Amanda Gates
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A Musings - December 2011

My mother-in-law is always very generous on my birthday (all year round, actually), sweeping through my Amazon wish list. Here's what she bought me this year:

Blue Nights, by Joan Didion: While I know it won't be uplifting, I absolutely loved The Year of Magical Thinking. I'm intrigued to hear about the rest of the story. She's suffered so much loss and to just put it out there like that, well, that's inspiring.

The Zygote Chronicals, by Suzanne Finnamore: I know several people who have read and LOVED, so I'm anxious to read this short piece, and maybe try out one of her other books.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing & Life, by Anne Lamott: Ever since college, I've known this is a must-read book for writers. So, why haven't I read it yet? I have no excuses. My friend Katie recently read this (as well as the previous) and enjoyed it. I take all her recommendations very seriously.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, by Alexandra Robbins: I read and loved Pledged and The Overachievers. Robbins has a great voice and writing style, throwing in experts and studies with real life conversations and situations. I love that this book gives a voice to high school students who find themselves on the "cafeteria fringe."

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, by John Medina: This book sounds good, but we'll see, almost two years into parenting, how much I nod my head at and how much I shake my head at. Because at 20 months, our kid seems super smart and happy already; it'll be interesting, nonetheless!

Safekeeping: Some True Stories from Life, by Abigail Thomas: I read A Three Dog Life by Thomas about her struggle after her husband gets in a horrible accident. It was quite moving, so I was intrigued by this book as well.

Is Everbody Hanging Out Without Me?, by Mindy Kaling: When I was going through a rough time in the spring, my husband bought me Bossypants. It was perfect - light and funny. Well, I had another rough experience a couple weeks ago and my best friends bought me this book. I can't wait to get started!

Archives: Birthday Books 2009, 2008, 2007

Posted: Fri, 12/23/2011 - 11:23 |

Every year I compile a post about the top 5 books I read that year. In 2010, with a new baby, I didn’t read as much as usual. And while I just missed my goal of reading 25 books this year, I’m happy with how much I was able to read. Being able to check out library books on my Kindle helped tremendously with this.

Here are the Top 5 Books I read in 2011.

The Book Thief: At first, death as the narrator was a little off-putting. But I quickly got into it and the book was just fabulous. Heart-wrenching, but full of love. I loved the father and I loved the girl. I enjoyed learning about the war from this perspective. It’s hard to imagine that this is considered a young adult book, because I thought the themes were quite mature.

Cutting for Stone: I don’t even know what made me first buy this book. I think Amazon just kept recommending it and it had such great reviews. And while it took me weeks to read, it was worth it for the in-depth family history, the beautiful prose and the complicated relationships. These children grew up in interesting times in Ethiopia, but they were fortunate to have wonderful adoptive parents. I think the family dynamic – and the love for one another – was my most favorite part.

Bossypants: I was in need of a light book and a good laugh this past spring and my husband knew just what to buy me. Sure, this isn’t Cutting for Stone-like prose, but it’s hilarious. Tina Fey is humble and self-deprecating and one funny woman. She tells her story chronologically but through vignettes instead of year by year. I loved learning about her dad, her SNL friends, her thoughts on women in comedy and her thoughts on motherhood. I borrowed this book to no less than seven other woman who also loved it.

Unbroken: I give five stars to very few books on Goodreads, but this one is most deserving of such high praise. Hillenbrand is gifted in telling true stories and making you feel like you’re right there; in this case, in a fighter jet, floating on an ocean or in a POW camp. Louie’s journey is remarkable and I feel fortunate for having the opportunity to read about him. Not very many books make you feel that way.

The Forgotten Garden: I have yet to post about this book, which is really absurd, because I adored it from page one. Maybe I just don’t think I can put into words how sweet and magical this book was for me. A story told throughout three different periods of time, all interconnecting within a mystery. Plus, not only does the author write this complicated tale, she also writes a smattering of original fairy tales within the book. It’s amazing.  Kate Morton was new to me with this book, but I’m now halfway through The Distant Hours (almost as good) and I’ve heard House at Riverton is wonderful, too.

Honorable Mention

The Hunger Games series: I loved the first book but after that the books (Catching Fire & Mockingjay) went downhill for me. I was actually a bit disappointed in the ending. However, I’m very glad I read this series. It’s more mature than Twilight, which was a very nice perk for a young adult series. The trailer for the movie is phenomenal, so I’ll be seeing that for sure.

What are your top books for 2011?

Archives of Top Books: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

Posted: Mon, 12/12/2011 - 16:48 | Comments: 6