Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Year's Resolution Book Review

My record on keeping my New Year's Resolutions is not so great, but that didn't stop me from resolving to read 12 books in 2011. I only read 8. I also read every issue of the Economist, a shit-ton of cookbooks, and more celebrity gossip websites than I care to publicly admit, so I count 2011 as a semi-victory. Here are my brief book reviews of the books I made it through in reverse order of how much I liked them.

8. Candide by Voltaire
I'm glad I read this book, though I can't say that I enjoyed it much. Clearly my tolerance for classic literature has decreased greatly from high school English classes.

7. Introduction to Economic Analysis by R. Preston McAfee
Yes, this is a textbook, and I normally would not include textbooks, but I did read this book cover to cover. It's a free e-book, so you can read it too if you need to catch up on basic principles of microeconomics and game theory. Very readable. As fun as a textbook could be, with all sorts of entertaining footnotes and commentary. But since it's a textbook, it still winds up at #7.

6. My Life by Golda Meir
This book took me over a year to finish. Another book I'm glad I read, but...it is LONG. It was interesting to hear about the creation of the state of Israel from her perspective, especially in light of the current state of the Middle East.

5. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
I have been trying to catch up on books that are referenced a lot in popular culture, and I definitely think this book is in that category. Again, points for brevity, but I can't say I was enthralled with a book told from a dog's perspective. Maybe I lost my imagination somewhere.

4. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
This book was a bestseller, and it's easy to see why - it's an entertaining and heartwarming story about a bunch of kids with completely kooky parents who grow up to be OK (mostly). And it's supposedly all true. I definitely appreciated my parents more after reading this.

3. City of Thieves by David Benioff
This book was about two guys during the siege of Leningrad trying to avoid execution by searching for a dozen eggs for an officer's daughter's wedding cake. The setting is obviously grim, but the book is absurd and humorous because of it.

2. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Full disclosure - Dave Eggers is my favorite contemporary author, and my favorite book of his is What is the What, a fictionalized account of the life of a Sudanese refugee. Like What is the What, Zeitoun is a fictionalized true story. Zeitoun is about a Muslim family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Their experience is heartbreaking and horrifying, but like all of Eggers' novels of this nature, he manages to make the book more uplifting than depressing.

1. The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell
This was one of the most creative premises for a book that I have ever heard of. Felix, a leftist pole living in France, is the author of the definitive guidebook to the USSR. When it collapses, his life is turned upside down. This book explores ideas about what home is and what happens when our most cherished beliefs turn out not to be true at all. A truly creative novel.

I am making the same resolution again this year...and of course, I am already behind.