Friday, January 09, 2009

... 52 in 52

It seems to be my speed -- a book a week. Here are the reviews for 2008:

**** Pick it up from the library today!
*** Add it to your reading list.
** Eh, it was ok...
* Forget you ever heard about it.

Finn by Jon Clinch - We all know the story of Huckleberry Finn through Twain's eyes, but Clinch fills in the blanks in this dark and daring story. **

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis - The first in a sci-fi trilogy, the main character is taken against his will to a new planet as a sacrificial offering. Wasn't all the fascinating to me but I'll give the second book a try since I hear so much good about it. **

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - I needed to brush up on Twain's version of Huck after reading Clinch's. **

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde - Such a fun book. Very original. Read more about my thoughts here. ***

The Sea and Poison by Shusaku Endo - This Japanese writer explores the morality of the human experimentation that occurred during WWII. **

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - Unless you've been under a rock, you've been hearing tons about this years Pulitzer Prize Winner. It's a riveting story about a nerdy teenage Dominican, his family, and the jinx (fuku) that haunts them. The storytelling is fast and fresh but I must warn you, the foul language flows freely. ****

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts - Billed as fiction, the story is written in the first person as a memoir. Roberts, one of Australia's top 10 most wanted, has broken out of prison and fled to India. Tough guy + tender heart + deep friendships. I'll confess that I cried for a few days after reading of the death of his close friend. The story teaches you of Bombay's mafia, it's shantytowns, and of true forgiveness. ***

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Blanco - In a nutshell: 1970's Chilean literary movement. I heard so much hub bub about this book but to be honest, I had no idea what was going on the entire time. Maybe it's me. *

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks - The story of a religious book that travels through 500 years & the people who protected it. Boy, that sure doesn't make it sound all that interesting, though it is. I think Ms. Brooks is becoming one of my favorite modern authors. ***

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - Boyhood friendship. Life in Afghanistan with the Taliban. Love and forgiveness. ***

Independence Day by Richard Ford - Drollllllll.... I don't know how this won the Pulitzer Prize but it was torture to read. *

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Miss Havisham, Pip, Joe... You know the deal. **

Away by Amy Bloom - It was touted as a sweeping, epic story so I read it. Maybe it was sweeping but I wasn't so into it. *

The Known World by Edward P. Jones - Were you aware that freed black men owned slaves? What a curious and interesting fact to build a story around. **

Falling Man by Don DeLillo - A post-9/11 story of a man who escaped death that fateful day. *

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson - Her daughters best friend and neighbor is found floating in her pool, dead. What happened? **

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - Afghanistan and Taliban again, but this time the main character is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man who is forced into marriage. Powerful friendship. Brutal. Moving. ****

The Senators Wife by Sue Miller - An emotionally conflicting story of a young couple moves into a duplex shared with an elegant woman -- the wife of a prestigious former senator. **

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - The life affirming story of the beloved March family. ****

The Road by Cormac McCarthy - Father and son surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Heavy but insightful. The son is one of the more precious characters I've encountered in a while. ***

Katherine by Anya Seton - Medieval history meets fiction. I'm so used to hearing about Anne Boleyn that it was refreshing to hear of another woman in court. ***

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson - Scandinavian novel written from the point-of-view of an elderly man remembering his boyhood . **

Evening by Susan Minot - Ann Lord is dying of old age and in her haze she's remembering her youth & the love she found. **

The Heretics Daughter by Kathleen Kent - Sarah & her family live a simple existence -- until, that is, they get swept up in the 1600's witch trials. ***

Q&A by Vikas Swarup - A poor boy in India wins the largest monetary prize ever given away... and they think he cheated. Cleverly written and an easy read. ***

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne - Fun, classic story of a man who makes a bet that he can travel around the world in 80 days. But did he? The first person to tell me how many days it took him to travel around the globe, will get to pick a book of their choice off this post. **

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Savedra -- The adventures of Sancho and Quixote. Funny, funny stuff here. **

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It by David Bastone - An eyeopening book about sex trafficking & the global justice system. Did you know that there are more slaves in the world today than ever before? And, yes, that includes in the United States. There's even one chapter about an everyday man in Williamsburg, VA who discovered and saved a local captive woman. ***

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus - Read my thoughts here. ***

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against Poverty by Muhammad Yunus - More thoughts from the Nobel Peace Prize Winner... read my thoughts here. ***

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manafesto by Michael Pollan - He hit it out of the park. Again. I wrote more here, but I think everyone who eats should read it. :) ****

Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Path of the Worlds Most Deadly Stone by Greg Campbell - Yes, this is non-fiction. No, it's nothing like the movie. I suggest you read it for yourself and finally hear what all the talk is about. ***

Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carroll - Well, it's out. I make cheese at home. It's so fun. **

Let It Rot!: The Gardeners Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell - It's, uh, a gardeners guide to composting. What else is there to say? **

Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner - A review of some Jewish rituals that Winner feels Christians could benefit from participating in. ***

Completely Pro-Life by Ron Sider - Pro-life does not just mean anti-abortion. It also means anti-war & anti-poverty, etc. Very interesting (if not outdated) read by a wonderful Christian man. **

The Vegetable Gardeners Bible by Edward C. Smith - I'm so excited to put this information into practice. **

Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink - All the short stories or articles mentioning food that have appeared in The New Yorker over the past few decades. **

Living by Fiction by Annie Dillard - Ummm... yeah, I really can't tell you what this book is about 'cause even after reading it I'm not entirely sure. *

Biography / Memoirs
Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon - Not the theatrical viewpoint, nor the screen, but the historical study of Anna Leonowens. Fascinating. ***

Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found Food that Loves Me Back... And How You Can Too by Shauna Ahern - A pretty self explanatory title, but I've written more here. ***

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan - I read this just before the economy started to downturn with more force. It sure did provide food for thought. **

Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver - Kingsolver and family vow to live off the land and eat locally for one full year. The book is the family journal of that year and all members of the family participate in writing it. Refreshing. Inspiring. Realistic. Hopeful. Interesting. ****

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller - Inspirational story of a young woman rendered blind and deaf at 19 months. **

Born on a Blue Day: The Gift of an Extraordinary Mind by Daniel Tammett - Daniel is autistic and shares his giftings and life story with his readers in a way that is intimate and educational. **

Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins - A tell-all about how US Aid policy is used as a weapon against foreign countries. Wow. ***

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barak Obama - A first person look at the issues and hopes of our President Elect. ***

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir - Read my thoughts here. ***

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson - Everything you wanted to know about the famous 20th-century thinker. **

The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science by Jill Price - This woman has full and total (and often unprovoked) recall of everything that's every happened in her life. She's the first, if not only, person to have been known to have such a memory. She shares how it works, and how it effects her life. ***

Infidel by Ayann Hirsi Ali - Born a desert nomad, circumcised as a child, educated by radicals, & forced into marriage. Though she escapes, seeking asylum in Holland, her story does not end or get any easier. Infidel chronicles this amazing woman's journey. She deserves to be heard. ***

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier - Great storytelling from an interesting man. **


Libby said...

Oh my gosh! Are you sure you're a newlywed?!!! I guess you didn't get married until October...but still! You are a machine! I will definitely try some of your suggestions - I'll bring this list to my book club meeting this Sunday.

Paul, Jess, Elise and Baby Boy LeValley said...

I haven't finished your reviews but I think I will read some of the "food" books and maybe a few others...thanks for pre-viewing these for us so we know what we want to read or don't want to read! :)
Did I ever get that grain grinder list to you? I can't remember what I've done or haven't done lately...middle of the night your brain. If I didn't, let me know I'll send it to you.