Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Book Awards


What a better way to start off the New Year by remembering all the books I read in 2011? As I sit and enjoy beautiful Texas weather (meaning sunny and seventy degrees on January 2), I looked again through my day planner, and noted that I read 91 books this past year. Of these, twenty three were fiction. The bulk of my fiction reading involved Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, which consisted of seven different books that amounted to over 6,500 pages of enjoyable historical fiction. This series certainly deserves the title of my favorite work of fiction in 2011. Incidentally, the worst book that I read this year was Dow Mossman’s Stones of Summer. This book was so bad I made myself finish it; although I should have known that it was a stinker as it was published by my old employer Barnes and Noble.

As far as my favorite work of non-fiction, five works stand out. Honorable mentions include Matt Dillinger’s Interstate 69 (which provides an excellent look at on unfinished section of the interstate system) and Isabel Wilkerson’s Warmth of Other Suns that examines the tale of three participants in America’s Great Migration. My third place award goes to Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood’s Dream City: Race, Power, and Decline of Washington DC. Jaffe and Sherwood provide an extremely readable story of Washington DC’s decline between 1974 and 1994 under the leadership of Marion Barry, a fall that has been reversed in recent years by strong municipal leadership and a growing federal government workforce. Peter Goodwin claims second place with The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe. I read this book on the plane and was hooked on this personal and detailed narrative decline of Africa’s most successful country in the past thirty years. The other 64 works of non-fiction were great, but Don Peck’s Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It claims the title of my favorite book from 2011. Some readers of this blog might have come across Peck’s essay in Atlantic from this summer, but do yourself a service and read his book. While a shorter work, Pinched does a masterful job comparing the current recession with similar periods of economic malaise. Peck argues that broader transformation of America from a manufacturing to service based economy has created a elite class Americans who are largely located in distinct neighborhoods in a few metropolitan neighborhoods. At the same time, the social stability of many middle class households is declining and exhibits many of the same woes that plague inner-city neighborhoods. While Peck’s solutions at the end of Pinched could use some more details, I couldn’t recommend a better book for people to read to better understand our current economic predicament.

Dominic Pacyga, Chicago: A Biography
Alan Mallach, A Decent Home
Latimore et al, The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning
Witold Rybczynski, Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas about Cities
Robert Caro: The Means of Ascent: LBJ from 1941-1948
Matt Dillinger, Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway
Tom Wolfe, Bonfires of the Vanities
Randy Kennedy, Subwayland: Adventures in the World Beneath New York
WPA Guide to Dallas, Texas
Clyde Prestonwitz, The Betrayal of American Prosperity
Robert Harris, The Ghostwriter
Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones
Peter Hessler, Country Driving
Dallas AIA, Dallas AIA Guide
David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter
Ben Barnes, Barn Building, Barn Burning
Ruth Morgan, Governance By Decree
Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
Michael Hazel (ed), Dallas Reconsidered: Essays in Local History
Dow Mossman, Stones of Summer
Terri Jentz, Strange Piece of Paradise
Cyril Paumler, Creating a Vibrant Center City
Peter Harnik, Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities
Vincent Bugolosi, Helter Skelter
Douglas Egerton, Years of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War
David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Between 1846 and 1861
Colleen McCullough, First Man in Rome
D Magazine, 30 Years of Great Stories
Al Greene, Big D: A History
Allan Jacobs, Looking at Cities
Colleen McCullough, The Grass Crown
Robert Fairbanks, For the City as a Whole: Planning in Dallas, 1840-1965
Colleen McCullough, Fortunes Favorites
Daniel Sharfstein, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White
Colleen McCullough, Caesar’s Women
Eric Pooley, The Climate War: True Belivers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth
Peter Goodwin, The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
Bill Minutaglio, The Hidden City: Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas
Colleen McCullough, Caesar
Peter Carr, A Month in the Country
Peter Goodwin, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa
Steve Luxenberg, Annie’s Ghost: A Journey into a Family Secret
Colleen McCullough, October Horse
Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm
Jeff Greenfield, Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics
David Grann, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes
Colleen McCullough, October Horse
Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City
John Grisham, The Summons
John Grisham, The Associate
Sulieman Osman, The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
Kevin Harney and Bob Brouwer, The U Turn Church
Henry Boonstra, Our School: Calvin College 1875-2001
Richard Rubin, A Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South
Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
Michael Lewis, Moneyball
Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood, Dream City: Race, Power, and Decline of Washington DC
John Grisham, The Confession
Ian Pears, Stone’s Fall
Luther Snow, Congregational Based Asset Mapping
Tony Judt, Reappraisals: Reflection on the Forgotten Twentieth Century
Peter Lovenheim, In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street
Wendy Kopp, A Chance to Make History
Keith Meldahl, Hard Road West: History and Geology Along the Gold Rush Trail
Gil Rendle and Alice Munn, Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations
Don Peck, Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It
Ben Cramer, What It Takes
Rick Perlstein, The Stock Ticker and the Super Jumbo: How the Democrats Can Again Become America’s Dominant Political Party
Ken Folett, Pillars of the Earth
Jack Rovoke, Original Meanings: Politics and the Ideas in the Making of the Constitution
Ken Folett, World Without End
James O’Shea, The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plunder Great American Newspapers
Winfried Gallagher, House Thinking: A Room by Room Look at How We Live
Tea Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife
Donald Stroker, The Grand Design: Strategy and the American Civil War
Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beats: Love, Terror, and an American Family In Hitler’s Berlin
Ian Frazier, Roads to Siberia
Buzz Bizzinger, Three Nights in August
Ken Folett, Fall of Giants
Jeffrey Eugindes, The Marriage Plot
Colin Woodward, American Nations
Ray Jacobs, Home Buying for Dummies
Jennifer Gantz, Gotham in the Shadows of Moses and Jacobs
Heather Richardson, West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance
Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
Andrew Meier, Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall
John Mosier, The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War One
Thomas Stanley, The Millionaire Next Door