As someone who spent much of 2011 trying to learn to write better, I grew to appreciate reading even more. Books offer glimpses into the soul of the author – a good book leaves you feeling like you just encountered a remarkable person.
Here are the people I “met” in 2011 in their books:
Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods
This is my favorite travel narrative to date. Bryson is self-deprecatingly funny about his attempt at hiking the Appalachian Trail. His partner-in-crime and the people along the way provide constant entertainment.
Abigail Pogrebin in One and the Same
A book about twins – their struggles and triumphs as they try to have their own identities while sharing so many similarities. Pogrebin shares her own story, as well as many others she interviewed.
Steig Larsson in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Larsson geniusly wrote this fiction thriller, making it difficult to stop reading until the pages ended. The book, about an unlikely girl solving a cold case murder, was too gruesome for my taste, so I haven’t continued the trilogy.
E.B. White in Essays of E.B. White
Like most, I’ve read some of White’s fiction – Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little – but this was my first taste of his nonfiction. He is both funny and insightful in this collection of essays, most of which were originally written for The New Yorker.
Many authors in The Best American Essays of 2010 (edited by Christopher Hitchens)
21 nonfiction essays are featured in this compilation. My favorite is by Matt Labash. It’s a piece on Marion Barry, filled with clever, detailed writing with some covert sarcasm thrown in.
Rebecca Skloot in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
It’s hard to believe that no one was aware of Henrietta Lacks’ story prior to this book. Her cells, HeLa, continue to grow today, providing key tools in medicine. The book tells her and her family’s story.
Abraham Verghese in Cutting for Stone
This fiction book tells the story of twin boys in Ethiopia who are adopted, grow up, then apart. It’s a story of redemption as the brothers reunite in the US later in life.
Several authors Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn
Allowing me fester on the details of Bronson’s arrival, this book was helpful and complete.
Richard Dahlstrom in The Colors of Hope
A call to creatively bless people around us, this book (by our pastor in Seattle) paints the Christian life as a hope-filled adventure, emphasizing what we’re for, rather than against.
David Platt in Radical
Reminding us that Christianity isn’t the American Dream, Platt calls for churches and individual Christians to start living the radical life Jesus actually called us to.
Paul Harding in Tinkers
I choose this book for its Maine setting and the reviews praising Harding’s use of language. The book won a Pulitzer Prize; and I think it was good, although I attempted to read it shortly after Bronson was born. I was too disheveled to have an accurate perception.
Francis Chan in Crazy Love
Similarly to Radical, this book calls Christians to stop living lukewarm lives. He provides real, encouraging examples of people living remarkable lives throughout the world.
Anne Lamott in Operating Instructions
In her amazingly honest, insightful and humorous style, Lamott keeps a journal of her son’s first year. I particularly loved it for its correspondence with my current state.
Bill Bryson in The Lost Continent
Bryon meanders through the US looking for the perfect, picturesque town. A fairly entertaining read, though he insults basically every corner of the country.
Ron Hall and Denver Moore in Same Kind of Different As Me
A rich art dealer and a homeless man in Fort Worth, Texas become friends. The book is the story of their friendship from both of their perspectives – a testament to what can be learned from people different from ourselves.
Shauna Niequist in Cold Tangerines
Organized into 40 short essays, this book is Niequist’s thoughts on celebrating life, even when things become difficult. Her writing leaves you feeling like you just had coffee with her
Kathryn Stockett in The Help
Although the novel is fiction, it’s loosely based on Stockett’s own experience of growing up white in Mississippi with black help. The characters are compelling as they grow to appreciate each other after viewing things from each other’s vantage. I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m not sure how it compares.
Richard Paul Evans in The Sunflower
Based on real people, this novel takes place in Peru, where two people fall in love at an orphanage. They end up adopting two of the children and returning to the US. In real life they return to Peru often.
Phillip Yancey in What Good is God?
Yancey reports on 10 different places in the world where suffering and challenges have forced the question – what good is God? Each place – like China, South America and Chicago – has an informative chapter on the situation and a chapter based on a “talk” he gave at the location.