01 January 2012

2011 Book List

Rediscovering Catholicism - Matthew Kelly.
I fully support the idea behind distributing these books. There are some definite shortcomings and omissions, if not outright mistakes with the efforts of the church to connect and retain its members. And I also like that, while the book does point a few fingers, it mainly tells readers to look in the mirror and start there. I did feel like he could've boiled down his message in many areas, but maybe that is to be expected from a public speaker. I know that I have been able to take away a few tips that have helped in my own spirituality.
Outcasts United -Warren St. John.
A Jordanian woman comes to America for college, ends up staying and making her own way.  While doing so, she stumbles onto a large refugee resettlement community and ends up starting a soccer club.  Her own story along with the stories of the boys on the team are amazing. 
Fury - Koren Zailckas.
Picks up where "Smashed" left off, ~age 23.  Follows Koren through a very rough break-up, move home, therapies and pregnancy situations.  Throughout it she unpacks some serious feelings and emotions about her family, her past and herself.  Good, but not quite as grabbing to me as her first book. 
Smashed - Koren Zailckas.  (re-read) 
Great to re-read.   And having read the follow-up, it is interesting to go back and get a preview of some real self-image and character issues that, while evidenced in alcohol abuse here, definitely continued through to the next book.  This is a raw and harrowing look at a female teen social & personal experience.
I read this really only due to my interest and admiration for Pat Tillman.  The book is much more than a look at him.  It is an emotional look at the role of the mother of three sons, two of whom decide to join the Army Rangers.  Her mental stress and total focus on finding out the facts about her son's death is captivating and exhausting to read at the same time.  Her pain comes through clearly in the pages.  It does not paint the leadership in our military in a positive light.
The ESPN World Cup Companion -  Roger Bennett & David Hirshey.
I read this after the fact, trying to squeeze a little more enjoyment from the magical event that only takes place every four years.  Lots of good info, good pictures and it is entertainingly written. 
A Table in the Presence - Lt. Carey Cash.
This offers a look at the buildup to, and craziness of, a major firefight in Baghdad through the eyes of the company chaplain.  I had a little trouble sticking with it as it cut back and forth from narration of the troop movements and happenings to the spiritual experiences and backgrounds of the men.  The hunger for spiritual guidance and acceptance that the chaplain met with, and possibly helped create was interesting to read about though.
Enemies of the People - Kati Marton.
I really devoured this one. The story was amazing and the characters so well described and detailed that, by the last page, I felt like I knew them, especially her father.  The post WWII time period in Hungary seemed so captivating and constantly changing. 
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones.
A fast read because the story is told so simply, so unencumbered by anything but the core characters and how they are all bound in someway to Great Expectations.  It was a great novel but I kept having to remind myself that is was supposed to by set in the mid-90's because the primitive lifestyle of this island tribe made me think it was much earlier than that.
Rouge Warrior - Dick Marcinko.
I remember seeing this at a bookstore in Omaha when I was in junior high or high school and thinking it looked good.  But I never got around to picking it up until this year when, all within the same week, Seal Team Six took out Osama Bin Laden, I watched GI Jane on TV, and this book caught my eye from caboose's bookshelf.  I enjoyed it and the guy sounds like an incredible combatant, but I was hoping for a little more info about Seal teams and could've done with a little less "I'm this incredible, take-no-shit bad ass." But I suppose that is a good indication of the general mentality that it takes to succeed in that type of military operation.
How I Learned to Cook - Various, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon.
This collection of culinary beginnings from elite chefs was a fast, fun read. It probably could've benefited from a little more stringent editing because some of the stories were great, insightful, emotional and meaningful, but others were trivial, crass, or just lame.  They are super short so it was no problem to skim through the dogs and enjoy the good ones.
Why Students Don't Like School? - Daniel T. Willingham.
This was the reading for the master's class I took this summer.  Actually pretty readable and interesting, for a book on cognitive development and education psychology.  A lot of things that are sort of "no surprise there" type stuff, but it provides a deeper look at them and also explains how it impacts the classroom.
Pele: My Life and the Beautiful Game - Pele.
The king of football narrates his life.  What I liked about the book is how his general good-natured-ness and positivity came through in his story-telling.  His candor on racism and race relations, as well as his mistaken business decisions are refreshing.  The guy loved to play and he loved an open, creative, aggressive style of play.  Oh, and he was the greatest to ever play, winning pretty much every challenge that was presented to him.
Rome 1960 - David Maraniss.
The Olympics are a wonderful massive event for me and I enjoyed the telling of all the sagas from the summer games in Rome.  The magic and emotions that make the Olympics so powerful were well-embodied at several points in the book too.  I am now a fan and admirer of Rafer Johnson.  The combination of the cold war antics, civil rights, women's rights, the beginning of the TV coverage (and Jim McKay's reign), the beginning of performance enhancing drugs all made for a great read.
It Happened on the Way to War - Rye Barcott.
I was eagerly looking forward to reading this after I first saw it at Prairie Lights in Iowa City.  I had to wait a few months but my wonderful public library hooked me up.  The book didn't disappoint.  The author is a highly driven Marine and NGO-founder, who does have a pretty helpful New England upbringing with two college professors for parents, but that doesn't diminish the extent that he goes to get involved and take action.  Part of the second half of the book that deals with his military experiences gets a bit tiresome but the parts dealing with Kibera (the largest slum in Kenya) and all the work to found and fund an NGO is very interesting.
Until Death Do Us Part - Ingrid Betancourt.
This book had been on my "To Read" list since the author was freed from her six year kidnapping by guerrillas in an audacious rescue.  It was fast read but her passionate work to reverse the culture of corruption and drug czar-controlled government in her home country of Columbia is inspiring.  I am now putting her newer book that came out in 2010 on my list.  It covers her time as a captive.
The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson. (audiobook)
Nothing I've read of Bill Bryson's has come close to "A Walk in the Woods", when I discovered his writing.  This book was still enjoyable despite less frequent laughs, mainly because of the nostalgic look at the lifestyle of South of Grand Des Moines in the 50's and 60's.  
My Life With the Saints - James Martin, SJ.
Following this Jesuit's facebook page got me interested enough to want to know more and, although it got a bit tedious in a few parts, I did enjoy this book.  I think it will be great to re-read over time but more on a chapter at a time basis with breaks in between.  His facebook status's and short Advent videos were great so I'm hoping to pick up his new title "Between Heaven and Mirth" on audiobook soon.  

That's my reading for the year.  I totally stalled out the last few months of the year so I am hoping to find time each night or lunch to things rolling again.  If I had to pick my favorite three, I might say "It Happened on the Way to War", "Outcasts United" and "Enemies of the People" and I can't say that I disliked anything on the list. 


  1. here are mine.1. Good Company, James Martin,S.J. autobiography excellent
    2. The Jesuit Guide to Almost Anything-James Martin, S.J. excellent for almost anything Catholic
    3. Live What You Love, Bob and Melinda Blanchard, they run the best restaurant in Carribean, were from Vermont, changed lifestyles
    4.Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree Drummond. this author is my favorite blog writer and has written 2 cookbooks and has a series on theFood Network, She rocks.
    5. Will the Circle be Unbrokem? Studs Terkel
    depressing and didn't finish it.
    6. 365 Thank yous by John Kralik
    power of the written thank you. Down and outer changes life around. Good read
    7. From Robin to Junco--Mary Curtis. A 1940's kid guide to birds but written in a narrative story of a Grandfather talking to a Grandchild. Loved it. 50 cents at a used bookstore. :)
    8. 10 minutes from Normal- Karen Hughes. Counselor to GW Bush moves home to Texas. Fair
    9. Hunger Games- Susan Collins, recommended by my granddaughter. good writing strange theme
    10. Stories I only tell my friends--Rob Lowe, autobiography. I heart Rob Lowe, he made West Wing for me. :) Good read. Next 10 in next comment.

  2. 11. Don't Sing At the Table-Life Lessons from my Grandmothers Adriana Trigiani--loved it
    12. The Real James Herriot- memoir of his father by James Wight, my vet from England--wonderful re read
    13. No Biking in the House without a Helmet by Milissa Fay Greene
    Had 4 kids adopted internationally 5 more --great stories.
    14. Dressmaker of Kahir Khana, Lemmon a remarkable family and the woman who risked everything, takes place in Kabul very good
    15. The Company We Keep Robert Baer, Dayna Baer, Husband and wife true life spy story. good
    16. Gabby by Mark Kelly, excellent story by her husband told about before and after Congresswomen Gabby GIfford was shot. Very interesting read. That guy is one loving husband.
    17. Fire Season- Connors,guy goes into wilderness 5 months a yr and is a fire spotter, Kinda bring actually, not enough about nature for me
    18. Sapp Brothers Story, ugh, slow moving about nothing, sorry Bros
    19. Sacred Acre by Mark Tabb, the story of Ed Thomas the Coach from AP who was killed by a former mentally ill student. But this is about his life and how he impacted hundreds of kids over 33 years he coached. Fantastic read -- my top one of the yr.
    20. Tuesday by Louis Montalvan story of a injured Iraqi veteran who gets a service dog. Done very well. Interesting and rewarding program. That's it for this yr. Happy Reading everyone.

  3. that last one is supposed to be Until Tuesday. Sorry

  4. I've never kept track of past reads until a few months ago. It'll be fun to go back after a year's time and see what reading I've accomplished!

    Great list - I also read Fury and Smashed (thanks to your recommendation) and agree with you that Smashed is a better book. Very powerful stuff.

    Happy reading in 2012!

  5. I love this exerciese. but am *horrible* at logging my own reading. OPL has finally added a feature I've wanted for years -- a history of your checkouts! this should prove helpful next January when I wonder "what did I read this year?". side note -- you can rate the books 1 - 5 stars... but only while you have them checked out - when you return it the rating disappears! so still some bugs to work out.