54. Fat Land by Greg Critser
This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Having read several other books in this type of genre such as Fast Food Nation and Don’t Eat This Book, I was expecting something more along those lines. Instead I got a lot more information on history and politics that led to kids getting less exercise in schools, the increased use of high fructose corn syrup, and lots of other stuff. It was interesting and didn’t wind up being a complete repeat of stuff I already knew, which is something I thought might be the case. I give it a 7 out of 10.
53. The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness by Jerome Groopman
Definitely not as good as the other book I read by him called How Doctors Think. He discusses several cases he had throughout his years as an oncologist and how hope affected their cases. Then at the end of the book he does literally go into the anatomy of hope by examining what biologically causes it. I give it a 6 out of 10.
52. Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury
Not something I probably would have picked up on my own, but my mom recommended it to me. It’s the story of adoptive parents who have their adoption challenged after having the boy for 5 years. The birth mother gave the boy up for adoption because her husband was abusive and she found out she was pregnant after he went to prison. She forged his name on the adoption papers, so when he gets out of prison and finds out he has a son they challenge the adoption. Definitely heart-wrenching at times. I give it a 6 out of 10.
51. Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell
An amusing collection of essays written by Sarah Vowell about her life or just thoughts on life. This collection was created from stories she had in the New Yorker or on NPR’s This American Life. I give it an 8 ou out of 10.
50. A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League by Ron Suskind
This book has been on my too read for quite awhile. I don’t know why I never made it a priority to read as it sounds like something right up my alley. I finally decided to pick it up after finding out that is the book selection for the One Maryland, One Book program.
The book chronicles the life of Cedric Jennings from partway through his junior year at a terrible high school in Washington D.C. through his freshman year at Brown University. There are also side stories about his mother, a working class single woman who barely makes ends meet and his father, a well educated man but who throws his life away with crime and drugs.
The book is inspiring and heartbreaking. It really hits home how a diploma from a poor, failing, inner city high school is just not the same thing as a diploma from a better off school. Despite the fact that he graduates, Cedric is at nowhere near the level of his peers at Brown. It made me think of the documentary I just watched on HBO a few weeks ago called Hard Times at Douglas High that chronicled a year at Douglas High in Baltimore. It was obvious at the end of the film that they were just trying to push as many students through as possible and doing everything they could to allow them to graduate even though most of those kids came nowhere near leaving school with a respectable high school education.
It also made me think about the cultural literacy that we often take for granted. Not only was Cedric behind academically he was also behind culturally in that many of the references we take for granted he didn’t understand at all. During one class at Brown the professor made a reference to Ellis Island that Cedric did not understand at all because he had never heard of Ellis Island before.
The whole thing is just very frustrating and anger inducing. Kids should not be “learning” in institutions that aren’t really teaching them anything. And students who do have the drive to succeed shouldn’t be punished for wanting something better.
I give the book a 9 out of 10.
49. Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
The story takes place in Europe at the end of WWII. There are 3 stories going on that eventually all converge by the end of the book. First a German family and the Scottish POW they had working on their farm are traveling East trying to escape the oncoming Russians. The second story is of a Jewish man who manages to escape from the train that was taking him to a work camp and subsequently disguises himself as a German soldier to escape detection. Third the story of some French Jewish women at a Nazi work camp. Although the story probably gives a good idea of what was happening during the War to various people experiencing it, I never really felt connection with any of the characters. It all seemed very detached. I have really liked most of Bohjalian’s books that I have read in the past, but this one just didn’t excite me much. I give it a 5 out of 10.
48. On Call: A Doctor’s Days and Nights in Residency by Emily R. Transue
This book is somewhat similar in nature to the book Intern, which I read not too long ago. Both books describe their lives during residency, but I liked this book much better. This book is more focused on stories of experiences with patients. Although it does touch lightly on some of the same issues that Intern did such as lack of sleep and floating shifts this book seemed much more personal and a much lighter read. I give it an 8 out of 10.
47. Escape by Carolyn Jessop
The true story of how the author escaped from the FLDS with her eight children. The book details her life growing up in the FLDS, the 17 years she spent in an abusive marriage as the fourth wife of a man 40 years her senior, and finally her escape after the ascent of Warren Jeffs and the continued abuse in her home made her realize that the FLDS was not what she grew up believing it to be. The story itself is compelling, but I didn’t think the writing was very good. It kind of had the feeling of first I did this, then this happened, etc. So if you’re really interested in learning more about the inner workings of the FLDS this is a good book, but if you want something really well written I wouldn’t recommend it. I give it a 7 out of 10.
46. Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff
I mentioned wanting to read this book awhile back when I read the book written by his father called Beautiful Boy. Both the books talk about Nic’s drug addiction, but they are very different. I think Beautiful Boy was much better. Tweak details about a year and half in Nic’s life towards the end of his drug addiction. Although given his many relapses I do have to wonder if he is still sober at this point. I give it a 6 out of 10.