Here’s a summary of the best books I’ve enjoyed reading this last year.
The Skies Belong to US: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan Koerner. An unusual but interesting story of two young people who meet in Coos Bay, Oregon, go their separate ways and then reconnect and concoct a somewhat bizarre plan to hijack a plane. Through the path of this relationship, we are treated to a history of plane hijacking in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Strange Stones: Dispatches from East by Peter Hessler. Stories mostly about life in China at the end of the 20th century. Peter Hessler is a staff writer for the New Yorker and served as Bejing correspondent for seven years. An interesting read.
To The Moon & Timbuktu. A trek through the heart of Africa…an interesting memoir by Nina Sovich of her travels to see and experience West Africa and to find her core values and beliefs, then to settle down as an urban housewife and mother.
Sweet Salt Air. Barbara Delinsky is a N.Y. Times best-selling author with more than 15 novels. This one is a moving story of the cooking process of people on an island off Maine, intertwined with the medical problems of one MS inhabitant. More of a chick novel, but interesting nonetheless.
Blood & Beauty: The Borgias; a historical novel by Sarah Dunant. An interesting, imaginative take on the interactions of the Borgia family around the year 1500. It traces the role of the strong political Pope and his loving children Cesare, the cardinal warrior, Lucrezia, Juan and Jofré; their many marriages, liaisons and tangled political intrigues.
Still Foolin’ `Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going and Where the Hell are My Keys? by Billy Crystal, a comedian, actor, producer, director, author and nine-time Oscars host. This is a fascinating and interesting journey of a man who found and brought joy to many people doing many different things. A little unevenly written but a vicarious trip through a consummate performer’s life at his midpoint. You’ll enjoy it.
David & Goliath is another interesting read from Malcolm Gladwell. Not quite as good as Outliers or The Tipping Point, but a typical Gladwell explanation of what on the surface seems obvious but turns out to be more nuanced than your think. Enjoyable.
My Promised Land by Ari Shavit, a leading Israeli journalist, who has presented a fascinating history of Israel through the eyes and responses of its leading participants as well as a close examination of the six internal and external problems facing the nation. Very interesting read.
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism. An interesting chronicle of the lives and inter-relationship of two engaging presidents by Doris Kearns Goodwin, albeit a bit tedious because of her sidetracks into other contributing players in their lives.
These Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindberg and America’s Fight Over World War II by Lynne Olsen. This is the fascinating and illumiating, behind-the-scenes story of the turbulent years of 1939 through 1941 between the over-cautious president and the isolationists over America’s support of Britain and entry into the great conflict.
The Color of Water by James McBride. This is the fascinating story of the author, growing up with 11 siblings with a Jewish mother and a black Christian father. It is also the concurrent story of his mother, Rachel, nee Ruth, and how she evolved from a rural southern hamlet. A really good read.
Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Laker Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman. The inside, back story of the trials and tribulations of the stars and lesser lights who made the showtime era of Lakers basketball the exciting achievement of five NBA championships. Of particular interest was the influence of Magic Johnson, not only on the court but in the management decisions during this phenomenal period. A great read if you have any interest in this era.
In case you’d like some other choices, here’s the list from last year:
Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
*The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs
Fridays with Art by Dick Wooten
*Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand
A Natural Woman by Carole King
Hamilton, a Biography
*Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly
In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson
*Bull by the Horn by Sheila Blair