SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50_in_09,

Books 55-57, plus some analysis

Book #55 was "Paranoia" by Joseph Finder. I read this via Daily Lit and really enjoyed it. It's a thriller about industrial espionage among high tech firms. The narrator is kind of a smart alec, and that made it fun. The pacing of the book was excellent- there were several times I didn't want to stop with the daily portion emailed to me and so I requested more so I could find out what happened next. The "what happens next?!" reaction from a reader says loads about whether an author is doing a good job with tension and suspense, and I think Finder did an excellent job.

Book #56 was "Anatomy of a Murder" by Robert Traver. This classic legal thriller from the 1950s was written by a native of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, set on the shores of Lake Superior and was later turned into a film starring Jimmy Stewart and shot partly in the U.P. And yet, somehow, I haven't gotten around to reading it until now. I really enjoyed Traver's descriptions of the U.P. and loved the narrator, lawyer Paul Biegler. In the story, Biegler must defend a soldier who has outright admitted to shooting a local bartender dead after the bartender allegedly raped the soldier's wife. The story seems simple at first but ends up with a few fun twists and turns.

Book #57 was *"Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond. This took a long time to read- it's over 400 pages and it's chock full of information, so I had to digest it half a chapter at a time. Diamond opens with a question: Why have the fates of various peoples differed so much around the globe- why did some people conquer widely and go on to establish powerful mega-states while other peoples remained close to their primitive hunter-gatherer backgrounds? He posits several reasons, largely to do with the luck of the draw in terms of geography, botany and wildlife. It has great maps and charts to help distill the information into graphic representations as well. Highly recommended.

1. King Solomon's Mines [fiction]- H. Rider Haggard (unabridged book on CD)
2. The Private Life of Plants [non-fiction]- David Attenborough
3. Anna Karenina [fiction]- Leo Tolstoy
*4. The Forever War [fiction]- Joe Haldeman
5. Negotiating with the Dead: A writer on writing [non-fiction]- Margaret Atwood
6. Best of Technology Writing 2007 [non-fiction]- ed. Steven Levy
7. July's People [fiction]- Nadine Gordimer
8. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2005 [non-fiction]- various authors, ed. Jonathan Weiner
9. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes [fiction/short stories]- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
10. Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang [fiction]- Joyce Carol Oates
11. Dead Witch Walking [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged book on CD)
12. The Mineral Palace [fiction]- Heidi Julavits
13. Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries [non-fiction]- Neil deGrasse Tyson
14. Titan [fiction]- John Varley (unabridged book on CD).
15. Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight [non-fiction]- Linda Bacon Ph.D
*16. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay [fiction]- Michael Chabon
17. The Return of Sherlock Holmes [fiction]- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
*18. Stardance [fiction]- Spider and Jeanne Robinson
*19. Indian Killer [fiction]- Sherman Alexie
20. Between, Georgia [fiction]- Joshilyn Jackson
21. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother [non-fiction]- James McBride
22. The Art of Happiness: A handbook for living [non-fiction]- Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
23. Wizard [fiction]- John Varley (unabridged book on CD)
*24. Middlesex [fiction]- Jeffrey Eugenides (unabridged book on CD)
25. The Twentieth Century: A People's History [non-fiction]- Howard Zinn
26. Little Brother [fiction]- Cory Doctorow
27. Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand [fiction]- Samuel R. Delany
28. The Bingo Palace [fiction]- Louise Erdrich
29. Broken Angels [fiction]- Richard K. Morgan (unabridged book on CD)
30. Futureland [fiction/short stories]- Walter Mosley
31. The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano [non-fiction/memoir] - Olaudah Equiano
32. Daughter of Fortune [fiction]- Isabel Allende
33. The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power [non-fiction]- Jeff Sharlet
34. Rabit, Run [fiction]- John Updike
35. The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness [non-fiction]- Karen Armstrong
36. Demon [fiction]- John Varley (unabridged book on CD)
*37. A Fire Upon the Deep [fiction]- Vernor Vinge

38. Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies [non-fiction]- Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
39. Kingdom of Cages [fiction]- Sarah Zettel
40. The Reader [fiction]- Bernhard Schlink (unabridged book on CD)
41. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl [non-fiction]- Timothy Egan (unabridged book on CD)
42. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain [non-fiction]- Maryanne Wolf
43. The Franchise Affair [fiction]- Josephine Tey
44. Me and the Fat Man [fiction]- Julie Myerson
45. The Gate to Women's Country [fiction]- Sheri Tepper
46. The Good, The Bad, and the Undead [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged book on CD)

47. The Other [fiction]- Thomas Tryon
*48. Towelhead [fiction]- Alicia Erian

49. Dry [non-fiction/memoir]- Augusten Burroughs
*50. A Confederacy of Dunces [fiction]- John Kennedy Toole (unabridged book on CD)
51. A Stabbing For Sadie [fiction]- Wednesday Lee Friday
*52. Half of a Yellow Sun [fiction]- Chimamanda Adichie
53. Every Which Way but Dead [fiction]- Kim Harrison. (unabridged book on CD)
54. Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass [fiction]- Lewis Carroll  (unabridged book on CD)

So, how'd I do on my goals? I had no big number goals for the total, just figured I'd read at least 50 if I followed the pattern of previous years. Possibly due to working from home, I've had more time to read and got to 57 this year. This is probably the most books I've read in one year since before I started college!

The goals I did set were: 1) To read some award-winning books (Pulitzer, Nebula, etc.) and 2) to up my percentage of non-fiction reads this year, between 35 and 40 percent non-fiction. Last year, my percentage was about 28 percent non-fiction, so anything above that, really, I'd be happy with.

1) I did read several award-winning books. All the ones above marked with an asterisk (*) have won a Pulitzer, Hugo, Nebula, New York Times Notable Book award, or something similar. Other authors on my list that don't have asterisks have won prizes for their entire career (like Nadine Gordimer) or have written other books that won prizes (i.e. the Rabbit books by John Updike). There may also be some books on the list that won major awards and I'm just not aware of it.

2) I fell down on this one! Only 17 of my 57 books were non-fiction, or about 29-30 percent. Slightly up from last year, but not by much. I'll be revisiting this goal for 2010.
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