Books Read 2009

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O.k. So it's my annual review of the books I read over the past year and like 2006, 2007, and 2008 it is dominated by non-fiction. Overall I have to say this was one of my more disappointing years in books reading as I tackled more than a couple of books in which I had a hard time getting through. With that, the 2009 list:

Mountains Beyond Mountains -- Tracy Kidder
. The story of Paul Thatcher Farmer and his efforts to eliminate TB in Haiti. Great book illustrating how someone totally committed to a cause can make a difference in a bleak country.

Ten Cent Plague - David Hadju. I reviewed this book here. All about the growth and downfall of comic books from the turn of the last century to the 1950's. Nice little history, could have used more color illustrations of some of the comic book covers the book discusses.

The Wordy Shipmates - Sarah Vowell.
Quirkly history of the Puritans who settled Massachussetts Colony in the 1600s. Vowell has a nice way of making history a lot of fun. Reviewed here.

Mystery Train - Greil Marcus. The ur-text on how to do rock and roll criticism. I of course loved the chapter on Elvis but the chapter on Sly and the Family Stone is really good too.

Hitchcock's Romantic Irony - Richard Allen. A film critic's look at Hitchcock's films. A little too scholarly for my sensibilities. I was hoping for something a little more accessible. Definitely only for the film studies major.

Positively Main Street - Toby Thompson. The author goes to Hibbing to find out about Dylan's childhood and finds a whole new world called Minnesota. A must read for all Dylan fans.

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made - Norman Cantor.
This book was about the Black Plague and was wretched. Supposedly this guy is a European History professor but you'd never know it by reading this book. I could do a better job of writing this book using the Black Plague entry from Wikipedia. Stay Away!

The Cousins' Wars - Kevin Phillips. Another book that I was disappointed in. Ostensibly about English-American relations from the 1600's to World War I, seen through the lens of the English Civil War, American Revolution, and Civil War. This book was just too boring and too tedious. I am interested in the subject, I just need a better book.

Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crimewave and the Birth of the FBI - Bryan Burrough. The book which inspired the movie starring Johnny Depp. True life accounts of the gangsters who terrorized the mid-west in the early to mid-1930's. Excellent book if interested in this slice of American History.

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson.
Reviewed Here. Bill Bryson is having a mid-life crises and decides to walk the 2100 mile Appalachian Trail. No word if he also had an Argentinean mistress. Great travelogue of his adventures on the trail, U.S. forest and environmental policy. A great, breezy read.

Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett. This was the only novel I read all year. Epic story of a 13th Century English town and their efforts to build a grand cathedral. Not great literature but a fun page turner nonetheless.

Wrestling with Moses - Anthony Flint. Reviewed Here. Story of the epic struggle of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses and the protection of NYC's West Village. We struggle to this day over the same urban development/protection issues these two fought over 50 some years ago although I would have to say that Jane Jacobs is winning.

The Tipping Point/Blink - Malcolm Gladwell. Tipping Point discusses the mechanics behind when something goes what we now call "viral" and what it means for advertising and cultural norms. Blink is the lesser book and discusses how we make snap judgments and first impressions, sometimes within a blink of an eye. Both are very interesting and quick reads. Tipping Point has sometimes been compared to (vastly overrated imho) Freakonomics.

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 - Tony Judt. Another big disappointment. I had high hopes for this book as it promised a vast discussion of all of European history from 1945-2005. But it was way too boring and got into more discussion of political alliances than the history of what happened. There's got to be a better book on this subject than what Judt attempted.

I also re-read two books that I have enjoyed in the past. They included Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers and Like a Rolling Stone: Dylan at the Crossroads by Griel Marcus. Both are quite excellent and well worth the re-reads.

That's it I think. Seventeen books, which is about average. Not sure what 2010 has in store for me yet but I do have a $25 gift card to B&N. I'll probably also try to get Gladwell's other two books as well. Any suggestions? What did you read in the past year?

10 Comments

I'm currently reading the two-part Ken Follett Masterpiece, "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without an End."

Ooh I just remembered that I also read The Road. I liked it a lot. Very disturbing but very touching as well. Definitely recommend.

I highly recommend Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada for anyone interested in fiction circa WWII. Free, if you enjoyed Walk in the Woods make sure you check out Neither Here Nor There if you haven't already read it. It's very funny.


Nice list Free. I also ready Mountains Beyond Mountains this year (based on your recommendation). Very thought provoking. Are the lives of Haitians as valuable as Americans? It is easy to answer yes, but Thatcher lives it. Amazing story.

Shane, when are we going to see your list? I always pick up a book or two based on what you read.

Also you should know that it looks like 6 books on this list were from the library.

6 from a library? That is nice. I actually read one book NOT from a library this year. It didn't feel right.

My list will be up soon.

I actually had 8 books from the library last year so I slipped a bit. Also I should also include the book On to Nicollet which is a history about the Minneapolis Millers and Nicollet Park. I had this book long ago and I think lent it to someone and they never returned it. I saw it a used bookstore and picked it up.

With The Road That's 19 books for the year!

I'm familiar with this "In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made" you speak of. Prior to reading this, I automatically assumed I would like any book with Black Death in the title.

Now more importantly, how did you like "The Road" and do you ride public transportation (if you do, it would make it easier for me to stalk you)?

Thanks for stopping by laurajr. I loved "The Road." I thought it was very spiritual. I'll check out the movie once it hits DVD.

Alas, I'm not a TV News Rock Star like Shane and I don't ride public transportation much but do work at the U. So I guess You'll have to stalk me when I walk the Mall.

I thought "The Road" was actually pretty horrifying. But (as I just realized) not as horrifying as my last comment. What's a good way to say this? Ummm, I like books about "Black Death" because THE PLAUGE is interesting. Not beacause of ANY other reason. My name is Laura, and I am constantly socially awkward.

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This page contains a single entry by Freealonzo published on December 29, 2009 9:16 AM.

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