Monday, December 21, 2009

Over Readers Anonymous

First, I want to say that I just read two new books that were so arresting that I had to add fourth and fifth runners up for best books of the year. Fourth Runner Up - Best Book Of The Year!! The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter – hilarious prose – stay tuned for full review tomorrow. Fifth Runner Up- Best Book Of The Year!! Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn – an eye opening look at female issues in 3rd world countries – stay tuned for full review tomorrow

Next - Books I Read in 2009 That Didn’t Make It To My Top Ten List – Pretty Good, To “How’d This Even Get Published?” Unless you have an extreme book-addiction and a high tolerance for verbal flatulence, this will probably bore you out of your gourd. If you get through the whole list, I salute you! Click on Read More below to get the “Full Monty”.

These didn’t make it to the top 10 but were amusing and worth reading (listed in order of how amusing and how worth).

Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis – How little Jim Henson had to do with their success – merchandising was the key.

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam by Zainab Salbi, Laurie Becklund – Suddam’s pilot’s daughter, founder of Women for Women, Inc. – absorbing story.

The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Oil Fortunes by Bryan Burrough – Engrossing if you care about the history of oil fortunes, which I do - informative history if you don't.

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis – Evolution of the quarterback sack, told in the context of a touching story.

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi – Well told bio of tortured tennis prodigy.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink – Not really about a young man having an affair with an older woman/Holocaust employee – but rather an emotive story about illiteracy.

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout – Pretty scary to think that there are people out there with zero conscience – really!

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst – Man’s wife dies, dog witnesses – man tries to teach dog to talk to find out why – finds out much more.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder – Inspiring story of one man’s life providing medical rescue in third-world countries.

Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup – Parks chaplain brings humanity and humor to grief and tragedy.

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, PhD – What most people don’t understand about poverty but should.

Willie Nelson by Joe Nick Patoski – Cool story about a cool guy.

Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Kogan – Journalist investigates disappearance of childhood friend and finds much more.

Rome 1960: The Summer Olympics That Stirred the World by David Maraniss – Landmark Olympics – Lots of entertaining info and historic dynamics.

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris – Fun, interesting, revolutionary time in movie-making history.

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson – Bill could make the Wall Street Journal funny.

The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson – Autistic boy in Elgin, TX gets better, riding horses in Siberia.

The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives by Cheryl Jarvis – Women buy a big diamond necklace together and take turns wearing and telling about it – fun, refreshing, true story.

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens – This guy is brilliant –whether you agree or not.

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb – Man’s wife survives Columbine, but their marriage gets weird – Wally Lamb can tell a seductive story.

Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin by Kathy Griffin – Funny, smart, smart-ass.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter – Growing a garden in slums of Berkley, CA

Born Round by Frank Bruni – NY Times food editor talks about his life-long eating disorder.

Head Cases by Michael Paul Mason – Soldiers sent back from Middle East alive, but with severely disabling head injuries that they probably shouldn’t have survived.

Bonk by Mary Roach – History of screwing – yes, you heard me right – funny, but not as good as her book Stiff, which although it sounds sexual, was about what happens to bodies after death.

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff – No one should have to go through the horror of meth addiction. His son wrote his version too (Tweaked), but dad’s is better.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – Lyrical dissection of the fantasy of the 1950’s American life.

The Devil's Alphabet by Daryl Gregory – Although I haven’t actually finished this one yet, it’s a good Psy-Fi tale – a genre I rarely read.

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult – Typical Picoult – difficult topic (heart donation to kid by death-row guy), presented as only she can.

Cowgirl Cuisine by Paula Disbrowe – Killer cookbook – beautiful photos and heartwarming stories about a NY gal who moves to TX and becomes a cowgirl.

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh – Girl with medical condition that prevents her from maturing finds love and adventure – sort of.

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn – Down and out detective and police dog academy dropout solve crime – clever, fun.

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder – Over my bow financial stuff, but fascinating story about one of the richest guys in the world.

Home Game, Michael Lewis – Touching tale of becoming a father.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan – Biggest forest fire in America, ever – tragic, spine-tingling.

A Disorder Peculiar To The Country by Ken Kalrus – Farcical story about divorce in the middle of 9/11 (OK, I know – but it is pretty good).

These were marginal - no particular order.

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve – Of course Anita Shreve writes well, but this story was a little too soap-opera for me.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – Frank Lloyd Wright’s promiscuity – whatever - I’d rather know about his brilliant career.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – Russian murder mystery.

A Far Country by Daniel Mason – South American immigrant seeks brother in slums of big city - read his book The Piano Tuner instead. 

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – Novel not so loosely based on Laura Bush – pretty rich stuff about the Bush family.

A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs – I love his writing, but this one, which is about his father who is not as entertainingly dysfunctional as the rest of the fam, is not as good as his other books.

Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff – Kid talks about meth addiction – agonizing – but neither as agonizing nor as well done as his father’s suffering story (Beautiful Boy).

Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town by Warren St. John – Refugee kids play soccer. The refugee part was of interest, but the overall story dragged.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris – Love him but this felt like a rehash of his other, better books.

Lost City of Z by David Grann – Amazon adventures - read River of Doubt instead.

Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross – Compelling life-story but not particularly well written.

The Yankee Years by Joe Torre – The title says it all - readable but gets to feeling redundant about 2/3 of the way through.

Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad – Kid survives plane crash in snowy mountain – OK – not fab.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – I’m not a big fan of stories about women fighting over men, but it was Henry VIII, not just some dude, and the politics were fun - worth the read.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry – Child abuse story that takes 250 pages to get semi-OK.

These pretty much sucked - no particular order.

Push by Sapphire – Movie (Precious) has got to be better.

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child – pedestrian espionage.

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey – True or not, Million Little Pieces was waaayyyy better.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – Larsson must have a killer publicist - highly touted but mediocre - compelling framework, boringly told.

Lush Life by Richard Price - Ditto

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn – Woman goes to Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and can’t seem to learn to add more salt to her dishes – read My Life in France by Julia Child or Julie and Julia instead.

Candy Girl by Diablo Cody – Come on Cody, you wrote the screenplay for the movie Juno, so I know you’re smarter than this.

One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell – Bushnell should stick to journalism – this isn’t Sex In The City.

Last Words by George Carlin – I can take him in small doses – such a whiner!

Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top by Joey Kramer – Rock band does some drugs gets famous, does too many drugs, falls – blah, blah, blah.

Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them by John Silverwood, Jean Silverwood – I love survival stories, but this one is tre boring.

Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl – This pains me as I love, love Ruth Reichl (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Sapphires and Garlic, editor of Gourmet magazine) but his one felt like a desperate attempt to pay off some credit cards.

Up Till Now: The Autobiography by William Shatner and David Fisher – Obviously a pretty alluring guy, but horribly written – too bad.

Duchess of Palms by Nadine Eckhardt – Austin/Washington DC politics and gossip – could have been good, but she should have gotten someone else to write her story.

Couldn’t even get through these - tossed across the room - no particular order.

The Gate House by Nelson DeMille – Will the real Nelson DeMille please come back?! I couldn’t get past the first 50 pages.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer - Vampire angst – I think – tossed it.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher – Carrie needs to either get off meds or get them adjusted – pitifully bad.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World's Most Beloved Neighbor by Amy Hollingsworth – Sugar shock slush – wish she had written about his life instead of using him to “witness.”

The Shack by William P. Young – just the fact that so many people liked it is really scary.

Congratulations! - Can't believe you read the whole thing!! You must be one of those readers that slogs to the end of even the worst of books! Right?

Happy Holidays and Super 2010!



  1. I liked The Hour I First Believed, but I liked She's Come Undone better. I just finished The Big Rich and liked it. I also liked Eat Pray Love. Still enjoy your writing. Dusty

  2. Thanks Dusty! I agree. I think several of Lamb's other books were better. Glad you liked Big Rich - it all felt so familiar. Eat Pray Love was certainly a favorite of everyone's. Thanks for commenting - and for liking my writing. SueAnn

  3. Oh, I HAVE to come back here when I have more time!! I saved your link to share with my friends!
    Merry Christmas!

  4. Thanks Mary! I just subscribed to your cool blog as well! Have a merry, merry yourself! SueAnn