Saturday, January 1, 2022

Books I Read in 2021


 

  1. Astounding:  John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (Alec Nevala-Lee)
  2. Home:  A Memoir of My Early Years (Julie Andrews; audiobook, read by Julie Andrews)
  3. One Ring Circus:  Dispatches From the World of Boxing (Katherine Dunn)
  4. Dunce (Mary Ruefle)
  5. Flamer (Mike Curato)
  6. The Bad Beginning:  A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1 (Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Brett Helquist)
  7. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat:  Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking (Samin Nosrat; audiobook, read by Samin Nosrat)
  8. I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf (Grant Snider)
  9. Black Widow:  A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like "Journey" in the Title (Leslie Gray Streeter; audiobook, read by Leslie Gray Streeter)
  10. Bone, Volume 1:  Out From Boneville (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  11. Dear Martin (Nic Stone)
  12. The Book of Gutsy Women:  Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience (Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton; audiobook, read by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton)
  13. The 13-Story Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton)
  14. Clean Getaway (Nic Stone)
  15. Twins (Varian Johnson; illustrated by Shannon Wright)
  16. The Breakaways (Cathy G. Johnson)
  17. Bone, Volume 2:  The Great Cow Race (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  18. Bone, Volume 3:  Eyes of the Storm (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  19. When Horses Pulled the Plow:  Life of a Wisconsin Farm Boy, 1910 - 1929 (Olaf F. Larson)
  20. Memorial Drive:  A Daughter's Memoir (Natasha Trethewey)
  21. Bone, Volume 4:  The Dragonslayer (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  22. Bone, Volume 5:  Rock Jaw (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  23. Bone, Volume 6:  Old Man's Cave (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  24. Bone, Volume 7:  Ghost Circles (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  25. Bone, Volume 8:  Treasure Hunters (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  26. Bone, Volume 9:  Crown of Horns (Jeff Smith; Steve Hamaker, colorist)
  27. I Can't Date Jesus:  Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyonce (Michael Arceneaux; audiobook, read by Michael Arceneaux)
  28. How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America:  Essays (Kiese Laymon; revised edition)
  29. Light for the World to See:  A Thousand Words on Race and Hope (Kwame Alexander)
  30. Elegy for Mary Turner:  An Illustrated Account of a Lynching (Rachel Marie-Crane Williams)
  31. Electric Arches (Eve L. Ewing)
  32. Last Call:  A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York (Elon Green)
  33. Dust Tracks on a Road:  An Autobiography (Zora Neale Hurston)
  34. Sailing Alone Around the Room:  New and Selected Poems (Billy Collins)
  35. New Kid (Jerry Craft)
  36. Earth Keeper:  Reflections on the American Land (N. Scott Momaday; audiobook, read by N. Scott Momaday)
  37. 102 Minutes:  The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn)
  38. Can't and Won't:  Stories (Lydia Davis)
  39. Tomboyland:  Essays (Melissa Faliveno; audiobook, read by Melissa Faliveno)
  40. How Y'All Doing?:  Misadventures and Mischief From a Life Well Lived (Leslie Jordan; audiobook, read by Leslie Jordan)
  41. Welcome to the Monkey House (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)
  42. The Ten Year War:  Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage (Jonathan Cohn)
  43. My Life as a Villainess (Laura Lippman)
  44. The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
  45. A Little Devil in America:  Notes in Praise of Black Performance (Hanif Abdurraqib)
  46. Queer Love in Color (Jamal Jordan)
  47. On Juneteenth (Annette Gordon-Reed)
  48. In Pieces (Sally Field; audiobook, read by Sally Field)
  49. The Complete Far Side, Volume 1:  January 1980 - June 1984 (Gary Larson)
  50. Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust:  My Friendship with Patsy Cline (Loretta Lynn; audiobook, read by Patsy Lynn Russell)
  51. Smethurst's Luck:  The Story of Dr. Thomas Smethurst, "The Richmond Poisoner" (Peter Maggs; ebook)
  52. Go Ahead in the Rain:  Notes to A Tribe Called Quest (Hanif Abdurraqib)
  53. Beyond the Gender Binary (Alok Vaid-Menon)
  54. Murder in Canaryville:  The True Story Behind a Cold Case and a Chicago Cover-Up (Jeff Coen)
  55. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins (Terrace Hayes)
  56. The Path to Power (Robert A. Caro)
  57. I Feel Bad About My Neck:  And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (Nora Ephron; audiobook, read by Nora Ephron)
  58. In the Freud Archives (Janet Malcolm)
  59. We Had a Little Real Estate Problem:  The Unheralded Story of Native Americans & Comedy (Kliph Nesteroff)
  60. Crazy Brave:  A Memoir (Joy Harjo)
  61. The Icepick Surgeon:  Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science (Sam Kean)
  62. Minor Feelings:  An Asian American Reckoning (Cathy Park Hong)
  63. Mr. Know-It-All:  The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder (John Waters; audiobook, read by John Waters)
  64. Rememberings (Sinead O'Connor; audiobook, read by Sinead O'Connor)
  65. Zinky Boys:  Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (Svetlana Alexievich; translated by Julia Whitby and Robin Whitly)
  66. Cherry (Mary Karr; audiobook, abridged, read by Mary Karr)
  67. The Fran Lebowitz Reader (Fran Lebowitz; audiobook, read by Fran Lebowitz)
  68. Brother & Sister:  A Memoir (Diane Keaton; audiobook, read by Diane Keaton)
  69. The Breadwinner:  A Graphic Novel (Deborah Ellis and Nora Twoney)
  70. 1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Charles C. Mann)
  71. Gulp:  Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (Mary Roach)
  72. A Strange Loop:  A Musical (Michael R. Jackson)
  73. Dead People Suck:  A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed (Laurie Kilmartin; audiobook, read by Laurie Kilmartin)
  74. Last Pick (Jason Walz)
  75. Last Pick:  Born to Run (Jason Walz)
  76. Dragon Hoops (Gene Luen Yang)
  77. Under-Earth (Chris Gooch)
  78. Run:  Book One (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, and L. Fury)
  79. Born Standing Up:  A Comic's Life (Steve Martin; audiobook, read by Steve Martin)
  80. Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
  81. Dark Days of the Rebellion:  Life in Southern Military Prisons (Benjamin F. Booth)
  82. Exit West (Mohsin Hamid)
  83. Seek You:  A Journey Through American Loneliness (Kristen Radtke)
  84. Fun Home:  A Family Tragicomic (Alison Bechdel)
  85. *The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die (April Henry)
  86. Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson)
  87. Nat Enough (Maria Scrivan)
  88. The Magic Fish (Trung Le Nguyen)
  89. Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands:  Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will (Judith Schalansky)
  90. Forget Me Nat (Maria Scrivan)
  91. Sweeth Tooth, Book One (Jeff Lemire; colors by Jose Villarrubia, letters by Pat Brosseau)
  92. Notes on Grief (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
  93. The Complete Far Side, Volume 2:  July 1984 - June 1988 (Gary Larson)
  94. *Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Brandon Sanderson)
  95. The Complete Far Side, Volume 3:  July 1988 - December 1994 (Gary Larson)
  96. The Worst Class Trip Ever (Dave Barry)
  97. Fuzz:  When Nature Breaks the Law (Mary Roach)
  98. Department of Mind-Blowing Theories (Tom Gauld)
  99. Dora Bruder (Patrick Modiano)
  100. Dogs on the Trail:  A Year in the Life (Blair Braverman and Quince Mountain)
  101. Yours Cruelly, Elvira:  Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson)
  102. The Midnight Library (Matt Haig)
  103. Sweeth Tooth, Book Two (Jeff Lemire; colors by Jose Villarrubia, letters by Carlos Mangual)
  104. Sweeth Tooth, Book Three (Jeff Lemire; colors by Jose Villarrubia, letters by Carlos Mangual; Matt Kindt, artist)
  105. *Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)
  106. The 1619 Project:  Born on the Water (Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson; illustrated by Nikkolas Smith)
  107. Everyone At This Party Has Two Names (Brad Aaron Modlin)
  108. Bone (Yrsa Daley-Ward)
  109. Taste:  My Life Through Food (Stanley Tucci; audiobook, read by Stanley Tucci)
  110. Sucker's Portfolio (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)
  111. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good:  Stories (Helene Tursten; translated by Marlaine Delargy; audiobook, read by Suzanne Toren)
  112. The Resurrection of Johnny Cash:  Hurt, Redemption, and American Recordings (Graeme Thomson)
  113. God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)
  114. Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders)
  115. The Tuesday Club Murders (Agatha Christie; audiobook, read by Joan Hickson)
  116. Fiasco:  A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops (James Robert Parish)

*Rereads

Friday, January 1, 2021

Books I Read in 2020




  1. She Came to Slay:  The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman (Erica Armstrong Dunbar; audiobook, read by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Robin Miles)
  2. Dread Locks (Neal Shusterman)
  3. The Women of a State University:  An Illustration of the Working of Coeducation in the Middle West (Helen R. Olin)
  4. The Princess Diarist (Carrie Fisher; audiobook, read by Carrie Fisher and Billie Lourd)
  5. The Magician's Elephant (Kate DiCamillo)
  6. Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 1 (Konami Kanata)
  7. The Fiddler in the Subway:  The Story of the World-Class Violinist Who Played for Handouts...and Other Virtuoso Performances by America's Foremost Feature Writer (Gene Weingarten)
  8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)
  9. David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall (David Sedaris; audiobook, read by David Sedaris)
  10. Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 2 (Konami Kanata)
  11. David Sedaris:  Live For Your Listening Pleasure (David Sedaris; audiobook, read by David Sedaris)
  12. A Prairie Home Companion:  Live From the Hollywood Bowl (Garrison Keillor; audiobook, performed by Garrison Keillor, Royal Academy of Radio Actors, etc.)
  13. Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 3 (Konami Kanata)
  14. God Help the Child (Toni Morrison)
  15. Oklahoma's Atticus:  An Innocent Man and the Lawyer Who Fought for Him (Hunter Howe Cates)
  16. Counting Americans:  How the U.S. Census Classified the Nation (Paul Schor; translated by Lys Ann Weiss)
  17. *Knucklehead:  Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka (Jon Scieszka)
  18. The View From the Cheap Seats:  Selected Nonfiction (Neil Gaiman; audiobook, read by Neil Gaiman)
  19. The BFG (Roald Dahl)
  20. The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)
  21. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Bill Bryson; audiobook, narrated by Bill Bryson)
  22. *American Born Chinese (Gene Luen Yang)
  23. Tales of the Talented Tenth:  Bass Reeves (Joel Christian Gill)
  24. i:  six nonlectures (e.e. cummings)
  25. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (Charlie Mackesy)
  26. Tales of the Talented Tenth:  Bessie Stringfield (Joel Christian Gill)
  27. Bad Feminist:  Essays (Roxane Gay)
  28. Monsters & Other Stories (Gustavo Duarte)
  29. Born to Fly:  The First Women's Air Race Across America (Steve Sheinkin; illustrated by Bijou Karman)
  30. A Private War:  Marie Colvin and Other Tales of Heroes, Scoundrels, and Renegades (Marie Brenner; audiobook, read by Marie Brenner)
  31. Bossypants (Tina Fey; audiobook, read by Tina Fey)
  32. Savage Appetites:  Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession (Rachel Monroe)
  33. Medallion Status:  True Stories from Secret Rooms (John Hodgman; audiobook, read by John Hodgman)
  34. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie; ebook)
  35. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie; audiobook, read by Phoebe Judge)
  36. A Black Women's History of the United States (Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross)
  37. The Great Influenza:  The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (John M. Barry)
  38. *At Home:  A Short History of Private Life (Bill Bryson; audiobook, read by Bill Bryson)
  39. How To:  Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems (Randall Munroe; audiobook, read by Randall Munroe)
  40. In the Dream House:  A Memoir (Carmen Maria Machado)
  41. *A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson; audiobook, abridged, read by Bill Bryson)
  42. Sula (Toni Morrison)
  43. Bill Bryson's African Diary (Bill Bryson; ebook)
  44. *In a Sunburned Country (Bill Bryson; audiobook, read by Bill Bryson)
  45. *One Summer:  America, 1927 (Bill Bryson; audiobook, read by Bill Bryson)
  46. Why Fish Don't Exist:  A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life (Lulu Miller)
  47. This Brilliant Darkness:  A Book of Strangers (Jeff Sharlet)
  48. Comet in Moominland (Tove Jansson)
  49. The Warmth of Other Suns:  The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (Isabel Wilkerson)
  50. Say Nothing:  A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Patrick Radden Keefe)
  51. Flora & Ulysses:  The Illuminated Adventures (Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K.G. Campbell)
  52. Be Prepared (Vera Brosgol)
  53. Snapdragon (Kat Leyh)
  54. Jane, the Fox, and Me (Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou)
  55. El Deafo (Cece Bell; David Lasky, colorist)
  56. Anya's Ghost (Vera Brosgol)
  57. Roller Girl (Victoria Jamieson)
  58. Losing the War (Lee Sandlin; ebook version)
  59. Navigate Your Stars (Jesmyn Ward; illustrated by Gina Triplett)
  60. Caste:  The Origins of Our Discontents (Isabel Wilkerson)
  61. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt:  A Memoir (Anonymous)
  62. Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Anton Treuer)
  63. Essex County, Volume 1:  Tales from the Farm (Jeff Lemire)
  64. Essex County, Volume 2:  Ghost Stories (Jeff Lemire)
  65. The Chancellor and the Citadel (Maria Capelle Frantz)
  66. Press Enter to Continue (Ana Galvan)
  67. Failure is an Option:  An Attempted Memoir (H. Jon Benjamin; audiobook, read by H. Jon Benjamin)
  68. The Fearless Benjamin Lay:  The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (Marcus Rediker)
  69. The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth-Century America (Wendy Gamber)
  70. Beyond the Trees:  A Journey Alone Across Canada's Arctic (Adam Shoalts)
  71. Essex County, Volume 3:  The Country Nurse (Jeff Lemire)
  72. Counting Descent (Clint Smith)
  73. The Tradition (Jericho Brown)
  74. Life Before Legend:  Stories of the Criminal and the Prodigy (Marie Lu)
  75. The Female Economy:  The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860 - 1930 (Wendy Gamber)
  76. How Long 'til Black Future Month (N.K. Jemisin)
  77. Bloodchild and Other Stories (Octavia Butler)
  78. Solutions and Other Problems (Allie Brosh)
  79. Intimations (Zadie Smith)
  80. Before the Ever After (Jacqueline Woodson)
  81. The Lady is a Spy:  Virginia Hall, WWII Hero of the French Resistance (Don Mitchell)
  82. In the Dark Streets Shineth:  A 1941 Christmas Eve Story (David McCullough)
  83. Conundrum (Jan Morris)

*indicates a reread
titles in bold were favorites


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Books I Read in 2019




  1. Emancipation's Diaspora:  Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest (Leslie A. Schwalm)
  2. The Onts: Secrets of the Dripping Fang, Book One (Dan Greenburg)
  3. Booked (Kwame Alexander)
  4. Stardust (Neil Gaiman)
  5. Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor (Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Brian Biggs)
  6. Women in Science:  50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (Rachel Ignotofsky)
  7. She Has Her Mother's Laugh:  The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity (Carl Zimmer)
  8. The Library Book (Susan Orlean)
  9. The Devil and Dave Chappelle: And Other Essays (William Jelani Cobb)
  10. Buried Lives:  The Enslaved People of George Washington's Mount Vernon (Carla Killough McClafferty)
  11. Bronx Masquerade (Nikki Grimes)
  12. Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
  13. Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography (Andrew Helfer and Randy DuBurke)
  14. Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems from WritersCorps (edited by Bill Aguado and Richard Newirth)
  15. Good And Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger (Rebecca Traister; audiobook, read by the author)
  16. A Man Without a Country (Kurt Vonnegut)
  17. *Booked (Kwame Alexander)
  18. Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (Vine Deloria Jr.)
  19. March: Book One (John Lewis and Andrew Ayedin; art by Nate Powell)
  20. March: Book Two (John Lewis and Andrew Ayedin; art by Nate Powell)
  21. Love That Dog (Sharon Creech)
  22. March: Book Three (John Lewis and Andrew Ayedin; art by Nate Powell)
  23. The 57 Bus:  A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives (Dashka Slater)
  24. Lu (Jason Reynolds)
  25. Einstein's Refrigerator:  And Other Stories From the Flip Side of History (Steve Silverman)
  26. Animus (Antoine Revoy)
  27. Shout (Laurie Halse Anderson)
  28. Dragons in a Bag (Zetta Elliott)
  29. Rhyme Schemer (K.A. Holt)
  30. Fake Blood (Whitney Gardner)
  31. Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic (Eugenie Tsai and Connie Choi)
  32. The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England's Most Notorious Doctor (Stephen Bates)
  33. Writing Radar:  Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories (Jack Gantos)
  34. Extraordinary Lives:  The Art and Craft of American Biography (William Zinsser, editor)
  35. Bloody Times:  The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Manhunt for Jefferson Davis (James Swanson)
  36. Stop Pretending:  What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy (Sonya Sones)
  37. Working:  Researching, Interviewing, Writing (Robert Caro)
  38. *Arsenic and Old Lace (Donald Kesselring)
  39. Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights:  From the Vote to the Equal Rights Amendment (Deborah Kops)
  40. *Orbiting Jupiter (Gary Schmidt)
  41. The Handmaid's Tale:  Graphic Novel Version (Margaret Atwood; illustrated by Renee Nault)
  42. Furious Hours:  Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (Casey Cep)
  43. Thick: And Other Essays (Tressie McMillan Cottom)
  44. Dying of Whiteness:  How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America's Heartland (Jonathan W. Metzl)
  45. Stark Mad Abolitionists:  Lawrence, Kansas, and the Battle Over Slavery in the Civil War Era (Robert K. Sutton)
  46. The Impeachers:  The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation (Brenda Wineapple)
  47. Are Prisons Obsolete? (Angela Y. Davis)
  48. Soulless:  The Case Against R. Kelly (Jim DeRogatis)
  49. Operation Mincemeat:  How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory (Ben MacIntyre)
  50. The Butchering Art:  Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (Lindsey Fitzharris)
  51. Last Witnesses:  An Oral History of the Children of World War II (Svetlana Alexievich; translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
  52. Lost and Found: Helping Behaviorally Challenging Students (Ross W. Greene)
  53. Negroland: A Memoir (Margo Jefferson; ebook)
  54. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; ebook)
  55. Becoming (Michelle Obama; audiobook, narrated by Michelle Obama)
  56. The Season of Styx Malone (Kekla Magoon)
  57. Sisters (Raina Telgemeier)
  58. Smile (Raina Telgemeier)
  59. Ada Blackjack:  A True Story of Survival in the Arctic (Jennifer Niven)
  60. I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir (Malaka Gharib)
  61. Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness (Darryl Cunningham)
  62. The Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)
  63. The Undefeated (Kwame Alexander; illustrated by Kadir Nelson)
  64. The Body: A Guide for Occupants (Bill Bryson)
  65. Look Both Ways:  A Tale Told in Ten Blocks (Jason Reynolds)
  66. House Arrest (K.A. Holt)
  67. How We Fight For Our Lives:  A Memoir (Saeed Jones)
  68. Guts (Raina Telgemeier)
  69. Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered:  the Definitive How-To Guide (Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark; audiobook, narrated by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark)
  70. Dreamland:  The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic, A Young Adult Adaptation (Sam Quinones)
  71. For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf: a choreopoem (Ntozake Shange)
  72. For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf: a choreopoem (Ntozake Shange; audiobook, narrated by Thandie Newton)
  73. My Beloved World (Sonia Sotomayor; audiobook, narrated by Sonia Sotomayor and Rita Moreno)
  74. Elevation (Stephen King; audiobook, narrated by Stephen King)
  75. The Borden Murders:  Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century (Sarah Miller)
  76. The Rise of the Public Normal School System in Wisconsin (William Harold Herrmann)
  77. Born a Crime:  Stories from a South African Childhood (Trevor Noah)
  78. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference (Greta Thunberg)
  79. One Day:  The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America (Gene Weingarten)
  80. Catch and Kill:  Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (Ronan Farrow)






Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Books I Read in 2018


  1. Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman)
  2. The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
  3. The Gashlycrumb Tinies: or, After the Outing (Edward Gorey)
  4. Radiance (Alyson Noel)
  5. Long Way Down (Jason Reynolds)
  6. The History of Monroe County Rural Schools (Julia E. Middleman, editor)
  7. How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish Without a Trace (Frank M. Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan)
  8. William Freeman Vilas: Doctrinaire Democrat (Horace Samuel Merrill)
  9. When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)
  10. Orbiting Jupiter (Gary D. Schmidt)
  11. Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case (Patricia Hruby Powell; artwork by Shadra Strickland)
  12. The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die (April Henry)
  13. Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches (John Hodgman; audiobook, unabridged, narrated by John Hodgman)
  14. The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait (Grey Villet, photographer; Barbara Villet and Stephen Crowley, contributors)
  15. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Lynne Truss)
  16. Bayou, Volume 1 (Jeremy Love; colors by Peter Morgan)
  17. Pedestrianism:  When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport (Matthew Algeo)
  18. Frederick & Anna Douglass in Rochester, New York: Their Home Was Open to All (Rose O'Keefe)
  19. The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement (Teri Kanefield)
  20. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Phillip Hoose)
  21. Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America (Wil Haygood)
  22. The Abduction (Gordon Korman)
  23. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Michelle McNamara)
  24. Role Models (John Waters; audiobook, unabridged, narrated by John Waters)
  25. Bad Boy: A Memoir (Walter Dean Myers)
  26. Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal'd (Mary Losure)
  27. Nancy Wake (Peter Fitzsimons)
  28. The Search (Gordon Korman)
  29. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (Dusti Bowling)
  30. The Worst Hard Time:  The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (Timothy Egan)
  31. The Pedestriennes: America's Forgotten Superstars (Harry Hall)
  32. Mountain Wolf Woman, Sister of Crashing Thunder: The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian (Mountain Wolf Woman; Nancy Oestreich Lurie, editor)
  33. Library: An Unquiet History (Matthew Battles)
  34. The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Kim Edwards)
  35. An Hour Before Daylight:  Memories of a Rural Boyhood (Jimmy Carter)
  36. The Book That Changed My Life:  71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them (Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen, editors)
  37. Trial by Fire (Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts)
  38. I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups (Chris Harris; illustrated by Lane Smith)
  39. Bitter Nemesis:  The Intimate History of Strychnine (John Buckingham)
  40. Barracoon:  The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" (Zora Neale Hurston; edited by Deborah G. Plant)
  41. The Rescue (Gordon Korman)
  42. The Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare; parallel text written by Beth Obermiller)
  43. Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History (Erik Larson)
  44. *Long Way Down (Jason Reynolds)
  45. Calypso (David Sedaris)
  46. Black Klansman:  Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime (Ron Stallworth)
  47. If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (Tim O'Brien)
  48. After Fifteen Years (Leon Jaworski)
  49. We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
  50. Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Maxine Hong Kingston)
  51. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother (James McBride)
  52. Women & Power: A Manifesto (Mary Beard)
  53. Soul on Ice (Eldridge Cleaver)
  54. George's Marvelous Medicine (Roald Dahl; narrated by Derek Jakobi)
  55. The Twits (Roald Dahl; narrated by Richard Ayoade)
  56. You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain (Phoebe Robinson; audiobook, narrated by Phoebe Robinson, with Jessica Williams and John Hodgeman)
  57. Meditations from a Movable Chair (Andre Dubus)
  58. The Light on Synanon: How a Country Weekly Exposed a Corporate Cult--and Won the Pulitzer Prize (Dave Mitchell, Cathy Mitchell, and Richard Ofshe)
  59. I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Austin Channing Brown)
  60. Decision (Richard Harris)
  61. They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us: Essays (Hanif Abdurraqib)
  62. Don't Call Us Dead: Poems (Danez Smith)
  63. Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming from World War II (Thomas Childers)
  64. The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)
  65. The Unwomanly Face of War:  An Oral History of Women in World War II (Svetlana Alexievich; translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
  66. Garvey's Choice (Nikki Grimes)
  67. Helium (Rudy Francisco)
  68. Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago (Max Allan Collins and Brad A. Schwartz)
  69. The First Part Last (Angela Johnson)
  70. For Every One (Jason Reynolds)
  71. World War II Heroes (Allan Zullo)
  72. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty (G. Neri; illustrated by Randy DuBurke)
  73. Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)
  74. Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood (James Baldwin; illustrated by Yoran Cazac)
  75. Lighter Than My Shadow (Katie Green)
  76. Illegal (Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin; illustrated by Giovanni Rigano)
  77. Bad Island (Doug TenNapel)
  78. Ghost Boys (Jewell Parker Rhodes)
  79. Well-Read Black Girl:  Finding Our Stories, Discovering Outselves (Glory Edim, editor)
  80. Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)
  81. Patina (Jason Reynolds)
  82. The Incomplete Book of Running (Peter Sagal)
  83. The Hazel Wood (Melissa Albert)
  84. If They Come For Us (Fatimah Asghar)
  85. Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (Kathryn Kolbert)
  86. Free Climb (Jake Maddox)
  87. The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir (Gaby Rodriguez, with Jenna Glatzer)
  88. Harbor Me (Jacqueline Woodson)
  89. Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda (J.P. Stassen)
  90. The White Darkness (David Grann)
  91. Hey, Kiddo:  How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction (Jarrett J. Krosoczka)
  92. Ghosts (Raina Telgemeier)
  93. Sunny (Jason Reynolds)
  94. *The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die (April Henry)
  95. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (Fredrik Backman; Alice Menzies, translator)
  96. The Tales of Beedle the Bard (J.K. Rowling)
  97. Odd and the Frost Giants (Neil Gaiman)
  98. Henry Dodge (Louis Pelzer)
  99. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (John Carreyrou)
  100. The Movement for Statehood, 1845-1846 (Milo Milton Quaife, editor)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Science ("Caesar's Last Breath" by Sam Kean)



I was not a particularly enthusiastic student, at least where science was concerned. Every class I took on the subject, from middle school through college, left me completely uninterested, and I soon mastered the art of daydreaming while maintaining eye contact with my teachers, always with a notebook and pen seemingly at the ready. (In college, a required class on soil science, held at 9 a.m., was almost too much to bear. To keep myself awake, I sat beside the same student every Tuesday and Thursday, a soccer player with an active night life, and nudged him every time his head drooped to one side or the other. This self-appointed task kept me alert enough that I never fell victim to the same fate.)

Needless to say, upon the completion of my last required science class as an undergrad--and, as I was well aware, the last science class I would ever have to take--I felt a sense of overwhelming joy. I had endured years of droning lectures, filled notebooks with equations and diagrams that I would never fully understand, and devoted hours of study to textbooks that described science as though it were a piece of furniture in need of assembly. Even dissection, something I did only once, revealed itself to be lacking any real interest for me, as we spent most of our time looking over the photocopied carcass of a splayed piglet in preparation for yet another quiz. (In retrospect, I should have claimed moral objections and skipped the entire ordeal, as another one of my classmates did; my grade would have been the same regardless, I'm sure.)

And yet...buried deep in a box somewhere in my parents' basement are science books. Dozens and dozens of them. Many of them are picture books--on dinosaurs, weather patterns, birds, volcanoes, and so on. As a child, I adored anything related to science, especially if it taught me something about the strange, wild, and fascinating world I had been born into. I watched episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy with such hunger that even today, twenty years later, I can recite certain moments verbatim. The house in which I grew up was surrounded on all sides by lush forest, and I whiled away hours collecting a leaves, studying anthills, and investigating dens dug by small animals. (That I escaped childhood without once being attacked by a badger is a miracle.) Like many young boys, the effects of fire left me spellbound:  aluminum soda cans would weaken if left in a fire long enough, I noticed, but metal soup cans would not, and from these simple experiments I could make endless deductions. And at some point, around the age of ten or eleven, I became obsessed with Alfred Wegener, the man who first proposed continental drift. The thought of a fifth-grade boy becoming enamored with a long-dead German geophysicists while his classmates filled their lunchtime conversations with thoughts on their favorite football players is a little tough to imagine; for me, I couldn't imagine anything else at that age, especially the allure of football when compared to the puzzle-piece continents of our world.

My interest may have been narrow and eccentric, maybe even parochial, but they were not unusual. My hunch is that many boys and girls experience a similar baptism:  a parent or teacher introduces them to an enchanting aspect of the world, and they are hooked. As time passes, however, those interests disappear. Blame is easy to assign--we abandon many of our childhood interests over time, and adolescence makes us self-conscious about ourselves, especially if we enjoy something considered "geeky" or "weird"--but I have no hesitancy in doing so. At some point, science became less about the world around me and more about the world as it was depicted on paper. The science lessons I remember fondly from my pre-teen years--raising butterflies, making alum crystals, dissecting owl pellets, creating an electrical grid from desk to desk--slowly gave way to tedious chapters in decades-old textbooks. Hands-on experiments became fewer and fewer, replaced by thick packets and endless tests.

Even today, I shudder at what has become standard in science curricula across the country. Once, while tutoring a student after school, he handed me the packet he was required to complete for his science class, which reduced a compelling topic--volcanoes--to a series of multiple-choice questions and short-answer problems, all derived from long, droning paragraphs in his textbook. The boy I was tutoring was eleven years old. In more capable hands, he would be learning about volcanoes by building his own out of paper mache, or by studying pictures of Pompeii, or by tracing every step of an eruption with props and sound effects and destructible scenery. Instead, his study of volcanoes required him to sit at a table and search for bold vocabulary words.

Which is, of course, a travesty. Our world is endlessly fascinating, and it's only been in the last five years or so--since graduating from college and becoming a teacher myself, albeit of English--that my interest in science has been rekindled, thanks almost exclusively to writers like Bill Bryson, Mary Roach, and Sam Kean.* The first wrote what is perhaps my favorite science book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, which explores the planet Earth from its earliest moments. What makes the book such a treasure is that Bryson, who has no formal training in science, devotes an equal amount of ink to both scientists and their discoveries. He tells their stories as though writing a novel--sometimes comedic, sometimes tragic, often inspiring but just as easily dispiriting--and employs creative analogies and contemporary examples in order to simplify complicated (but important) milestones reached centuries ago.

The same can be said of Mary Roach, who writes about serious topics--the utility of dead bodies, the science of human sexuality, the preparation needed to undertake a mission to Mars--with biting honesty and a dark sense of humor, both of which help lay readers connect with subjects that might otherwise be seen as too obtuse or irrelevant. And Sam Kean takes broad scientific concepts--elements, genetics, the brain--and weaves together dozens of fascinating stories in order to convey how rich and complicated each subject truly is. In other words, he takes topics that have become stodgy textbook chapters and rewrites them to reveal the human faces behind each.

Kean's most recent book, Caesar's Last Breath, explains the air around us:  what it is comprised of, how long we've known this, and who made these discoveries. Along the way, we are introduced to the first men to successfully fly a hot-air balloon; a crotchety old widower in Washington who defies a volcano and loses; a pig that miraculously survives a nuclear blast; an aristocrat whose house is set on fire by those who see his scientific experiments as proof of his decadence; the world's worst poet, writing an ode to one of the world's worst bridges; a man who hopes to defeat hurricanes with chemicals; and so on. Each of these stories offers us a glimpse into our attempts at understanding, utilizing, and even changing our atmosphere. Most importantly, Kean knows that every respiration is a story in itself--a remixing of the same air breathed by men and women who lived centuries ago, as well as the same air that will be still be breathed centuries from now. In other words, every inhale is a communication with the past, and every exhale is a communication with the future.

This is one aspect of science that is almost always lost in textbooks:  why the past matters to those of us living in the present. It's very easy to ignore the life of Einstein when all we're asked to do is understand his theories. But learning about where our famous scientists came from, as well as how they came to be scientists, is just as important as memorizing their formulas, identifying their discoveries on the Periodic Table, or using modern versions of the instruments they designed and built. We see the situations that propelled them into asking questions, making observations, and filling pages with calculations, until they arrived at a conclusion. This gives our modern world a depth that it so deeply needs, and a nuance that might serve as a warning to others. As Kean points out, not all great scientists were heroic beyond their achievements; some, like Alfred Nobel and Fritz Haber, left legacies of carnage and death that may very well overshadow their scientific accomplishments in the near future. Those who hope to one day work in the sciences must understand that not every breakthrough is universally beneficial; sometimes, the cure for one problem is the cause of another, and anyone who walks into a laboratory without that in mind is taking a great risk.

Studying the past is also a reminder to young people that those who do great things often come from humble beginnings, that they need to work hard over many years, that they often--and inevitably--struggle. Students often approach science class with a pass/fail mindset--they need to get the experiment right the first time because they will not have a second, and anything that does not achieve the prescribed outcome is meaningless. This is not how science is supposed to work. Science is built upon repetition and failure: every floundering experiment or disproven hypothesis adds to our scientific knowledge because it tells us to try again, change our approach, or move in a different direction. One of the great benefits to doing experiments with children is that it forces them to act, evaluate, and recalculate based on little more than what they've observed, all of which are vital skills. Learning that scientists of the past found success only after years, even decades, of failure gives kids permission to do the same--have an idea, conduct an experiment, and fail. As long as they see that failure as the beginning of a new path rather than the end of their only option, they will benefit much more than if they simply read about these experiments in a stuffy textbook.

There are writers with much more direct scientific knowledge and expertise than Sam Kean--Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, and Michio Kaku are only a few. And they are fine writers, not to mention excellent spokespeople for the importance of a strong science education. But it's Sam Kean and his compatriots who I enjoy the most, and whose work offers us guidance about how we can reclaim the joys of science for future generations. They remind us that science can be both terrifying and exciting; it can be time-consuming but also fun and invigorating; it can be frustratingly mysterious, almost petulant in its unwillingness to give up the solution as easily as you would like, but within those mysteries is something redemptive. To solve a mystery of this world, even a relatively small one, is to locate a missing puzzle piece, one that reveals even more of our existence once set in place. And the people who solve those mysteries, regardless of their own personal foibles and reputations, are just as worthy of our study as their most important works.



*A healthy diet of MythBusters reruns has also helped.