In terms of my book reading, I observed last year that I bounced back, reading more than in 2010. This year I read about the same number of books as last year, but I made a concerted effort to check books out of the library instead of buying. Most weren’t released this year, so I have less to choose from.
I also noted last year that I continued to be on the fence as far as reading paper books versus digital. The latter is the future, no doubt, but I decided this year that there’s nothing like holding a book, smelling it, letting it fall on my chest at night, turning the pages, right finger on the index, looking at my book mark to see how much to go, putting it on my shelve after reading it, and looking at all the ones I have read through the years. When the writer comes out of the wilderness and holds up his or her baby, I just don’t want to reduce all the hard work to bites and bits.
Anyway, forgive this old romantic for the sideshow. Here are my favorite books for this year and my Book of the Year selection.
Stephen Sears has company for the best book written on this key battle. Slotkin sports a great vocabulary in this page-turner. I learned just how much McClellan and Lincoln were at odds.
The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H.W. Brands
Brands’s challenge was that Jean Edward Smith wrote an excellent bio on Grant. Some critics say he did not add much new insight, but I rather enjoyed this book anyway. Let’s see if Grant can get a bump up in the Presidential rankings. He deserves it.
Shiloh 1862, by Winston Groom
My readings of the Civil War have been very heavy on the Eastern Theatre. I was worried about this until along came this book. Shiloh took almost 24,000 casualties, with face-to-face fighting. Groom writes, It was as if at Shiloh they had unleashed some giant, murderous thing that was going to drench the country with blood…"
Dickson knows baseball, and it shows in this book, the definitive history on Veeck. He covers all the bases of a life that included service in WWII with the Marines. It’s an enjoyable read and fully researched effort. Bonuses are glossy photos.
Rather Outspoken: Rather Outspoken, My Life in the News, By Dan Rather with Digby Diehl
Hell hath no fury like a veteran evening news broadcaster scorned.
But beyond the "Killiangate" chapter, there is a lot to like about this book. Rather paid his dues early on. Too small for football, he tackled (groan) journalism. He has seen a lot in his life, and the book is a page turner.
Before this book, Key had been given mostly a pass in terms of criticism. Morley, a Washington-based writer for Salon, pulls no punches. Along the way we learn about the nation's capital in the 1830s, and the fear and apprehension among slave-holding whites in the city. This would make a great movie with Bowen, an 18-year old slave who entered the room of wealthy socialite Anna Thornton with an axe in his hand. Then came the mobs that turned their anger towards Snow.
The trial would teach us a lot about the plight of enslaved people and success stories such as Snow, who owned a popular restaurant at the northwest corner of 6th and Pennsylvania NW.
I was hoping for more than one bookstore in the DC region to be in this book, but I guess that’s a testament to Politics and Prose. This is a fun read, I chose the big names like John Grisham first, but enjoyed all the different ones. These small bookstores helped a lot of writers, and provide great places for readers to gather.
Alexandria (Images of America), by George Combs Leslie Anderson, and Julia M. Downie
Combs was the perfect choice for this book. He's the Director of Alexandria's Special Collection section.
Michael Douglas by Marc Eliot
Breezy read, learned about Douglas the producer, his affairs, his lack of self-confidence and the movie industry.
Book of the Year
"Snow Storm in August" gets my nod. Morley illuminates a forgotten story, one that is important to know, and the story keeps its pace throughout.