The Year in Review: Books
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.