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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunday Book Review – 11 from 2011

Since I didn’t blog about books at all in 2011, but I did keep my faithful journal detailing everything I’ve read, I thought it would be fun to go back and select the eleven reads I consider most worthy from 2011. These aren’t necessarily books that were published in the last year, just books I managed to get read in 2011. As well, they are in the order I read them, rather than ranked by preference. The qualifier to make this list was that it was a book I enjoyed enough that I would recommend it to a friend.
  1. Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (without going nuts with worry), by Lenore Skenazy
This book is: Non-Fiction

Who should read? All parents, and anyone who has an interest in questioning the culture of fear that tends to surround raising children these days.

My “out there” parenting friends, if they haven’t read this already, would really enjoy and appreciate Lenore’s humor. Some of it feels a little foreign to my way of thinking and I think that is a product of being a Midwesterner (and partly from hanging out with other “out there” parents). We hear the stories, but I don’t think the culture of fear is quite as deep or extreme here as it is when you go east or west. None-the-less, a surprising amount of the material in this book feels familiar and once I read it, my eyes were really opened to the constant messages that our society sends about the world being such a dangerous place to raise children.
  1. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, by Nicholas Carr

This book is: Non-Fiction

Who might enjoy? Anyone who enjoys topics of brain and behavior. This book was very readable, entertaining, and full of some thought provoking stuff.
  1. The Autobiography of Mark Twain
This book is: well… an autobiography

Who might enjoy? Everyone, but I think writers, especially, will enjoy a little time with this book. Don’t let the size intimidate you (or opt for the 1995 edition, which is much more compact, but still full of great stories on writing and Twain’s history). It is meant to be taken in bites and pieces. It will make you want to re-read Twain stories just to see if you can pick the autobiographical parts of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn from the fiction. Twain’s writing in this book is so personable, you will put the book down feeling like you’ve just spent the evening with your grandfather, listening to him tell to stories about the olden days.
  1. The Scent of Rain and Lightning, by Nancy Pickard
This book is: a Novel

Who might enjoy? Anyone who loves a well-written story. Nancy’s books are fantastic and I love the way she writes about Kansas in a way that is both familiar and appreciative. She is an excellent author who doesn’t rely on stereotypes.
  1. Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool
This book is: a Novel, young adult

At least, it was marketed as a young adult novel, but I finished reading it as a very satisfied adult. The book takes place in southeast Kansas, and I learned a lot about the culture and history of a part of Kansas I am less familiar with.
  1. Leondardo da Vinci, by Kathleen Krull (Giants of Science series)
This book is: Non-Fiction, geared toward late gradeschool to junior high

Who should read? This is a great science series. One of the best, as far as I’m concerned. I discovered Kathleen Krull’s Giants of Science books several years ago and basically wrote her begging her to write more of them. She does a really good job of introducing the world as it was at the time of the scientist of focus so that their achievements make sense in that context.
  1. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, by Lorna Landvik
This book is: a fun novel, but touching and left me a bit tearful at times

This was a “book club” selection in 2011. It’s always fun to read the same book that your friends are reading, even though fodder for Mom’s Night Out discussions rarely runs low. I think this was selected as a light and fun read, but it was actually quite touching. It covered a group of women (all neighbors) through several years of friendship. The story is told through their book club meetings, which they called Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.
  1. Househusband, by Ad Hudler
This book is: another fun novel, with a bit of food for thought beneath the surface

This was a surprise I picked up off the “staff picks” shelf at the library. As you might guess, the story is about a man who decides to give up his career (his wife’s career is a bit more lucrative, and perhaps she loves her work more) to stay at home to raise the kid. Only it’s not a decision, at first. Her job takes them on a move across country and he starts out staying home more by default than anything else. I almost didn’t stick with this book through the early chapters, but he kept throwing in little gems that resonated with me and about a third of the way in I decided I really liked the book.

For instance, “I’d always thought confidence was as permanent as eye color or earlobe size, but it had become clear to me that it was as fragile as corn chips.”

There was a lot to think about in this book as far as what we value as a society in terms of work and family. I expected it to be more about strict gender roles, and perhaps to the author it was, but I found that many of the issues he dealt with were very familiar, as far as perceived value and worth of a person who decides to make taking care of family their primary role.
  1. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
This book is: a novel, young adult

I’ve known for quite some time that John Green was going to be on my reading list because my children have become such big fans of his. He has a neat Vlog project with his brother online. My kids recommended this one as my introduction to John Green. The three of them agreed that this was their favorite of his work, so far. I enjoyed it and will probably catch up on the rest of his books in the coming year.
  1. Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
This book is: fantasy, also young adult

I like that my kids introduce me to new books I probably wouldn’t pick up on my own. Again, it was their enthusiasm for this series that made me want to read it. I think it was Middle Munchkin who read it first and she immediately put herself on the library list for reading the rest of the books in the series. We kept going to the library and these books kept coming home with us checked out on the card of another kid. There are five books in all and my son tells me there is going to be a movie. I’m not surprised. It was an excellent book. (I’ve only read the first one, the others are on my list for 2012.)
  1. Everything I want to do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front, by Joel Salatin
This book is: Non-Fiction

Who should read this book? Everyone. It’s about food and food policy is important to everyone, like it or not.

My husband has been a Joel Salatin fan for a couple of decades and I generally absorb the knowledge, as it interests me, through osmosis. My work as farmers market manager, however, has encouraged me to pay more attention to the details. This book is a series of essays written over the years detailing Salatin’s experiences as a return-to-local foods leader in the modern age.
"...if you want to certify something, certify the farmers' bookshelf and magazine rack. This [organic] movement has always been about a worldview, a value system. It is lived out from a deep inner conviction, not a codified system of dos and don'ts. If I'm feeding my mind and soul with the right stuff, my heart and hands will probably be in the right place too." ~ Joel Salatin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just read John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars." I will check out his other books. I have been reading a lot of young adult fiction too. I am always interested in what you are reading and you are fantastic pointing me to Kansas authors.