Can We Have More Napkins?: 2008

Best of 2008:

1.  When the Elephants Dance by  Tess Uriza Holthe.  (The book is about a family in the Philippines during WWII as the Japanese and Americans fight over the islands.  It’s not often you get a Filipino perspective of what happened there, and this is especially moving and uses magical realism.)

2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker.  (How can you not love this novel?)

3. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  (Set in Germany during WWII, narrated by Death who keeps his watchful eye on an orphan who is trying to create normalcy in her world.)

4. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.   (Sweeping history of the West and the Ward family and how we end up in places in our lives without expecting to be there or belonging there.)

5.  Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. (What I love about this book is that Kingsolver gives us characters from both sides of the environmental divide and they present their cases for why they do what they do.  She reminds us that caring for the environment is not a black and white issue and is more complex  than going out and buying a Prius.  This is one of my favorite books by her.)

6. Truman by David McCullough.  (While I think John Adams is McCullough’s best book, his biography of Truman just rocks. This is the tale of the underdog who filled Roosevelt’s shoes, and did it quite well.  While he was often dismissed as a Pendergast tool (which he never was) and has been overlooked by history (though he’s gaining in fame), I think the majority of us would like to have a man like him as president again.  He put his country before himself, had integrity, and was an extremely intelligent common man.)

7. No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin. (Interesting look and FDR and Eleanor during WWII and the vastly different roles they played.)

8. West With The Night by Beryl Markham.  (Beautiful memoir of growing up on a horse farm in Kenya and growing up to be a bush pilot. During the time I read this book I had to take a turbo-prop plane from Indianapolis to South Bend, and her descriptions of flying over Africa, alone nonetheless, helped me from having an anxiety attack on the plane.  I imagined I was her describing the Indiana farmland and setting sun; it allowed me to see that it was quite beautiful.)

9. The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich.  (Every once in a while, a book I know nothing about will call out to me, “Read me… read me….”.  Such as the case with this one.  Set in Minnesota, it’s the tale of Father Damien Modeste and grapples with questions of identity and faith.  My friends have either really loved this book or fall into the other category.)

10. Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough.  (Biography of young Teddy Roosevelt– his travels, his asthma, his interests, his wife and her death, and his stint in the Badlands.  A go to book for Teddy fans.)

11. The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diana Ackerman.  (If you are an animal lover this is an especially difficult book to read.  The true account of a family who owned a zoo in Warsaw during WWII and  used the zoo to hide hundreds of Jews over the course of the war.  The idea that animals make us human did not include Nazis.)

12. The Life and Times of the Thuderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.  (I think this is my favorite Bryson book.  Bryson recounts his childhood growing up in Des Moines, IA in the fifties, and he connects his childhood to the people and events of that decade.  Shockingly enough, this is a nice counterpart to David Halberstam’s tome, The Fifties.)

13. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  (For all of you who thought that the Dust Bowl meant that is was dustier than usual, read this book.  The heroism, sacrifice, and tenacity of the people who stayed in the Plains during this time is astounding.  Egan follows the history of a few different families to see how each coped, and he explains the causes of the Dust Bowl in ways that I can understand.)

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10 thoughts on “Can We Have More Napkins?: 2008

    1. Absolutely! I think it’s his best work. What was so surprising to me was how much it flew in the face of the fuddy-duddy image that people have of Adams. It was such an interesting read. What other books of history/bio have you enjoyed?

      1. Exactly! I don’t know how, but everyone has the image of him being this grumpy president that no one really likes. It’s definitely a great book due in large part to the fact that it attacks that view.

        I really like Ben Franklin’s autobiography, McCullough’s “1775,” and the Federalist Papers (although those aren’t really literature in the usual sense!).

      2. Haha I know what you mean. The way McCullough goes inside those historical events… it really feels like you were there! He’s amazing.

      3. Well get thee to a bookstore and get Isaac’s Storm, In The Garden Of The Beasts, and my favorite, The Devil In The White City. Oh and Thunderstruck, too.

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