2009 is just about in the books, as it were, so it’s time for my second annual look back at the past year’s reading and decision about my Top 10 books.
All in all, it was a solid reading year. My total number of books dropped somewhat from last year’s record total of 154 books, and that in part can be explained by my blogging regularly rather than simply writing the book’s title and author down on a cumulative list.
I have a perennial desire to stretch and read more literary classics in 2010, and here, in chronological order of when I read them, are my favorite books of 2009. I am including the link to the post I wrote about each work.
As always, commentary, disagreement and other people’s list are welcome!
2. Brothers and Keepers, by John Edgar Wideman. The award-winning author uncorks a potent tale of murder, choices and their consequences, and the bone-deep bonds of brotherhood in this impressive work.
3. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. This Pulitzer Prize-winning tome breaks down the science of nuclear physics and intertwines that information with a compelling account of the scientists who created the atomic bomb and the times in which they worked.
4. Prisoner Without A Name, Cell Without a Number, by Jacobo Timerman. Timerman’s account of life in a prison cell during the period the generals ruled in Argentina is at once erudite and searingly honest.
5. Hunting Eichmann, by Neal Bascomb. Bascomb’s story of how an elite crew of Israeli Defense Force men, many of whom were Holocaust survivors, tracked down and captured one of the genocide’s major architects makes for thrilling reading.
6. And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts. Shilts died far too young from the disease that he chronicled so ably. This pioneering work shows the rise of the epidemic and the Reagan Administration’s callous indifference to it.
7. Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky. The late organizer would have turned 100 this year, but his legacy endures. This primer distills the wisdom he gained during his notable organizing career, starting with the most basic rule: Deal with the world as it is, not as it should be.
8. The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Schwartz and Tony Loehr. This work is on the list because of the utility of its ideas, rather than the quality of its writing. Schwartz and Loehr argue that managing energy, not time, is a key toward full engagement in life’s activities.
9. The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel. Washington Post editor Finkel spent the better part of a year with an elite unit of Rangers during the surge former President Bush authorized to thwart the Iraqi counterinsurgency. This remarkable book is the result.
10. O Jerusalem, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. This fascinating account of Israel’s initial months as a country is a swashbuckling affair that should be required reading for people planning to visit the country.