Books Read – 2010
I love to read – anything from the newspaper to the back of a cereal box. I read constantly, but do not include craft/how-to/trip-planning books, newspapers, magazines, etc. in this list
1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This is the most important book that I’ve read in the past decade. This is the book I have heard about for years, but never read until now. It was written in 1957, but reflects what is going on in our country today. At 1,200 pages long, I was worried it would be hard to slog through, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. The book deals with what happens when in the name of “fairness”, incentives and rewards are taken from the producing members of society by governmental force. The consequences are chilling.
2. Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs. This was an unlikely choice after Atlas Shrugged, but a neighbor gave it to me for Christmas, so I read it. It is a Christmas tale about the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club and was predictable chick-lit type of reading. I enjoyed Friday Night Knitting Club more than this sequel.
3. Why the Jews? The Reason for AntiSemitism by Dennis Prager & Joseph Telushkin. I am a huge fan of radio host Dennis Prager and have read most of his other books, so I added this one to my reading list, too. It discusses the history of anti-semitism from ancient times to today and deals with the reasons that it is so prevalent. Anti-semitism and anti-Americanism are closely tied in recent times and understanding why is critical to saving our country and way of life. For example, the argument is made that Jews and Americans are hated because we enjoy a high standard of living compared to the “desperate” situation that those who hate us live in. But, that argument does not work when one looks at those who participate in doing us harm. The 9-11 hijackers, Fort Hood shooter, recent Nigerian underwear bomber all come from affluent backgrounds.
4. The Croquet Player by H.G. Wells. My husband pulled this short story off of our book shelves for me to read. A young man who acts as the companion to his wealthy aunt and spends his days playing bridge and croquet encounters another man with a strange story. The man describes fearful experiences in his village and the impact they are having on him and wonders if the croquet player is experiencing this same anxiety. I didn’t really get it until my husband told me that it was about the rise of Nazi Germany and the anxiety that it gave some while others were oblivious.
5. Lost in Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever by Walter Kirn. What a disappointing book. Walter Kirn was a bright young man with an unusual mid-western upbringing. His Princeton educated father moves the family to a farm where they subsist as if they were in the 19th century and convert to strict Mormonism on the way. Kirn is bright enough to know how to game the system and get through high school and into Princeton. He does more than just flirt with drunkedness, drug use, Marxism, etc. and yet manages to be a Rhodes scholar candidate. The book is self-indulgent and a bit depressing. The book ends without really indicating that he has grown up even though he is 50 now or close to it.
6. Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany. Set in the outback of Australia, this novel tells the story of a seamstress and a “scientist” who travel aboard the government sponsored “Better Farming” train that goes from town to town teaching farming and housekeeping skills. The seamstress and scientist get married and set up a homestead. Predictably, the scientist husband not only fails to grow improved wheat crops with his plan, but brings down other local farmers who also try his plan. The seamstress, of course, is heroic. I guess this type of book is why I steer clear of most novels. It wasn’t horrible, but not a good use of my reading time.
7. Younger Next Year – Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy-Until You’re 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley & Henry Lodge. Let me summarize the 300 pages in a few words – exercise with intensity, eat right, get your teeth whitened, etc. Nothing that you don’t know already.
8. Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need by Dave Barry. I was hoping for a very funny travel book and this missed the mark. Perhaps because it is very dated feeling – copyright 1991. It’s a series of travel “tips” and states and countries at a glance.
9. Hands of My Father, a Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love by Myron Uhlberg. This was a wonderful book recounting the story of growing up as a hearing child with two deaf parents who adored him. It is beautifully written and very touching as the author recounts his struggles between pride in his parents and anger and embarrassment at how they are treated as deaf people. As a hearing child, he had to take on great responsibility in everything from relaying what a teacher was saying about him in a parent-teacher conference, to alerting his parents when his younger brother cried in the night.
10. Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner. The author’s fiancee breaks up with him a few days before the wedding. The honeymoon is paid for so he talks his brother into going with him. Unhappiness with work then leads them to extend their trip to a couple of years going around the world. Sounds like a good premise, but it was just an ok read. In some ways, it reminded me of “Eat Pray Love” in that both books seem to be about sorting out the authors’ personal issues rather than letting you feel like you are a part of the trip.
11. I Married Adventure by Lucy Swindoll. The title made me think this was a book about adventure, but it is really more a book about Lucy Swindoll’s life as a Christian, never-married, woman who had a difficult relationship with her mother. There is a great deal about her singing, her depression, her art work, etc. She does travel a lot, but not in the nail-biting way the title suggests. I did not find her life story to be that amazing and I get tired of books that seem to be some kind of therapy for the author.
12. People Like Us, Misrepresenting the Middle East by Joris Luyendijk. I picked this up off the shelf at our tiny library, curious as to why it would be a pick for such a small facility. I was skeptical about it before I started reading it, figuring that the author would present a heavy-handed European liberal view of the situation in the Middle East. The author is a Dutch journalist and the book explores how the media cover the Middle East which is not very well from his description. I was surprised that he said a lot of the reporting just is wire stories re-hashed to make a report. He was reasonably even-handed in most of the book, except for his view that the Palestinians and Iraqis are losers in media coverage due to their lack of media savvy. Perhaps this was true for the Iraqis, but I disagree regarding the Palestinians. They have become extremely media savvy (the Mohammed al-Dura affair, etc.). It is just presented on the streets rather than in a conference room with handouts and slideshows. The author expressed a great deal of sympathy for the humiliation the Palestinians experience at the hands of Israel, but expresses the fear that Israeli citizens feel in public places, buses, etc.
13. The Last Resort, a Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers. I received this book from a giveaway at the Prytz Family blog and it is a real treasure. The author grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as the son of a family whose roots there extend back several hundred years. Before the war for Independence, Zimbabwe had several thousand white farmers who employed thousands of workers and whose farms produced lush quantities. During this era and the first years of Mugabe’s dictatorship, the economy remained strong and the population was highly educated. Mugabe is a communist and as time went on, things failed. Anger was stirred up against the white farmers who then were brutalized and who mostly either fled, were killed, or lost their farms. The farms were taken over by squatters who let them go to ruin. Rampant inflation ensued. The rich became richer, the poor became poorer. Opposition party members who oppose the Mugabe regime are killed and tortured. Douglas Rogers family hung on to their property with the help of loyal black employees and a remarkable ability to withstand fear and negotiate through tenuous circumstances. A compelling book about the loss of a country with huge potential.
14. A Big Little Life, a Memoir of a Joyful Dog by Dean Koontz. Dean Koontz is a famous novelist. He and his wife have no children and lived a very orderly, pristine life. In one of his books, he writes about an organization that provides therapy dogs for those with disabilities. He ends up adopting one of the dogs who is unable to continue work as a therapy dog. This is a celebration of that dog and illustrates the effect that their unconditional love can have and the joy they can bring to those who open their homes and hearts to them. This is a read in one sitting book with a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and moments that tear at your heart if you have ever loved a dog the way Dean Koontz and his wife have.
15. How to Live, A Search for Wisdom from Old People by Henry Alford. Sounds interesting, right? This is another book where the author has a good premise, but instead writes a self-therapy book. Large portions of the book are devoted to his life and his mother leaving his step-father, etc. Their own lives do not intrigue me. The interviews were mixed in quality, but were relatively interesting to read. It would have been more interesting if the author had left out the personal stuff and focused on the “old people” and would have been significantly more interesting if he had chosen people with a more diverse ideology rather than just people who it likely share his same world view. Some parts of the book were repulsive in their description of one person’s philosophy of dumpster diving for half-eaten sandwiches and rotten bananas and discarded cups of old coffee.
16. Baa Baa Black Sheep by Rudyard Kipling. This is a poignant story of a young boy and his sister sent from India to England to live with a foster family presumably to offer them a better lot in life. Very touching.
17. Braving Home, Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Locales by Jake Halpern. This was a really interesting and well-written book about people who choose to stay in homes that are in dangerous or difficult locations from flood plains to extreme isolation in Alaska. The author searches people who choose to stay where others might leave and spends several days with each person learning about what kind of personality leads someone to stay put and how they deal with their conditions. Not only were the stories interesting, but a nice addition to the book was the fact that the author re-visited the interviewees almost a year later and included his findings in an epilogue. I enjoyed his writing enough to search out his other book, Fame Junkies.
18. The Guinea Pig Diaries, My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs. A.J. Jacobs is an entertaining writer and all of his books have been experiments that he has undertaken in his life. In this book, there are multiple, short, experiments and some are more interesting than others. He is a funny writer and I enjoyed this book, although not as much as his other two.
19. Spooner by Pete Dexter. I think I heard about this book in the Wall Street Journal. It was a struggle to read initially because of the frequency of things that made me cringe in the portrayal of Spooner. But, as the book progressed, I began to enjoy it and become interested in the family relationships that were the basis of the book. Although, it ended up being interesting, it was indicative of why I prefer non-fiction.
20. Banjo Lessons by Jack B. Hood. This was written by someone I met at the Alabama Folk School and who I sketched a picture of, so he sent me a copy of his books. He is a US Attorney who lived in Panama for a number of years and the story reflects that. It is kind of a two-part book. One part is the banjo lessons that the main character is giving to another character. Unless you want to play the banjo, there is more detail about that than I was interested in. The second part was the story and that was the part I really enjoyed. It reads as if it is based on actual events and is the story of corruption that reaches into the highest levels of government and politics and how dangerous it can be to confront the corrupt individuals.
21. Banjo Playing by Jack B. Hood. This book is again by someone I met at the Folk School and who wrote Banjo Lessons above. In this book, the main character, a US attorney, goes back to Brazil to pursue a job change that will give him an opportunity to try to reconcile with his ex-wife. He is unaware that his ex-wife has found and hidden money from a criminal organization that the attorney had pursued and prosecuted. Like the first book, this one deals with corruption in government. Dealing with corrupt individuals in Banjo Lessons meant having poisonous snakes dropped at your doorstep. In this one, the consequences are even more horrifying.
22. South by Ernest Shackleton. I read the Worsley account of the Endurance expedition a few years ago. Shackleton became a hero to me, so I wanted to read his own book about it. The accounts are very similar though Shackleton makes no attempt to portray himself as special in his own writing. There is no question that his bravery, fortitude, and undeniable ability to lead are what saved the lives of his men in this failed Antarctic expedition. Unlike our government leaders who tell us to sacrifice and do without while they live high on the hog, Shackleton did not ask his men to sacrifice more than he did and in fact, he sacrificed to allow them to have better. It is astonishing to think that they survived in small lifeboats sailing through the southern ocean to try to survive.
23. Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. It is almost impossible to be a parent nowadays without worrying that horrible things are going to happen to your child unless you keep them in a protective bubble at all times. This book is a great antidote to that. It reminds us that we grew up without all of this insidious protection and we not only survived, but thrived because of it. I’m just glad we had our daughter in the days when you borrowed a used car seat from a friend and put your baby in the front where she could see you. I’m glad our daughter got to learn to climb on steep wood climbing structures with tall metal slides. Our solution to the potential of lead in toys wasn’t to enact oppressive CPSIA rules, but to watch your child and remove a toy from them if they started gnawing on it. Much more reasonable than shutting down whole industries and making the price of toys skyrocket.
24. Fame Junkies, The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction by Jake Halpern. I chose this book because I really enjoyed Braving Home by the same author. This one did not succeed as well for me. The author interviews celebrity wanna-bes along with those who work with celebrities and intersperses the anecdotes with studies and analysis. Unlike Braving Home, the author seemed less engaged with the subjects and they tended to appear unlikeable. Braving Home succeeded for me because he let the stories speak for themselves. This fails because he attempts to insert analysis in a subject that doesn’t require it.
25. Lost in My Own Backyard, a Walk in Yellowstone National Park by Tim Cahill. This book is one of the Crown Journeys series of small books written by authors about their walks in cities/areas they know well. Tim Cahill shares some of his most memorable hikes through Yellowstone along with a bit of history/geology/etc. of Yellowstone. It whets your appetite to visit there and experience some of the remote and beautiful sights that he describes.
26. Too Close for Comfort? Questioning the Intimacy of Today’s New Mother-Daughter Relationship by Linda Gordon & Susan Shaffer. Good title, so-so book. Lots of anecdotes of the struggles and joys between grown daughters and their mothers along with some predictable advice about setting boundaries, being accepting, etc. Do you need someone to tell you that it is in a daughter’s best interest to create a positive relationship with her mother? Do you need a list of “provocative questions for mothers to ask themselves”, such as “do you demonstrate that you love your daughter?” No great epiphanies here.
27. Green Hell, How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them by Steven Milloy. Global warming does not scare me. Incandescent light bulbs do not scare me. Neither do toilets that flush with an adequate amount of water. What scares me is that science has become politicized and lost what made it “science” in the first place, which was truth. Consensus does not equal fact. This book was a good synopsis of the lengths that “Greens” are going to to control our lives and force us to comply with their agenda which is regressive and totalitarian. I have no problem with anyone who wants to use fluorescent light bulbs and low flow toilets, but I don’t appreciate it being forced on me by people living in 10,000 square foot houses and jetting all over the world. What liberty is there in banning restaurants from using trans fats or banning fireplaces in new homes in California, etc.? Let those who want wind power, stick a windmill in their yard with their own money, but like the Kennedy family, they want to advocate it for everyone else with huge tax payer subsidies as long as it isn’t visible from their Hyannis compound.
28. Around the World Single-Handed, The Cruise of the “Islander” by Harry Pidgeon. Like Joshua Slocum before him, Harry Pidgeon was a remarkable man who had a remarkable adventure. It started with a boat he built himself, which proved to be advantageous when disaster struck and he was able to re-fashion the parts needed to put his boat back together. He writes in a matter-of-fact style that is descriptive, but restrained. There is no exaggeration in his writing when describing some of the perilous parts of his trip. It is inspiring to think of men who did these type of adventures in the day before satellite phones, GPS, and nothing but their smarts and a sextant.
29. Lamentations of the Father by Ian Frazier. Humor writing must be exceedingly difficult and this book was a reflection of that. A few of the essays were extremely enjoyable, but more just didn’t work for me. The title essay makes the book worth checking out from the library, though.
30. Ten Things I Learned from Bill Porter by Shelly Brady. Bill Porter is an amazing man who was born with cerebral palsy. His parents adored him, but did not coddle him. His accomplishments through sheer determination and ethics are inspiring and this book should be mandatory reading to anyone before they receive welfare or other government assistance or anyone with a propensity to feel sorry for themselves. It’s a fast read and the one flaw in it is that the author, Shelly Brady, who is Bill’s assistant, wants her story told, too and it just isn’t all that interesting.
31. Joker One, A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell. I read this book in two sittings and found it to be a gripping portrayal of what our Marines’ experience in our current wars are. It is very well written and the story follows the platoon from it’s formation and early training to their tour of duty in Ramadi to their return home. It does not make arguments for or against the war in Iraq, but tells what war was like for those who were fighting there. The circumstances that they fought under were unbelievably difficult – high heat, no respite, ill-defined enemy, rules of engagement that put them at increased risk, and lack of basic supplies. At the beginning of their mission in Iraq, the platoon received one out-of-date map and the leaders in the platoon had to hand draw out copies for themselves. Water and adequate food were a luxury. Radios didn’t have good range. When I hear ads on tv for free cellphones with free service and texting, etc. that the government is paying for to give to low-income people, it makes me angry. Our Marines and other servicemen risking their lives and doing amazing work while doing without and yet our tax dollars are going to provide free texting and cellphones to people who won’t even get up off the couch to get a job.
32. Trawler: A Journey Through the North Atlantic by Redmond O’Hanlon. The author talks his way onto a fishing trawler that is the sole boat headed out into hurricane force winds because that is what the debt-ridden skipper needs to do to pay the bills. You’d think this would make for an interesting story, but I gave up 2/3 of the way through. It might be interesting if you want to know every single conversation that occurred or if you want to know a lot about the fish that were caught as taught by a scientist who also caught a ride on the boat. I love to read adventure books, but this didn’t cut it for me.
33. Survivor’s Club, The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood. This book is filled with accounts of how people survived extraordinary circumstances from planes crashing to falling off an ocean liner to being attacked by a mountain lion. The author uses their experiences and interviews to illuminate what techniques and personalities help one survive when someone else might lose their life. For the most part, not succumbing to panic, having a strong will to live, and having some knowledge seems to have made the difference. It was a strange book to read because on the one hand it is encouraging that these situations have the possibility of survival, but it was also kind of depressing to read about all the terrible things that can happen to you. There is one other problem – the people who didn’t survive can’t be interviewed and there is no way to tell if they had all the same survival capabilities, but were just missing the biggest factor – luck.
34. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I am late to the game reading this book, but now I can see why it is such a powerful book. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born a Muslim in Somalia and experienced everything from a father who had multiple wives to female mutilation to beating to war and much more. The book was so well written and the story so gripping that I could not put it down. When the author became a refugee in Holland, she tried to warn the Dutch about the problems of non-assimilation of the Muslim refugees. The Dutch didn’t want to hear it or believe that things such as mutilation and extremist teachings were going on. After all, they were giving the refugees a great chance at life with free housing, education, a free country, etc. Ali speaks clearly and honestly about what Islam teaches and while she does not indict all Muslims with sharing extreme views, she shows how organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood can become powerful quickly and how oppressive, abusive actions can be justified through the Koran.
35. Welcome to the Departure Lounge, Adventures in Mothering Mother by Meg Federico. Anyone with an elderly relative with dementia or Alzheimers will be able to relate to this book with its portrayal of the author’s mother and her husband during their declining years. The family was fortunate to apparently have significant resources to pay for in-home care from cooks to personal aides to decorators, but even with those resources, these were not easy years. The book has some dark humor in its portrayal of life in the departure lounge, but even that can’t make up for the sad portrayal of what becomes of dignified, elegant people with severe mental decline.
36. The Lunatic Express, Discovering the World . . . via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes by Carl Hoffman. This was an entertaining read in the adventure travel category. As the title suggests, the author sought out travel via the modes with the worst safety records. This book will make you forget about complaining about the legroom in coach on a plane, because most of the ferries, trains, etc. the author went on were filled to overflowing. Sanitation was non-existent, personal space was unheard of, and yet, the author found people who took would watch over him and his belongings in the most dire situations. Entertaining.
37. War by Sebastian Junger. I was intrigued by the book after hearing the author interviewed and also having read The Perfect Storm. The author imbeds for several months with a platoon in a hostile valley in Afghanistan. It gives a good view of what life is like for the men there with life alternating from sheer boredom in the winter to living on the edge in the summer. The area of the book that failed for me was getting to know the members of the platoon better. Joker One did an excellent job in that regard and was written in a way that I felt like I was present with that platoon. This book seemed to skip around a lot and didn’t have as cohesive a story as Joker One, but if I hadn’t already read that, I would probably feel more highly regarded to this and I do admire Junger for not writing the story from a safe desk somewhere.
38. Travels in a Thin Country, a Journey Through Chile by Sara Wheeler. A trip from the northernmost tip of Chile down to Antarctica sounds riveting, but this book didn’t achieve that. It is a mish-mash of travel guide, personal journal, history, and quite laborious to read unless one were planning to do a similar trip. Perhaps editing it down 100 pages or so would have made the story more compelling, but there is a lot of slogging through trivial details to get to the interesting parts. In addition, the author would take offense at one of the men who she hooked up with for part of the trip and who was traditionally minded in terms of roles, which seemed to offend her feminist sensibilities, but for most of the book, she seemed to have a steady stream of men she used to help her and go with her to places she seemed afraid to go to by herself.
39. Breakfast at Sally’s, One Homeless Man’s Inspirational Journey by Richard LeMieux. The author was a successful businessman who lost it all, including his family and ended up living out of his van with his little dog. He understandably felt despair and hopelessness. Sally’s is the Salvation Army where the author would eat meals and made a variety of friends who were also in similar situations. It was a sweet and interesting story, but did not convince me that most of the homeless ended up there because of life choices and those same choices were keeping them there.
40. Your Call Is Not That Important to Us, Customer Service and What It Reveals About Our World and Our lives by Emily Yellin. This book is a look into the phone customer service/customer retention/sales industry and reveals a lot about why so many of us dislike dealing with phone reps. It was not as “entertaining” a read as I expected, but was interesting covering everything from outsourcing to voice recognition.
41. Death in Yellowstone, Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittlesey. It was a little hard to sleep while reading this book that covers the 300 or so deaths in Yellowstone Park that were not vehicular or natural. Most of the deaths occurred in the early years of the park’s history, so the book provides somewhat of an historical account of the park. There are deaths by falling into the boiling geysers, deaths by falling into the icy Yellowstone Lake, deaths by bear attack, etc. It would make me think twice about venturing far into the park without extreme preparation and awareness.
42. The Real Anita Hill by David Brock. I picked this up off of a library book sale rack. Ugh. Makes you understand why good people hesitate to go into politics. David Brock has become a darling for the left after recanting what he wrote in this book which describes how affirmative action politics helped Anita Hill gain entry into positions of importance before the Peter Principle kicked in and being a black female attorney wasn’t enough to make her competent. I did not believe her testimony at the time (although it is possible that there was flirtation between her and Clarence Thomas) and suspected that she was a reluctant witness who appeared to not believe what she was saying herself and this book indicates that she was pushed by ideologues to testify against Thomas. Like a lot of women her age, she identifies herself as a perpetual victim when things don’t go her way. The book was tedious to read.
44. I Want to be Left Behind, Finding Rapture Here on Earth by Brenda Peterson. The author claims to have been brought up in a fundamentalist Baptist home where the family spent their waking moments waiting for “the Rapture” to happen. Somehow, from a very early age, she rejected their Christian beliefs and became an environmentalist and leftist with the support and influence of many of her teachers. The book was written in an interesting manner and I had not read any reviews of it prior to reading it, but now find that her family has issued a rebuttal of it as a fabrication of the truth. While reading it, there were incidents that defied credulity, such as her being an very small child lying on the ground outside when a rattler slithers onto her chest and coils up to rest. Her father supposedly yells for her to hold still (which would cause most children to instinctively jump), pulls the snake off with a stick and then flings it against a tree killing it which has the effect of causing her to come to love snakes.
45. Oprah by Kitty Kelley. I am not a fan of Oprah because I think she has done more to make women feel unhappy than to feel better about their lives, so this book did not contain any big surprises. It reveals that while Oprah is able to talk as if she is the “same” as her listeners, she does not live that way. She certainly has been successful financially, but the rest of her life has been a failure. She hasn’t married, hasn’t raised children, is untrusting, hasn’t been able to deal with her weight, etc., and yet her show goes on year after year with all sorts of “advice”.
46. Living Oprah, My One Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk by Robyn Okrant. While I was ordering the Kitty Kelley book from the library, I saw this one so added it to the list. It is basically a copycat version of A.J. Jacobs books about living all the Biblical rules and his book about the Encyclopedia Britannica. But, it was a light, entertaining read. The author bought what Oprah said to buy, ate what Oprah said to eat, etc., all the while realizing that Oprah herself wasn’t exactly following the advice she gave out. This is a lightweight read.
47. Walkin’ on the Happy Side of Misery by J.R. ‘Model-T’ Tate. I’ve read a lot of books about hiking the AT, so was happy to find that I really enjoyed this one. At the start of the book, I found the writing style to be annoying since he switches from his own voice to that of his alter-ego, but as the book progressed, I grew to find it entertaining. It is a very vivid description of a thru-hike in realistic form from dealing with snakes to smells and also his relationships with others on the trail. It would be a must-read for anyone thinking about doing a thru-hike.
48. Spinal Discord, One Man’s Tale of Wrenching Woe in Twenty-Four (Vertebral) Segments by Tilman Spingler. A little book about lower back pain and the search for cures. It was mildly humorous at times, but not enough to recommend it. Perhaps, something got lost in the translation.
49. Ultramarathon Man, Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes. Sarah Palin mentioned in an interview that she was reading this book, so I picked it up from the library. It was a fascinating read that I couldn’t put down and I’m not a runner. The book was a great insight into what makes someone become an extreme athlete and shows the pain that they are willing to go through to achieve their goals. I found it to be a good inspiration for pushing your own limits as well as a fascinating personal story. The comments on Amazon were fascinating. Most were 5 stars, but the 1 star ratings were mostly about the author being an egomaniac and sexist (?). Without knowing anything else about him, I didn’t end the book with that impression because it is a book about him and his life and was much less narcissistic than some other books I’ve read this year (Lost in Meritocracy, for instance). There were also complaints because he doesn’t discuss women ultra-marathoners. But, the book isn’t about the history of long-distance running. It’s a book about him and I really enjoyed it.
50. Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe. This is a fascinating book of social commentary comprising of two essays both of which illustrate how liberal guilt can easily be utilized by the subjects of the guilt for their own purposes, which are frequently self-serving and not in the interest of society.
51. How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown. Science books are usually low on the list of things I want to read, but a good review in the WSJ encouraged me to pick this up and I’m glad. Mike Brown is the CalTech astronomer/discoverer of the “10th planet” that led to a re-classification of what a planet is and the demotion of lovable Pluto from planetary status. This book gives an insight into what goes into finding celestial bodies and the time, skill, and dedication it takes to find them. Mike Brown clearly loves astronomy and writes in a way that makes you want to love it, too. The stories of his marriage and birth of his daughter add a real human element to the book. Another plus, is that the author was raised here in Huntsville!
52. The Other Wes Moore, One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore. I got this book after hearing the author interviewed on Dennis Prager’s show (which, along with the WSJ, is where I find most of my book recommendations). The two Wes Moores grew up in somewhat similar surroundings and both started their lives with difficult situations (single parents, crime-infested neighborhoods, etc.), but ended up in widely divergent lives. The author had a mother and grandparents who were determined not to let him fail. When sending him to a private school across town wasn’t working, the grandparents mortgaged their house to send the author to military school where the author’s life turned around. The other Wes Moore had a mother whose own personal struggles appeared to make her incapable of doing what it would take to save him and he quickly drifted into the life of drugs and gangs. The story is told in alternating segments of each Wes Moore’s life, along with interviews the author did with the jailed Wes Moore.
53. The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. This small novel can easily be read in one sitting and left me with some lingering thoughts about what is the most important thing I want to leave our daughter with. A very wealthy businessman dies. He has given his family everything material they could need and they have not learned the life values, including gratitude, that make one have a good or rich life. In order for one nephew to receive his inheritance, the uncle stipulated that he spend a year learning important lessons before he receives it. The lessons are worth remembering and passing on.