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The Year in Review: Books

December 28, 2010
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My favorite books for 2010, consisting of books I *read* this year – most of these were not *published* in 2010. Links are to WorldCat records so you can find a copy in your local library.

First, the relevant-to-the-blog titles, loosely defined as encompassing health, feminism, science, sexuality, and the like:

Willing and Unable: Doctors’ Constraints in Abortion Care, by Lori Freedman – This book explores the issue of healthcare professionals who are trained to provide abortion and not opposed to the practice — the willing — but who for various personal and structural reasons are unable to do so. This is a thought-provoking work, and I recommend it for all pro-choice activists and advocates. My full review is here.

Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, by Carol Joffe – Stories and information about the effects of anti-choice activism and legislation on women and abortion providers.

Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
, by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore – I really liked this book, a collection of essays on passing, gender, race, and identity. Some of the essays are better than others, but the whole book is worth a read for an interesting meditation on dominant narratives, the ways in which so many individuals don’t perfectly fit our assumptions about who/what people are, and how we create and convey our identities along the way.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot – This book, published in 2010, is on pretty much everybody’s year-end list of the best non-fiction. The author explores the case of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were collected and distributed for research without the knowledge or consent of Lacks or her family, raisin issues of medical/research ethics, race, consent, and more. A brief overview of a talk I attended by Skloot is here.

Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, by Sarah Schulman – This is not my absolute favorite Sarah Schulman book, but I think it’s well worth a read for people contemplating how their own families perpetuate homophobia and how their own actions can either suppress or encourage homophobia.

My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story, by Abraham Verghese – This non-fiction work explores the experiences of a physician in east Tennessee in the early days of AIDS, and the effects of homophobia, rural life, and fear.

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Graphic Novels:
(which I read a lot of this year)
The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman – I’ve read 10 volumes of this zombie apocalypse title – it’s grim, tragic, and fantastic. I haven’t read it with any critical eye on issues of sex, sexuality, race, or other social issues, except to note that the one character who expresses a same-sex desire is viewed by the recipient of her affections as weird and misguided, and is repeatedly portrayed as somewhat mentally unhinged and unwilling to accept that someone might not alter their own sexuality to suit her. There is also an incredibly brutal series of rape scenes in one of the volumes which I think could be problematic for many readers – I don’t want to spoil it here, but ask in the comments and I’ll tell you which volume it is.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud – This is a great instructive work on reading and appreciating comics, a description that doesn’t quite do it justice. I highly recommend it for comics readers and those interested in general art appreciation and improving their skills at seeing.

Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson – Fiction work by the author selected to finish out the Wheel of Time series. I also liked Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Knights of Crystallia (third in the series in which protagonist Alcatraz battles evil librarians) and Elantris, but couldn’t really get into Way of Kings. I also found the first half of Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lens just plain annoying, but the second half was enjoyable.

Maus, by Art Spiegelman – Yes, I just got around to reading this. If you are just starting on graphic novels, this Holocaust tale is a classic.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – I really loved this book as pure sci-fi entertainment, but the story suffers if you look too closely at key assumptions of the plot. I’ve been told by a reader I respect that things go downhill from here – I made it through Ender’s Shadow (a parallel story from Bean’s perspective) before flipping through a couple of other related titles and deciding to just stop here.

A City of Ghosts, by Betsy Phillips – This book of new Nashville-centric ghost stories is a wonderful read from the writer at Tiny Cat Pants, and an excellent choice for ghost story read-alouds. My full review is here.

Robot Dreams, by Isaac Asimov – I just finished this books of short stories, and really enjoyed almost every story in the book. One of them includes a brief description of a medical library, which I have excerpted here.

Everything is Miscellaneous:
B is for Beer, by Tom Robbins – Some people didn’t really like this book, but I found it just perfect, from concept to cover to content. It’s described as a children’s book for grown-ups, or a grown-up book (about beer) for children, and really succeeded at copying the style of writing in children’s reading instruction books while incorporating humor about beer and drinking. It’s a quick read, and one of my favorite Robbins works.

A few other good reads from the year:
Night, by Elie Wiesel
Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia, from Planned Parenthood of Toronto
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks
Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues, by Paul Farmer
Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters, by Scott Rosenberg
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African American Fiction, edited by Devon Carbado, Dwight McBride, Donald Weise, and Evelyn White
The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, by Randy Shilts
Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Allison Bechdel

I keep up with the books I’m reading and want to read on a continuous basis at Goodreads, and would love to get recommendations for things to read in the coming year.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2010 2:36 pm

    I’d advise you to nnNever again read Orson Scott Card. Especially his political rants. Ender’s Game is the ultimate ‘rite of manhood’ story, and he ruined it when he accussed JK Rowling of plagarism.

    Hey, can I borrow your Walking Dead? The library is waaaay backed up….

    • December 28, 2010 3:22 pm

      Ooh, I didn’t hear about the Rowling accusation, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to read any more OSC. I really, really liked Ender’s Game in some ways, but it all falls apart if I think about it too much.

      And I would totally let you borrow Walking Dead if I had bought them already, but I’ve been borrowing them from the library myself. My own special method is to put in hold requests for two at a time, and once I’m next in line for those, to go ahead and put holds on the next two after that. I may buy them, though – if I do, I’ll let you know.

  2. December 29, 2010 10:13 am

    Seconding the never read OSC. Ender’s Game is good, like you said, if you don’t think too hard about it. His other works? Not so much, especially when you add in the author’s personal crazy. I try to not let an author’s personal crazy affect my reading of his or her opus, but OSC is an exception. Also why I never read past the first book of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.

    As for some of the other books you read this year – thanks for listing the good ones. Now I can add a few other items to my NPL hold list. :)

  3. December 29, 2010 4:02 pm

    Have you read Verghese’s Cutting For Stone yet? I thought I remembered seeing it on your GReads, but wasn’t sure if that was TBR or already read.

    • December 29, 2010 11:25 pm

      I did! That was in my 2010 list of read books as well, but I didn’t think to include it here. I have a special fondness for My Own Country because of the location, but also enjoyed Cutting for Stone.

  4. January 5, 2011 2:27 pm

    How many volumes of The Walking Dead is actually out?
    I believe I read this version (and loved it) – the 8 volume compendium – and wasn’t sure if I was missing further issues or not.

    Here’s WVFC’s actual book recommendations (http://womensvoicesforchange.org/wvfc-holiday-gift-list-anniversary-edition.htm) – some of our favorites being Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as well.

    • January 5, 2011 2:34 pm

      Thanks for your comment and your recommendations! I believe the compendium goes through issue #48, but the most recent issue is #80. I’m reading through the trade paperbacks, which run through vol 13 (issues 73-78), but I’m on volume 11 at the moment.

  5. January 5, 2011 2:34 pm

    does this aply to gays to ?

  6. January 14, 2011 10:25 am

    Thank you for the great list.

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