Books of 2013

I’ve had fun going to two different book clubs this year. Still should be reading a bit more but I’d thought I’d share the books I’ve read the year or so. What good books did you read this last year? Any favorites or must reads? I’d love to hear! (hit reply at the top of the post ;). Also, I discovered GoodReads which is cool website to keep track of what you & your friends are reading, want to read, and have already read.

Favorite book of the year:

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
I loved this book! It is a novel telling the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob & Leah in the Old Testament. It takes the little that we know of her, and gives us a beautiful story. I love the idea that our stories need to be told and how sad it is that we have very few stories of women in the bible and history. I loved the sisterhood in the book and and hearing their stories of midwifery, birth, and motherhood. However it also shows the sad & horrible side of a sexist culture, or any culture where a group is marginalized. I definitely recommend it! (It does have some sexual content, but given that Jacob had 4 wives and the nature of Dinah’s bible story it’s kind of expected.)

NonFiction reads:

Your Money or Your Live: Strong Medicine for America’s Health Care System by David Cutler
A short, but in decently in-depth book about America’s health care system by a Harvard Economist. Not too long or too technical and takes a good look at how the system works & some of the issues and offers some broad solutions, without being politically charged. I really liked it.

Outliers: Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Very interesting book with lots of anecdotes. It was really easy to read and had some really good points. I plan on reading his other books sometime.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
The author is dying and writes his life’s lessons to his kids and the world. Some of it is a little cliche but an easy read and lots of good thoughts. If you liked Tuesday’s with Morrie you will like this book. It’s amazing how much he accomplished in his life. It shows how important it is to dream and then work hard towards your dreams. “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

The One Thing by Gary Keller (co-founder of Keller Williams Realty)
Good book – lots of good ideas & tools to accomplish your goals. Lots of them I’d heard before or were a little cliche but overall it is a good read and inspired me to improve. The main theme is to make time and prioritise for your “one thing”. This is especially applicable for business owners, researchers, & students (ie if your job is very self motivated & self structured, but if your job is a receptionist it might be hard to apply to your job). But it can be applied to anything you are passionate about… and let’s face it we should be passionate about something. He even has some good questions to help you find your “one thing” or passion if you haven’t found it yet. He had some great quotes that were inspiring.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
A memoir of the author’s life, primarily of her childhood, but it reads more like a novel than a biography. Thought provoking, and makes you think in a new way about poverty, breaking the poverty cycle, self-sufficiency, mental illness, education, etc.

Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History by Milton Friedman
Good book. Not too long but sometimes a bit technical/dry. Learned about the gold&silver standard in the US and learned a bit more about inflation & money. The island of Yap with their stone money was really interesting and the helicopter inflation analogy was good. I wish it had an epilogue by another author that ties in the last 20 years to the book. I thought he might have been a tad too harsh on central bankers.  Quotes I liked from the last chapter:
—   “It is natural for individuals to generalize from their personal experience, to believe that what is true for them is true for the community. I believe that that confusion is at the bottom of most widely held economic fallacies – whether about money… or about other economic or social phenomena.”
—  “It is a disagreeable custom to which one is too easily led by the harshness of the discussions, to assume evil intentions. It is necessary to be gracious as to intentions; one should believe them good, and apparently they are; but we do not have to be gracious at all to inconsistent logic or to absurd reasoning. Bad logicians have committed more involuntary crimes than bad men have done intentionally.~Pierre S. du Pont”

Fiction Books:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A classic future distopia book. I felt like I didn’t connect with it well but it was a great jumping-off point for thought-provoking dialogue.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling
Detective book —  good page turner, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending. It does have some bad language in it, so perhaps for an older audience than Harry Potter.

Cutting for Stone* by Abraham Verghese
Very good book! I was surprised I handled the medical/surgery descriptions so well. Great page-turner and poetic & profound at times. It made me learn a little more empathy for those in hard situations, and I learned a little bit about the hard life many face in Ethiopia. It’s cool how the end comes together even if it is rather tragic, although some complain that the ending feels too contrived. My favorite quotes:
—  “‘Seize the day! What matters is this moment!’ Most of us can’t go back and make restitution. We can’t do a thing about our should haves and our could haves. But a lucky few men like Ghosh never have such worries; there was no restitution he needed to make; no moment he failed to seize. Now and then Ghosh would grin & wink at me across the room. He was teaching me how to die, just as he taught me to live.”
—  “The key to your happiness is to…own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. [Otherwise] you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

The God of Small Things* by Arundhati Roy
Good book – a novel about a family in India and the tragic events that occur and change their lives. It touches on the period’s sexism — how women who are not able to get an education often ended up in bad marriages and situations, how it is acceptable for men to sleep around with women of lower classes/castes but not vice-a-versa, etc. It touches on Marxism and the inequality in the caste system and how the different generations deal with the changing times. It deals with the “Laws of Love” – “who can love who and how much.” Pros: interesting topics, setting, and writing style; cons: very tragic & heavy content (death, love scene at the end, a child is molested in the middle), which some readers may not like and may not be inappropriate for young readers.


*main characters in the last 2 books are twins


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