Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Year of Books in Review

I read 100 books in 2012, meeting my Goodreads goal just in time. Here are my favorite books from this year, the ones I most recommend:

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada 
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

Friday, December 28, 2012

Recent Read: Isaac's Storm

I've just finished reading the fascinating Erik Larson book Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. Having, along with the rest of the country, just recently taken in all the Hurricane Sandy news coverage, it was really interesting to read this book now. Plus, I'm just interested in hurricanes and how they impact people, having done some post-Katrina cleanup in Mississippi in 2005 and 2006, and experiencing Fran (1996) and Floyd (1999) while I lived in North Carolina.

Larson, as he always does, re-creates dialogue and description that amazes me, since most of the time his subject matter deals with the past far enough back that interviews with those who experienced these things first hand is impossible. The descriptions of the water surge during the Galveston hurricane of 1900 were what I'm still thinking about a few days after finishing reading the book. The vivid descriptions of homeowners chopping holes in their beautiful wood floors to give the water somewhere to go in the Galveston hurricane seemed eerily like see footage from Katrina homeowners who'd had to punch out through their roofs to wait for help to come.

Also, in light of Sandy's recent devastation, it's interesting to consider how people in New York and New Jersey faired when they had a week or so of preparation time versus those who faced the 1900 hurricane with little to no warning. Those in Sandy's path could make the choice to evacuate and access to some resources (cell phones, proximity to emergency services, FEMA, organizations like the Baptist North American Mission Board to provide things like laundry services, hot meals, chainsaw teams and crisis counseling). And it was still was (and still is I'm sure) a frustrating experience for homeowners to not be able to get what they needed exactly when they needed it. Those affected by the Galveston hurricane didn't have appropriate weather information, the ability to communicate easily with their loved ones after the storm, a proper and dignified way to handle the bodies of those who did not survive the storm.

Reading Isaac's Storm also made me think back to books I've read fairly recently about Katrina: Zeitoun and Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans. It's a lot to think about.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday. What are you reading?

Though I haven't done this in a while, I'm participating in this event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Here's what I'll be doing this week:

Finishing The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Starting Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
Continuing to listen to American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin in the car
A magazine or two

Recent Read: Unbroken

At the recommendation of my aunt and a cousin, I recently read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. They both told me what a great book it is and how much I’d enjoy it. They were right. It’s in the top five books I’ve read in 2012. The story covers two topics I love to read: Olympics and World War II.

The main character is Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American growing up in Southern California who realizes he can run faster and better than anyone else. This talent earns him a spot on the 1936 U.S. Track and Field team for the Berlin Olympics.  There he does very well, and returns home planning to train for a spot on the 1940 Olympic team as well.

Then war comes and Louie, like many other young men around the world is shipped off to fight. Louie is in the Army Air Corps one of six men about a B-29 in the Pacific. On one of their missions, their plane is shot down. Louie and two other crew members survive about three weeks in the rafts with nearly nothing to eat or drink. They are spotted and captured by the Japanese, and sent to a few prisoner of war camps before the war finally ended.

Louie was tortured in brutal, unimaginable ways, which made reading this story difficult in places. The fact that he was able to survive all of his difficulties was just staggering to me as a reader.

Near the end of the story when Louie has returned home to California and married, he is converted to Christianity at a tent revival put on by a young Billy Graham in one of his first revivals. Interestingly, my Netflix movie this week just happened to be Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham. I’m not sure the movie ever made it to the theaters or if it went straight to DVD. I knew of it because my husband’s aunt, a hairstylist, worked on the set and did the hair of some of the female extras. The movie was a lovely story of Billy growing up on a rural North Carolina farm, attending seminary, meeting his wife and starting a family, and getting his ministry off the ground. The movie ends at one of his early, great successes: his Los Angeles revival, the one attended by Louie.

I’ll be reading in this same theme again, as my book after next is Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics