2011 reading wrap-up

This post is the book-end to my reading in 2011. I put a lot of books down this fall, thankful for the 50-page rule, and still managed to consume 3504 pages:

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave (232 pages)
    My husband is continually accusing me of giving away the story, and that’s definitely a danger when describing this book. All you need to know is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple — journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday — who should have stayed behind their resort’s walls. The story isn’t nearly as depressing as it might sound, and it is definitely worth picking up for the characters and narrative style.
  • Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman (70 of 320 pages)
    For hundreds of years kings had flings, extramarital affairs, and sexual escapades. A book about them certainly has the potential to be a scintillating read. Unfortunately, this book read too much like a history book — full of names and dates — and was a little short on story for my taste. While I found most of it pretty interesting, I just didn’t keep my attention. History buffs might like this much better than I did. If you pick it up, be prepared for the author to jump around quite a bit, as the book is organized by theme, not time.
  • Little Princes by Conor Grennan (304 pages)
    Child trafficking was one of the unfortunate byproducts of the Nepali Civil War. This is the story of one person’s attempt to care for displaced Humli orphans and reunite them with their families. The writing is fantastic, and the story is heartwarming – full of hope and romance. It is definitely worth picking up if you’re interested in this part of the world or how war affects families in a very personal and painful way.
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (785 pages)
    This is a modern fantasy novel that takes you into a world where where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime. It is the first a trilogy, but I wasn’t captivated enough by the writing to bother with the next two. More seasoned fantasy readers and fans may choose differently.
  • Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky (104 of 670 pages)
    DON’T bother reading this book. It was assigned as pre-reading for a networking event. I didn’t meet a single person who read the whole thing. Most of us were bored by the end of the first chapter, and even when we skipped ahead to the potentially juicy chapter on sex, were disappointed. If you like biology and don’t really care about getting a shred of useful, applicable information, then be my guest. Otherwise, forget it.
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (53 of 276 pages)
    The premise of this book is awesome: a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. The beginning of the book is so depressing, though, that I dreaded reading it. Perhaps one day, I’ll pick it up again.
  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (311 pages)
    This is the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard as told by a Puritan girl from Great Harbor (now Martha’s Vineyard). It’s got it all: secret friendships, Wampanoag shamens, 17th century sexism, and a window on early academia.
  • Chi Running by by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer (230 pages)
    I organized a Chi Running seminar earlier this year with some girlfriends. This is the companion book that helps you understand the technique which promises to “transform your running from a high-injury sport to a body-friendly, injury-free fitness phenomenon.” My running is still a work in progress.
  • Murder in the High Himalaya by Jonathan Green (267 pages)
    Loved this book! It describes the unforgettable and brutal killing of Kelsang Namtso — a seventeen-year-old Tibetan nun fleeing to India — by Chinese border guards in 2006. Witnessed by dozens of Western climbers on the flank of Cho Oyu, Kelsang’s death sparked an international debate over China’s savage oppression of Tibet.
  • The Affair: A Reacher Novel by Lee Child (381 pages)
    I’ve been reading Jack Reacher novels for many years. This is the prequel…the story of when and how Jack defected. A must read for fans!
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (495 pages)
    This book is best described as a hallucinogenic road trip across the American psyche. The premise of Gaiman’s tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: “gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can’t turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. The story is bizarre and wonderful at the same time.
  • Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald (272 pages)
    This book won the Banff Mountain Book Festival grand prize in 2011 and is basically a documentary of Polish climbers in the 80s, who were renowned for their winter ascents in the Himalaya and for putting up incredibly daring routes on 8000m peaks. I was fascinated by what climbers locked behind the Iron Curtain had to do to plan and execute major mountain adventures.
  • The Best British Mysteries IV edited by Maxim Jakubowski (306 pages)
    Nick picked this up in the airport on the way to Calgary. It was the perfect read after the seriousness of Polish climbing.  The book is full of short crime stories that are written by some of my favorite authors – Lee Child and Alexander McCall Smith to name a few.

 
Next up:

 
I’ll gladly take recommendations for other books!

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