My list of worthwhile books from 2011!!! (In the order in which I read them.)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Most people read this book when they were in elementary school, I think. I just read it this year and thought it was fantastic. Disturbing, yes. But a great book. A dystopian novel among many with similar themes, this one centers around a child. I feel to describe the plot much would give too much away, so you should just go read it.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
A non-fiction book that intertwines many elements centered around human running. It recounts the author’s experiences with running as well as details various ultra marathons, other runners, and most emphatically, the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico that has been known as “the running people” because of their running prowess. This book presents a case for why barefoot running is a good option for running. As someone who had been bare footing it prior to reading this book, it was fun to learn a little more about it and to read about my running sandals supplier Barefoot Ted. I love this book. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan explores multiple ways of obtaining food in our Western society, complete with research, interviews, and temporarily surviving on each method for a time. He reveals the startling reality of our fast-food and processed world. That 20 piece chicken nugget “meal” for $4 is likely to have much less chicken than you might hope considering its low price. He delves into organic–both large scale production and local. You will meet Joel Saladin, a farmer in Virginia who really says it all. He also explores gathering food completely independently of stores or corporations–hunting, growing, or gathering every morsel of food.
This book is truly magnificent. As I continue to learn and grow, the state of food in the U.S. increasingly becomes something I am most eager to change. For that reason, and my sheer fascination with high quality food, makes this book superlative. Please read it.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
This non-fiction book comes with a shocker for a premise: all that princess obsession might not be a good thing for your daughter. She never says the idea of princess is out and out evil or bad. What she does say is that the recent “Disney Princess” craze could have negative effects on girls because of overexposure and also because the emphases are not things like kindness, virtue, or intelligence but rather attention (at whatever cost), physical appearance, and being rescued by the prince. Not having any daughters or my own, I can’t say I have or have not seen any trend to indicate this is true. But her research is intriguing and as someone who wants to have children one day, it is definitely something to consider. Especially with research that indicates in the early 20th century, girls’ new year’s resolutions often consisted of things such as becoming more kind or learning a skill, whereas new year’s resolutions of modern ten-year olds might consist of losing ten pounds. AAAAAAAHHHH! Quite the difference in priorities. This book was well worth a read. I recommend it to anyone.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A tale told through letters, this book takes place post World War II in England. Guernsey is an English island that was occupied during the war. The book is the story of islanders recounting experiences to a writer. This book is clever, lovely, and adorable. Read it!
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
This book chronicles Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old sleuth in her first mystery. After discovering a dead body in her garden, she is determined to get to the bottom of who he is and why he is there. I had to read this book with both a dictionary and encyclopedia nearby because there were so many words and references I did not understand! It is a brilliant and fun book. All the better, I just learned a few days ago that it is only the first in a string of novels following Flavia. Excellent
Church of the Dog by Kaya McLaren
By the same author who wrote On the Divinity of Second Chances, this book is full of the same warm spirit. An artist gets a new job teaching at a high school and seeks residence in a vacant home on the property of an elderly couple, who are cattle ranchers. And so it begins. This book is honestly hard to describe. But it is an excellent read. I loved every page.
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
This book follows a young girl who returns to the hometown of her father in Kansas during the Great Depression. This is one of those nifty books that jumps from one time period to another in varying chapters. I love this book. It’s truly lovely.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Mingling mystery with fairy tales, this book is delightful. Again we have a book that is difficult to describe without giving away key points that should be saved for the reader’s discovery. This was one of my favorites of the year.
Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler
This book is an interesting presence. I cannot say this book had the most amazing writing ever. Neither can I say that it is a phenomenal story. However, for some reason it held a certain charm for me and needed to be included on this list. The story follows a teenage girl from a small town outside Yellowstone Park. Formerly easily ignored, this girl soon begins a column for the school newspaper about wolves, a touchy subject for ranchers in the area. I genuinely liked this book. Even if I cannot with strict certainly describe why.