Year 11, Book 26

26. While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness by Eli Sanders

Eli Sanders recounts the rape and murder of Teresa Butz by a mentally ill man named Isaiah. He recounts the life stories of Teresa, her girlfriend Jennifer who was also raped, and Isaiah the man who committed the crime. He also writes about the trial. Although the story itself was interesting, I didn’t find the writing terribly so. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 25

25. The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Suhota

This book follows the lives of three Indian men who have illegally emigrated to England via various means as well as the wife in name only for visa purposes of one of them. It shows their lives in India and what inspired them to leave as well as how their lives play out once they arrive in England. I honestly had a hard time keeping their stories straight, and I never got very interested in any of the characters. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 24

24. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Everything changes for the Cousins and the Keating families on the day that Bert Cousins shows up uninvited to a distant coworker’s baby christening and falls in love with his wife. The story follows the two families and their 6 kids over the course of five decades. It’s really a character study of sorts. Not much actually happens in the book. I don’t mind books that are all about character arcs, but this one didn’t do much for me. There were so many characters and you just get such small pieces of each of their stories it really felt like more of a series of interconnected short stories to me rather than a full novel. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 23

23. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

I’ve enjoyed Mary Roach’s other books, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Grunt. I’m typically not that interested in military stuff, so I thought I might not enjoy this one. On the contrary I really liked it. It’s not particularly about war or military tactics. Instead it’s about the science behind making the military more effective, everything from clothing design to food to dealing with diarrhea. It found it all really fascinating. I give an 8 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 22

22. Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo

This is a sequel to one of Russo’s most well-known novels, Nobody’s Fool. I’ve read that book, but it had been so long ago that I didn’t really remember most of the characters. Having read all of Russo’s books, many which take place in small towns, it was a little hard to separate them all out in my mind and connect the right one to this book. No matter though. I think this book stands on its own and you could probably read and enjoy it without having read Nobody’s Fool. Everybody’s Fool returns to the small town of New Bath in upstate New York, a down on its luck town whose inhabitants are just trying to find a way to get by. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 21

21. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

In this memoir Gloria Steinem focuses on her life spent traveling. Starting in her childhood and throughout her life Steinem spent a good portion of her life on the road. She recounts tales each framed around a specific subject such as her childhood, traveling to college campuses, and taxi drivers and flight attendants. I thought it was a great way to organize the book as it allowed her focus in on certain things and talk about how they changed over the course of her life. I thought it was a very interesting book. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 20

20. Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes

Dave Holmes writes a memoir that covers his childhood through present day including his years working as an MTV VJ. He frames the book using songs, which I thought was an interesting and fun way to do it. Although at times I did lose track of the songs being used. He talks a lot about how he never felt like he fit in throughout most of his life. It was an entertaining memoir and definitely of interest to people who themselves feel like they are the odd man out. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 19

19. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I really loved Brown Girl Dreaming, but I could not get into this book. It’s a short book and I assumed it was another young adult novel especially since it involves teenagers for much of it, but the publicity indicates it’s Woodson’s first adult novel in 20 years so  I guess it’s not YA. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 18

18. Your Favorite Band is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life by Steven Hyden

Steven Hyden examines famous pop music rivalries like The Beatles and Rolling Stones or Biggie and Tupac. He looks at them in context of the culture at the time as well as his own personal life and relationship to them. Some of the rivalries worked better for me than others. Some of them I felt like they were a bit of a stretch in terms of them being actual rivalries, but as a music lover I thought this book was really fun and a great read. I give it 8 out of 10.

Year 11, Book 17

17. Crabtown, USA: Essays & Observations by Rafael Alvarez

Rafael Alvarez is a lifelong Baltimorean who long worked for The Baltimore Sun. In this collection of stories and essays he writes about his beloved city everything from his own experiences to stories he heard during his time as a newspaperman. It just seemed like a very random collection of stories. I would have liked to see something put together with a little more cohesion. I give it a 5 out of 10.