All of this is a long way of saying that because my library’s summer reading program finished, I have a nice concise collection of 25 books that I can distill to more useful lists for you. I don’t know how many opinions you can have about the Favorite designations I’m giving out, but I know that for once I have read 100% of the master list. Hurrah!*
*No pressure for you to read them all too. In fact, you may remember reviews of some books urging quite the opposite action.
- Pearl of China by Anchee Min; Reader Angela Lin
- The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin; Reader Robertson Dean
- Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson; Reader Dan Woren
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman; Full Cast
- The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien; Reader Rob Inglis
This is a difficult category to judge because my reaction to audiobooks is often I LOVE IT or MAKE IT STOP. It’s more difficult this summer because I genuinely enjoyed the recordings of all these contenders, but one audiobook reader did such an incredible job that the award must go to Rob Inglis’ recording of The Return of the King. Inglis not only does sensitive portrayals of all the epic’s characters—he SINGS shire melodies and elf tunes.
Favorite Nonfiction Book
- The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin
- Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
- Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong by William Kilpatrick
- Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
- Health Care Reform by Jonathan Gruber, H.P. Newquist and Nathan Schreiber
I’m giving this one to Why Nations Fail, although The Oath is a close second. Why Nations Fail chooses a variety of international and historical examples to support the thesis that exploitative political and economic institutions stagnate and imperil national growth, and steps towards inclusivity in either politics or economics can create positive feedback and eventually economic growth. The thesis is almost not a thesis because it appears so self-evident by the end of the book, but that just shows what a good job the authors have done in arguing their point. I suspect there are quite a few counterarguments the book isn't presenting; it seems a little too neat by the end. Don’t let the political and economic talk keep you from the book—Acemoglu and Robinson’s examples are fascinating, and even if the theory doesn't always fit the world, it's a good one to consider.
Favorite Young Adult Novel
- The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
- Legend by Marie Lu
- Enchanted by Alethea Contis
- Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes
- Jepp Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh
- You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle
- The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
- Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
- If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
I loved The Dream Thieves. Second books of series can be extremely difficult to nail, and Stiefvater manages to add new twists while keeping the overall series plot moving in Raven Cycle #2. There are so many things I enjoyed about the plot, the characters and the style that I have trouble explaining my enthusiasm in a coherent way. The book is coming out in September, which means that you have one month to read The Raven Boys and brush up on Welsh history and ley line theories. Expect a review when I finally pull my !!!! and ? and :-D into words.
Best Non-Young Adult Fiction
- Pearl of China by Anchee Min
- Left Drowning by Jessica Park
- The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
- The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio
- Lady Susan / The Watsons / Sanditon by Jane Austen
- My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares
- The Hen of the Baskervilles by Donna Andrews
- Live from Golgotha by Gore Vidal
- The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
- My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
THE SONG OF ACHILLES!!! (Did you even think there was a question in this category?) Granted, much of this list is quality, and I can imagine getting more out of the Lord of the Rings as I reread and appreciate the ending more. I've also been overwhelming friends and family with my analysis of Austen's unfinished novels, so if my category were "Most Likely for Me to Bring Up in Conversation" this would be a strong contender. But this award is for my favorite read of this summer, and for now, it’s Miller’s reworking of Homeric material.