Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Five best books I read in 2011

Blame it on my smart girl glasses, but many people have this idea that I spend my evenings lounging around reading Rousseau, Thoreau, and Seuss (the doctor). I do love to read. I do love to write. One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. But I don't read fiction, I don't read science fiction, I don't read mysteries, I don't read cookbooks, and I certainly don't read anything by Francine Rivers.

But I do read memoirs. Oh how I love them! In fact (and I promise you I did not plan this), my five favorite books from last year are all memoirs! So, in no particular order other than from first most favorite to fifth most favorite, I give you my five best books I read in 2011:

Five best books I read in 2011: 

#1 Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua 

An incredibly fascinating book written by an articulate and hilarious Yale professor, Amy Chua, about parenting her two daughters the "Chinese way" even though they are Americans living in Hartford, Connecticut. 

My favorite part was when she gave back the sloppily written, amateurish birthday cards her daughters gave her because she knew they could do better. While I'm glad she is not my mother, she would have made for an interesting aunt. 

#2 The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Everyone can read this book. It's that short. I read the entire thing on a flight from Cincinnati to Orlando. But if you simply cannot do it, invest an hour and sixteen minutes of your life watching the actual last lecture: Achieving your Childhood Dreams.

Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon. Normally these credentials would make someone as entertaining as a pinecone, but before becoming a professor, Randy Pausch was a Disney Imagineer. 

I read the book about a month before Steve Jobs died, so it's possible his story was even more poignant to me because of that. Interestingly, they both died far too young because of aggressive forms of pancreatic cancer. The Last Lecture was Randy's attempt to inspire his students and his young children on how to live their life. It's powerful and moving. Sadly, God is noticeably absent. If anything, Pausch himself (much like Jobs) have been deified instead.

#3 Decision Points by George W. Bush

President Bush was the first president I was old enough to vote on, so I was particularly interested to read about the eight years in office strictly from his perspective, without the media bias. And yes, there were grammatical mistakes, so I am confident he wrote it.

The book is not written chronologically, which drove the obsessive compulsive side of me positively nuts. Instead, it's written topically (stem-cell research, war in Afghanistan, 9/11, for example).

Here's what I know: I never, ever, want to be President of the United States. It is incredibly lonely and difficult at the top. I do, however, want to work at the White House. One day, I hope. If you can only read one chapter, read the one on 9/11.

One more thing--just read the whole book. He was our president, for pete's sake. Read it to see the sweet relationship between he and his mom. Read it to witness the power of a father/son relationship. His dad was the President and he followed in his footsteps, and they did not always agree. Learn from their experience with power, money, scrutiny, and family.

Most of all, learn about making decisions. Someone has to be the Commander in Chief. Learn about bringing clarity to a world and country in confusion. Whether you agree with his decisions or not, he was decisive and he led.

#4 Stories I Only Tell my Friends by Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe played "Sam Seaborn", speechwriter for the President, on The West Wing. He also played the guy who gave the little kid money to buy his dying mom shoes in the sappy Hallmark Christmas Shoes, but I doubt you've watched that.

My single complaint is that only one chapter is dedicated to The West Wing (the final chapter), but on the flip side you get to see Rob Lowe on the cover anytime you want, so that should be satisfaction enough.

I loved this book. It re-ignited my love of acting and theatre. It reminded me why I never pursued it, despite my passion. It showed the dark side of Hollywood.

Fun fact: Rob Lowe was on the same flight as the 9/11 hijackers doing their practice run. American Airlines Flight 77 was his standard flight to Washington during shooting of WW. He also dated Melissa Gilbert from Little House on the Praire. One more reason to be jealous of Laura.

#5 Bossypants by Tina Fey

I've been compared to Tina Fey on more than one occasion and frankly, I'm offended, given her very large arms.

This book is not PG, but it is hilarious. How could it not be? She is Tina Fey. I also read Ellen's book this year, but Tina's is funnier. Obviously. That's why it made the list. 

Desperately needing some text to write here to fill up the space because I can't shrink the stupid picture.

So there you have it. My five favorite books of 2011. And here's a list of all the books that made it into my handy Google doc, the authoritative source documenting my finished reading list:

  1. Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
  2. Decision Points by George W. Bush
  3. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
  4. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
  5. Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley
  6. Virtual Leadership: Secrets from the Round Table by Jaclyn Kostner
  7. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  8. Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley
  9. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  10. Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley
  11. 18 kids and counting by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar
  12. A Love that Multiplies by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar
  13. Seriously, I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
And a host of books I didn't finish which will be added to my 2012 list: 
  • Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation by Martin Fletcher
  • The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens
  • Sway: Irresistible pull of irrational behavior by Ori Brafman
  • Onward: how Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul by Howard Shultz 


Jess said...

OK so I heard about Heaven is For Real from a staff mom who loved it. I am skeptical, but I know this woman is reliable. I'm curious, what did you think of it?

karin said...

Take two afternoons at Starbucks and read it! I am still skeptical about the story, but I don't discount it either. After watching my grandfather pass away this year, I believe the veil behind heaven and earth is very thin indeed.

The book upheld Jesus Christ as the only way to get to heaven and gave a clear presentation of the gospel, so in that sense, I can't not recommend it, you know?

But in all fairness, the book is weird. Any kid who goes to heaven and comes back to tell us about it, seems a little trippy. But he describes Jesus as having the most beautiful eyes in the world, and I'm sure he's right. It really made me long for heaven in a way that haven't before.

michael said...

Cool post Karin. I love writing and reading book reviews, especially if it's from someone who reads a lot and whose opinion I respect (smart, Christian, etc).

I wish Amanda would write one for each of the books she has read, but she gets annoyed when I try to persuade her.

Anyway, I haven't read "Heaven is for Real", but "90 Days in Heaven" is similar, and the author makes a lot of effort to describe and legitimize every aspect of his experience. And he is also a Christian pastor. Great read.

karin said...

I like your book reviews, too, Michael! I usually don't comment because I feel like I need to say something intelligent to contribute to the conversation. Don't know why. Anyways, keep 'em coming.

I read 90 Days in Heaven and actually enjoyed that more than Heaven is for Real. All those Heaven books kind of weird me out a little though.

Anonymous said...

Love it. Love it love it. Makes me want to read most of these books. Except maybe the ones by the Duggars. I mean, come on, the guy's name is Jim Bob.

Curious why no fiction?

PS: I can just feel that any day now you're going to pull the rug out from under us and start posting every other month again.

karin said...

The Jim Bob thing is difficult to overcome, i admit.

Confession: I do read fiction. The Twilight series is my one and only indulgence. As for why not fiction? Honestly, I try. I really do. I even tried Unbroken, on your recommendation. For some reason I can never get very far. It's like the dreaded first mile in running, except there are no mile markers.

Unknown said...

I loved your reading list and definitely want to get coffee soon! Please come eat fajitas with me...

Jerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry said...

good list.