in my care as a young child. And it made me think of Mom. This book quickly skyrocketed to the top of my all-time favorites.

Faking It. This one was a surprise and a little bit of a guilty pleasure. But I also found myself on the pages of this book. What started as a semi-guilty pleasure chicklit type book quickly became a bit of self-discovery. Whether that happens to be true for you as you read this book, I highly recommend it.

The Faithful Spy. Alex Berenson was a new author to me. He has a protagonist who is aspy set in the present day, dealing with current events. In this one, the question is whether the leading man–who started as a US spy going deep cover with the Taliban–is still on our side or whether he has joined theirs. I’m looking forward to the next few books.

Georgia Bottoms. Another book set in the South. One that also deals with race and more recent attitudes about the differences between what it means to be black and white in this part of the country. It was charming with some really great wit and a couple of twists by the end.

The Marching Season. I am a big fan of Daniel Silva’s books–and especially his Michael Osbourne story line. This may have been the last of the Osbourne story, though it’s left open for more. I’m certainly hoping for more. In the mean time, I’ll be catching up on Silva’s other main protagonist, Gabriel Allon.

Clearly my fictional themes for the year were Southern Lit and Spies. I did read some big time books and award winners…and I listened to some really great fiction. Those are coming up…but first….

Top Five Nonfiction:

Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born. Wow. This was a surprising read–both because of the information included and for the way it read so easily. If you are interested in reproduction and what that process means for women…in all its glory, this is a good read. If you’re pregnant, trying to be, or considering it, it’s a good one for you, too.

The Purity Myth. I ended up reading this as part of a series of books on varying views on sex–partly for my own professional reading but also because I was prepping for a “purity” event for some adolescent girls at church. If you know me, “purity” isn’t my thing. (And, for the record, I did read a variety of viewpoints.) I appreciated this book for the way it addressed how our culture (including religion) views sex and what that means for men and women and our collective sexuality. Yes, Valenti is a feminist, so you should be prepped for that. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a look.

Health at Every Size. I stumbled on this one thanks to a friend who posted a link about it on Facebook. And it was cheap on Kindle, so I thought I’d give it a shot. In some ways I’m glad I did. This book reminds us all that health is–or at least should be–our ultimate priority. So we should be taking care of our bodies so they will take care of us. This book also reminds us to consider the sources of our recommendations regarding food, weight, and activity. It also reminded me that we may not all look as healthy as we actually are.

My Korean Deli. This one was another pleasant surprise. It’s in the memoir category and it’s about a couple (he’s white American, she’s Korean-American) who buy a deli in New York City and give it a Korean twist–because ultimately, it’s the author’s mother-in-law who owns the joint. It’s about trying to make a go of it when you know nothing about owning a business…and the hilarious and not so funny mishaps along the way.

I Totally Meant to do That. Jane Borden is a local-ish NC native who takes off to see what life holds in NYC. Some have compared her to David Sedaris. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but her story is highly entertaining and worth a read if you like the memoir.

Audio Books:

The Girl Who Played with Fire.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
I finally finished this series this year, and listening to it was the way to go. Simon Vance was a master narrator for this whole series. The writing itself was amazing, as I’m sure most of you know. As the first movie has recently come out in America, I’m actually looking more forward to the movies for these books. Salander’s story is quite a good one. Whether you listen to these books or read them, you simply must take the time to read this series.

Nigh Fall. This was a John Corey book by Nelson DeMille, and it was a different way of telling a story. DeMille puts Corey into an investigation of a real life event (the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800) and provides background from all the sources. The official report was that the crash was due to mechanical failure. But there were conflicting reports…and Corey works to get to the bottom of it. It’s John Corey with his usual snark, narrated by Scott Brick who does so in a good New York brogue. Another one to get into whether you read it or listen to it.

The Full List for 2011:
Memoirs of a Geisha–Arthur Golden (I actually loved this books as well–which came as a surprise. But it was a fantastic story with lots of vivid detail.)
Sex God–Rob Bell
The Purity Myth–Jessica Valenti
Night Fall–Nelson DeMille
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters–Meg Meeker
Real Sex–Lauren Winner
The Source–James Michener (otherwise known as the Damn Israel Book–I thought it would never end)
Fall to Grace–Jay Bakker
The Camel Club–David Baldacci
The Faithful Spy–Alex Berenson
Faking It–Elisa Lorello
Unsqueezed–Margot Starbuck
Annexed–Sharon Dogar
The Help–Kathryn Stockett
Room–Emma Donoghue
(surprisingly good in a twisted sort of way)
Georgia Bottoms–Mark Childress
A Visit From the Goon Squad–Jennifer Egan
(Pulitzer Prize winner; tough to read because of the style. I wish I could have appreciated it more.)
The Tiger’s Wife–Tea Obrecht
(another big time award winner; another I wish I could have appreciated more.)
The Lincoln Lawyer–Michael Connelly
(go read this if you like law fiction)
The Sweet Relief of Missing Children–Sarah Braunstein
(good and slightly disturbing)
Women, Food, and God–Geneen Roth
(if you need help with body image and/or eating habits, read this)
The Lions of Lucerne–Brad Thor
(because I need another spy novelist)
Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born–Tina Cassidy
My Korean Deli–Ben Ryder Howe
The Girl Who Played with Fire–Steig Larsson
I Totally Meant to Do That–Jane Borden
The Confessor–Daniel Silva
(Book 1 for Gabriel Allon)
Health at Every Size–Linda Bacon
(the irony of the author’s last name is not lost on me)
The Gate House–Nelson DeMille
(the sequel to The Gold Coast)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest–Stieg Larsson
Zero Day–David Baldacci
The Marching Season–Daniel Silva
Sacrilege–Hugh Halter
(another must read…awesome and disturbing…book review to follow)


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