I try to read about 50 books a year. Sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. In all likelihood, I’ll get to another 4-8 books before New Year’s Day (since holidays are great days to curl up with a good book), so I may need come back and another title or two to the the list below.
But for now, the books below make my list of best reads this year.
Rather than give away the ending of a novel or write a precis of each non-fiction tome (which could each be a post until themselves), I’ve provided a brief paragraph summing up what you’ll find cover to cover.
Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray by Helen Fisher (NF) (added 1/2/09)
Though this book is about 15 years old, there’s still plenty of relevant study and anecdotal data to supporter Fisher’s hypotheses about love and reproduction. It’s fascinating to read about certain behavioral patterns that appear across a variety of cultures and what common biochemical threads unite romantic relations regardless of what part of the world you are from.
The Scandal Plan: Or: How to Win the Presidency by Cheating on Your Wife by Bill Folman (F)
It’s an election year; I needed to be entertained. A Presidential candidate is just too vanilla and uninteresting to the American people, so his campaign fabricates an affair and its exposure to drum up support from the American people. A wag-the-dog scenario.
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg (NF)
Journalist Goldberg takes a look at Christian extremists and their efforts to infiltrate (quietly or openly) the infrastructure of our society, in order to slowly dissolve the separation of church and state. Revisionist history would have you believe the found fathers sought theocracy, not the clear split between the government and religion which they actually saw as necessary after watching the divisive relations of the two in Europe. Christian Nationalists continue the fight to bring intelligent design/creationism into schools whenever they can muster the community support.
The faith-based initiatives launched by Bush ( which Obama supports) funnels government money to religious groups for community work. Despite government funding, they are allowed to discriminate in hiring policies, with many groups choosing to only hire candidates who can embrace the Bible. . . Christian groups receive the bulk of this funding. In return, some leaders of this movement are working to systematically get supporters in places of power in government and education, so as to expand the reach of their theocratic goals. A disturbing and enlightening read after seeing the power of the Christian Right in the 2000 and 2004 elections.
Intuition by Allegra Goodman (F)
Call it a continued passion for medical ethics stemming from my undergraduate years. . . but this book captivated me from beginning to end. Researchers spend years toiling away in labs hoping to make a breakthrough that will yield a cure or a vaccine for cancer. Can the pressure get to be too great? Do scientists sometimes cut corners or hide discouraging data to move research forward? What does that mean to the integrity of the research and the funding of the research itself?
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (NF)
I’ve already blogged about Klein’s book. The $800 billion Wall Street bail out provides a great example of disaster capitalism at work in America. After insisting that the world will come to a screeching halt without the bailout, legislators forked over the billions after negligible negotiating. Shock and awe at work. (PS. Here’s Klein’s defense against criticism from the libertarians/supporters of Friedman economics.)
The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us by Robin Meredith (NF)
We live in a globalized economy. With so many of our service jobs being outsourced to India and manufacturing jobs outsourced to China, you should be sure to understand the growth of the two economic behemoths over the last decade. Meredith also gives you pause when considering the trajectory these countries are on and what it means for our future (globally and as Americans) and our access to the limited resources we need to keep our economies active.
How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America by Cristina Page (NF)
Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade changed America. Access to birth control and the ability to plan a family meant a better quality of life for the next generation and a greater involvement of fathers in the parenting process. Allowing women to get in and stay in the work force on their own terms shook up American culture for the better. Legal access to birth control and abortion have greater significance than the sexual revolution, though pro-life leadership is typically rooted in controlling women’s sexuality. (Page regularly blogs about reproductive issues for the Huffington Post)
When the Rivers Run Dry: Water — The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century by Fred Pearce (NF)
Pearce reviews the state of the water supply around the world. He looks at the dessication of once water-rich areas and the excess flooding in other regions that leave hundreds of thousands homeless. In his travels he examines the technology (dams, aquifers, qanats, water seeding, drip irrigation, etc) and politics (pacts between states and countries that split water resources). Instead of forcing water to bend to the will of settlements, we should instead “go with the flow” and look to simpler technology used for thousands of years, as well as modify our infrastructure for more efficient use of water.
Good Grief by Lolly Winston (F)
An unexpected widow climbs out of a personal breakdown to relight her life passions and put her own needs on the front burner. In focusing on her interest in baking, she launches a successful business and provides support to a troubled teen, helping them both get their lives back together.
Disclaimer: These books were not necessarily published in 2008. They do not necessarily belong on a list of best books ever, books to read before you die, or best kept secrets. It’s just a list of the books I enjoyed most in this calendar year.