January 5, 2010

2009: The year in books

Well, here we are again -- 2009 is done and I get the opportunity to review my literary consumption and think about what it says about how I spent my spare time in the year. The total for this year is a meager 20 books, but like prior years, they correctly indicate where many of my spare thoughts were allocated.

1. Savannah: a Gift for Mr. Lincoln by John Jakes -- I read this while on our trip for New Years in Savannah and appreciated the historical perspective while enjoying the scenery about which I was reading.

2. Mr Muo's Traveling Couch by Dai Sijie -- the second book by Dai Sijie I've had the pleasure of reading, thanks to Arvay. Great cultural literary tourism. Highly enjoyable.

3. How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles H. Wilber -- Very educational for the intrepid tomato gardner (me).

4. Heirloom: Notes from an accidental tomato farmer by Tim Stark -- Awesome story by someone who clearly loves tomatoes as much as, if not more than, me. Excellent read if you dream of farming.

5. Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh -- An excellent introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh's philosophy, received as a gift from a friend, and very much enjoyed as a companion to my regular Zen readings.

6. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert -- Important enough for me, personally, to inspire its own post.

7. The Man Behind the Microchip by Leslie Berlin -- great story of innovation in the valley and the problems encountered by those on the Autism spectrum. And yet... I couldn't make it through more than half the book without leaving it in Atlanta and feeling relief that I wouldn't have to finish it...

8: A trip to the Beach by Melinda Blanchard & Robert Blanchard -- this is the book I replaced #7 with. It was the perfect dream of opening a restaurant on an island that one should read while on vacation. Definitely recommended if you are going to Anguilla or elsewhere in the British West Indies..

9. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. So many thoughts and struggles and philosophies and clever navel gazing fictional tricks. So hard to condense into reviews. A gift from bear that I thoroughly enjoyed.

10. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A gorgeous story of immigration, cultural blending and friction, history, war, outsiders, seafaring people, and more. Poignant, but lovely.

11. Giant Tomatoes by Marvin H. Meisner. The title says it all. I learned quite a bit about the megabloom, pollination, and why perhaps bigger isn't actually better, nor may it be alligned with what I want. So, very educational.

12. Sick Pupply by Carl Hiaasen. Look, it's Carl Hiaasen. It was a dirty, guilty, satisfying pleasure. What?

13. Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg. You've got to read something to compensate for the Sick Puppies of the literary world. So this was my Selection and it served me quite well, actually.

14. Waiting for White Horses by Nathan Jorgenson. This was a book I took from my father's collection. The story of friendship, duck hunting, and aging parents tugged at my heartstrings. It tugged so much that I gave it to brother before I finished the book and long before he asked for it...

15. Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson (http://www.amazon.com/Miss-Pettigrew-Lives-Persephone-Classics/dp/190646202X) -- so fun. One of the more entertaining escapist tales I've read in a while.

16. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows -- I learned more about WWII than I wanted to from this book. But it is a testament to it that I kept reading. Well done Ms. Shaffer -- the characters are stuck in my memory unlike many I encounter in my reading.

17. Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani -- I love grandmothers. A dying grandmother in the benevolent turmoil of the painful honesty of her last thoughts. An interesting structure of vignettes, and a nice read.

18. Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be by Carolyn Elefant -- Knowledgeable take on the industry but full of almost unacceptable grammatical and linguistic errors...

19. The ZooKeeper's Wife by Dianne Ackerman -- I never totally realized, on an analytical level, just how horrid WWII was toward Jewish people. Yes, it's a stupid thing to write. But, this book is the first thing I've ever read that helped me understand that slavery and its aftermath, the most horrid black mark on the US historical context, is NOTHING compared to the mass death and destruction visited upon Jewish people in Poland during WWII. This personally based story of what happened does us all a favor by driving home the point in images and anecdotes where we might fail to understand with mere unrooted words.

20. The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch -- it's a classic. I read as much of it cover to cover as I could over the year. So I'll claim it now, because, in truth, I almost read the whole darn thing. I'm just that into gardening these days. I honestly only skipped the chapters on trees and shrubs, and I even read some interesting-to-me excerpts of those chapters as well.

21. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Simply the best book I read all year. Elegant. Struggling meandering philosophical and linguistic thoughts rooted in the mundane day-to-day class struggles of Paris, told in a gloriously simple first person manner through two cranky intelligent protagonists (with hints of Japanese culture to spice it up)...This book was written to push all my pleasure buttons.

Given the two half books above, I hit 20 books for the year despite the turmoil. Not bad. I think I'll persist in that same goal for the first year of the new decade.


Carolyn Elefant said...

You are right about the errors. They will be corrected in the upcoming version. This was my first book and I was so glad to be done with the substance that I did not pay as close attention to the editing minutia as I should have.

Biting Tongue said...

Carolyn: Thanks for the personal comment and admission. That was quite a surprise -- you must have one heck of a google filter.

I did enjoy the substance of your book very much, and I expect I will use much of the knowledge I gained from reading it over the next few years in my career.

I look forward to your next book.


a said...

dang, BT - first the Kayak guys and now an author! :)

I, too, loved The Elegance Of The Hedgehog, and for the same reasons - it was written so beautifully. I especially enjoyed Paloma's soliloquy on why language is important. :)

Biting Tongue said...


Crazy, right?

I'm amazed at how much time and effort people/companies who are good at branding exercise over their image on the Internet. Very impressive.


Miss E. said...

My book friend at the gym also loved Elegance. It is sort of funny how the book entered my life and then slowly circulated among the readers.

I will have to get the Dai Sijie book, I loved Balzac.

I love that the author of the law book wrote you - hilarious!