109. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Kaling is a writer, actor, and producer on the American version of The Office. This book is a humorous memoiristic essays as well as humorous essays on Kaling’s thoughts about life. It’s a quick, fun read that I highly recommend especially if you also read and enjoyed Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I give it an 8 out of 10.
108. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Kerman was a young Smith graduate who got involved in a drug smuggling scheme, which eventually led to her spending a year in federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. The book works well as Kerman’s personal story, but I don’t think translates especially well as a description of what life is like in women’s prison as a whole. As Kerman emphasizes at several points she is not the stereotypical inmate and thus I don’t think necessarily experienced things the same way that many other imprisoned women do. Sometimes this leaves her singled out for good but also sometimes for ill. Kerman is a good writer and she does have an interesting story to tell though. I give it a 7 out of 10.
107. Trespasses: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson
Trespasses is a series of vignettes about Johnson, her parents, and her grandparents’ and their lives in the rural Great Plains. There is really no narrative arc in the book. She moves back and forth in time and in the people she’s writing about. Some of the essays I found to be hauntingly beautiful while others were nothing special. Given the lack of narrative focus I found it hard to get engaged with the book, but I did really appreciate some of her writing and description. I give it a 6 out of 10 (I would give some of the individual vignettes a higher rating).
106. The Odds by Stewart O’Nan
This book is a short little novella about an older married couple who has fallen on hard times and is planning on divorcing as a solution to some of their financial problems. In one last ditch effort to stave off the impending financial doom they return to Niagara Falls, the site of their honeymoon, to engage in a gambling scheme at one of the casinos there. Because this book is so short it doesn’t contain some of the quiet, true to life moments that I have come to associate with Stewart O’Nan’s writing. I still really liked this book though and didn’t want to put it down. It’s a quick, engaging read portraying the flawed, realistic characters that Stewart O’Nan writes so well. I give it a 9 out of 10.
105. Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey through Reservation Life by David Treuer
Treuer is a member of the Ojibwe tribe of Minnesota. Rez Life combines tales from his own experiences on the experiences of people he knows on the reservation along with factual information about the history of Native Americans. He covers how the Indians wound up on reservations and what the treaties created between the tribes and United States actually mean. I unfortunately didn’t find it to be a very engaging book. The natural flow of the narrative seemed to be broken up by jumping back and forth between the life stories and history. I definitely found the historical information more interesting than the stories he had to tell. I give it a 5 out of 10.
104. How to Fix Copyright by William Patry
Patry is a copyright lawyer. He previously worked for the US Copyright Office and currently works for Google. In this book he lays out all the reasons why copyright is currently broken. He looks at copyright law not just in the United States but also in the United Kingdom and the European Union. Despite the title of the book Patry does not prescribe what he thinks the terms of copyright law should be. Instead he describes what needs to fixed and how countries should go about redeveloping their copyright laws. The books is very well reasoned and full of evidence supporting his arguments. If only the people in charge of creating and influencing our copyright laws would read this and see how poorly our currently copyright laws actually function and work to fix them appropriately. I read this book in the height of Congress’s recent debate on SOPA, so it felt very timely to me. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in copyright issues. I give it an 8 out of 10.
103. The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level by Chris Hardwick
I am a big fan of the Nerdist podcast, which is hosted by Chris Hardwick, the author of this book. The book is a humorous self-help book aimed at nerds. When I say it is humorous I mean that it is written in an engaging and amusing style. It still contains a plethora of useful information particularly for anyone who really is in need of some self-help. The book is broken up into three sections focusing on Mind, Body, and Time. In each Hardwick shares stories from his own life along with advice on how to improve your life in each of these areas. This book is definitely for nerds only. Other people will have a hard time identifying with the examples he is using and much of the humor will be lost on them. There are a few practical things I will take away from the book, but mostly I just found it to be an enjoyable read. I give it 7 out of 10.
102. Christmas in Plains: Memories by Jimmy Carter
My book club was looking for a non-romance Christmas themed book to read for December, which is pretty hard to find. We wound up reading Christmas in Plains. It’s a quick little book. It only took me about an hour to read it. In it Jimmy Carter reminisces about his past Christmases, particularly those of his childhood in Plains, Georgia. The stories I found the most interesting though were the four Christmases he spent in the White House. There’s nothing outstanding about the book, but it’s not bad if you’re looking for a quick read with a Christmas theme. I give it a 5 out of 10.
101. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
I must not be on the same wavelength as the professional fiction reviews out there this year since this is the second book in a row that has made pretty much every best of list for the year that I am giving a less than stellar review to.
The story, at least to me, was essentially about folklore and to what extent it is real or even if it isn’t real how much that matters if it’s driving the way we are living. It takes place in some unnamed Eastern European country that has been in upheaval due to a number of wars. It alternates between three tales. The first is the contemporary definitely true story of a young doctor and her grandfather who recently passed away. The other two stories are are the tales of the tiger’s wife and the deathless man that have been imparted to the woman by her grandfather, who claims to have actually been involved in both of them. I started to say that the three tales were woven together, but changed that to alternating between because ultimately I don’t think the three stories were woven together that well. There never seemed to be any big payoff of the three stories coming together at least to me, and the moving back and forth between them which should have seemed seamless instead felt jarring to me. Ultimately I found the book to be rather boring with none of the three stories compelling enough to keep me interested in the book. Obviously some people are seeing something in this book that I didn’t given the amount of attention it’s gotten, so if you’re so inclined you can read it and find out if you’re one of them. I give it a 4 out of 10.
100. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
This book is more of a novella. The story is told from the perspective of the collective Japanese women who were brought over to the United States from Japan as essentially mail-order brides in the 1920s. The story continues through World War II when the Japanese were being placed in internment camps, something Otsuka wrote about in her previous book, When the Emperor Was Divine. I found that book to be much more powerful and compelling than this one, especially since much of this book covers the same topic as the earlier one. I give it a 3 out of 10.