koralleen (koralleen) wrote,

New to me in 2011 recommended book list

Here are some of the books that I enjoyed reading over the past year. I love lists of books (I think you know that) so all of these Best of 2011 lists floating around both charm and alarm me: so many books! Must read faster! The books on my list aren't all recent, of course, just recently read by me.

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
by Ha-Joon Chang

It's hard not to take all economic theory with a grain of salt, but this is very readable and thought-provoking.

Archaic Smile
by A. E. Stallings

I read a lot of extra poetry this year for a project, which is probably how I came across this book. I love the way these poems draw ancient ideas through familiar scenes, but also the affectionate regard the poet has for the world in general.

The Cowboy and the Cossack
by Clair Huffaker

A genre-busting western set in Siberia, a fun story.

by Gregory David Roberts

This book was intriguingly suggested to Brian by some Canadian at a bar. I found it at the library and knew at once Brian would never tackle a novel of 900+ pages so I gave it a shot. It's one of those I Love India stories but with a whole lot of kee-razy underworld adventure and romance and high-falutin' philosophizing AND it is semi-autobiographical, calling to mind Slavomir Rawicz's improbable The Long Walk--which Brian did read and like.

Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks & Get Students Excited About Doing History
by James W. Loewen

Loewen is the author of Lies my Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America, two other books I loved reading more than a year ago but have sneakily included in this list just now. Teaching really is a book for history teachers, but regular people might enjoy seeing how he suggests bringing kids into a questioning and researching model for learning history. I did.

The Wordy Shipmates
by Sarah Vowell

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is a description of the Puritans settling Massachusetts. I'm impressed by the author's ability to draw life from the fairly dry source documents and round out characters that I had previously considered one-sided, when I considered them at all. Moreover, I had just read Vowell's Radio On and could really appreciate her growth as a writer since that effort. (I don't recommend Radio On unless you are almost exactly my age and think you can bear page after page of cooler-than-thou musings in the pursuit of some nostalgic strains.)

Year of Wonders: a novel of the plague
by Geraldine Brooks

Historical fiction with an unbelievably sophisticated narrator, but it's very easy to get past that. The language grabbed me right away and I appreciated the detail lavished on the daily existence of the people in a village beset by plague. Once their ordeal was over, though, the story kind of packs up and leaves in a hurry--the ending was so rushed as to be ridiculous. It's not a perfect book, but well worth a read.

Okay, so those are the favorites I can recall readily from this year. Your turn!

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