Last week I posted what I read in 2009. Here’s the best, the most, the worst and the biggest of what I read this past year:
Best History Book
April 1865, Jay Winik
This historian visited countries around the world that had recently suffered civil wars–most ending badly. Why, he wondered, didn’t the American Civil War end in genocide or never-ending guerilla warfare? His fascinating answer is found in the war’s last month.
Best History Book: Honorable Mention
The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark
He loves to be contrarian, overturning conventional wisdom at every opportunity. And he does it convincingly.
Worst History Book
Human Smoke, Nicholson Baker
Baker attempts the Herculean task of making the case for pacifism based on the events of World War II. Reading the book has the same fascination as watching a house go up in flames.
Most Overwritten Book
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Eric Metaxas
A wonderful story of a truly important and fascinating character is marred by overwrought prose and sentimentality.
Best Book by a Head of State
Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama
The man does know how to write! He shows astonishing control of tone throughout. It’s also remarkable to think of someone being in the White House who has such a startlingly different background from any of his predecessors.
Most Hilarious Book
Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys, Dave Barry
My wife and I cried with laughter all the way across Nebraska listening to this one. Guys, gals, men, women–it’s for everyone.
Most Influential Sci-Fi Book
The Minority Report and Other Stories, Philip K. Dick
Not only was Philip K. Dick’s short story “The Minority Report” made into a movie, so was his “Blade Runner,” “Paycheck” and “Total Recall.” And his story “Second Variety” is echoed in Battlestar Galactica’s theme of humanlike robots attacking humans, and the humans not being able to tell them apart.
Most Groundbreaking Book on Genesis One
The Lost World of Genesis One, John H. Walton
For years I’ve wondered if there was an alternative to the literal or literary interpretations of Genesis 1. This is it. Quite convincing.
Best Written Book That Didn’t Quite Succeed
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Wonderfully imaginative and delightfully written throughout, with turns of phrase to tickle the ear on every page, Clarke never manages to provide a compelling plot. Amazing things happen, but they never quite hang together.
Most of my reading, of course, comes at the recommendation of others. If you think there’s a must-read out there that I just have to take a look at, let me know.