42. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Another book of personal essays written by Sedaris. It resembles closely “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim covering stories from his life with Hugh, his travels, his childhood, and living in France. I don’t think it was nearly as good as some of his earlier works. A few of the essays provided a small chuckle, but nothing really made me laugh out loud. And some of the essays such as his bizarre essay on Princeton were very misguided. I give it a 5 out of 10.
41. The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende
Another memoir from Isabel Allende. Her first memoir Paula details her daughter’s tragic death from medical mistakes made treating her porphyria. This book is basically written to her daughter telling her of all the things that have happened in the life of her family since her untimely demise. I will admit that I have been somewhat disappointed in many of Allende’s recent works. Her first book “The House of the Spirits” is one my all-time favorites. Aside from her non-fiction books I haven’t cared much for her recent books, and after reading this book where she describes writing many of the books I think I finally figured out why. Her early books are all based on her experiences growing up in Chile, while the more recent books diverge covering various histories and times in California. I think her Chile based books are full of much richer material, whereas she is drawing too much from research in her newer books and not basing it on personal experience. Just a thought. At any rate I loved this book. It made me have confidence in Allende’s writing again. I give it a 9 out of 10.
40. Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing in Baltimore’s Eastern District by Peter Moskos
For the most part this book is exactly what the title says it is. Harvard graduate and sociologist Peter Moskos wanted to study a police department and had problems finding a department willing to let him do it. Baltimore finally agreed as long as he actually became a police officer. So he went through the police academy and became a patrol officer in the Eastern District. He describes his experiences going through both and certain sociological factors about both. For the most part I felt like I pretty much knew most of what he wrote about having watched The Wire and from keeping up with the local news. I still enjoyed it though because I love books about this kind of thing. The only misstep I think was at the end he went into some weird history of prohibition trying to relate it to the current war on drugs. I understood where he was coming from, but I didn’t feel like it fit really well with the rest of the book. I give it a 7 out of 10.
59. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
I read this book because it’s the first selection for a book club one of my coworkers is starting that I’m going to be in. The book takes place in China around the 1800’s and follows Lily and her laotong (kind of a sworn lifelong friend that is set up by a matchmaker) Snow Flower. I didn’t care that much for the writing style and I didn’t find the plot overly exciting, but it was interesting to read about China’s cultural history during that time period. The chapters discussing the foot binding of the girls was incredibly heartbreaking. It’s hard to imagine how something so horrendous came about, and how it became an accepted and revered practice. The worthlessness of women in the is continuously emphasized throughout the book, which is just really sad. So a good book to read if you are interested in Chinese culture and history, but not especially well written in my opinion. I’ll be interested to see what other people at the book club have to say about it. I give it a 6 out of 10.
58. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
I had mixed feelings about this book. I must have enjoyed reading it and been engaged in the narrative because it’s a fairly long book and I finished it in about 2 days. I just don’t know how I feel about the plot. It’s terribly depressing. The story basically tells the story of the Mulvaney family and how they unravel after the daughter is raped. Part of me could understand how they ended up how they did, but the half of me just wanted to shake the characters and say snap out of it. So if you don’t mind reading a really depressing book, this one was pretty good. I give it a 7 out of 10.
57. Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas
A highly amusing and somewhat frightening look into life working at a public library. The author fully admits that some of the stories are exaggerated for entertainment purposes, but all of them are based in fact at least. Reading this book made me really glad I work in an academic library and not a public library. I highly recommend it for anyone who works in a library, and even if you don’t you’ll still probably like it. The only thing that bugged me about the book were these sections inserted in the middle of the chapter giving you factual information about something tangentially related to what the author was talking about. The facts themselves were fine I just didn’t care for their placement. I would have preferred them at the ends of the chapters. This may just be a personal preference though. I’m the person who hated to stop and read the little boxes of information set apart in textbooks. I always used to go back and read those after I finished reading the chapter. I always feel like reading them where they’re placed upsets the narrative. I give this book an 8 out of 10.
56. Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
For anyone who doesn’t know KKT is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. I saw her promoting this book on The Colbert Report. It sounded interesting so I picked it up. It actually wasn’t quite what I was expecting based on the title. She spent a lot of time talking about her experience growing up in the Catholic church and how she felt that once upon a time politicians such as her uncle and her father strove to insert the ideals of social justice at that time emphasized in the Catholic church into the government. Now she feels that churches both Catholic and Protestant have moved away from the social justice aspects of their teaching to focus on salvation of the self as well as issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and birth control (for the Catholic church). These latter issues being what is inserted by the religious into the government. She also talks about the history of both Protestant and Catholic churches and how she thinks they got to where they are today. I agreed with enough of what she said that it almost made me sad that I voted against her back in the day. Although I don’t necessarily think that religion and politics should be so entwined, if religion is going to play a role in influencing politics I definitely think it should be in regards to social justice matters rather than moral ones. I give the book 7 out of 10.
55. After by Marita Golden
This book had been on my to read list for awhile after I saw it at our library one day. I must have been reading other stuff at the time because I didn’t pick it up at the time. Then someone else checked it out and didn’t return it for so long that it went to lost status, which I discovered after I had a renewed interest in it after seeing the author speak at this year’s Maryland Library Association conference. A few weeks ago I noticed it was back on the new books exhibit so I checked it out.
The book is about an African-American police officer in DC who winds up shooting a young man during a traffic stop thinking he was armed when in reality it turns out he was holding a cell phone. The “after” is what happens to him, his family, and his life after this incident occurs. I enjoyed the book and will be looking into Golden’s backlist titles as this is her most recent book. I give it a 7 out of 10.