For those who believe you can peer into another’s soul by what that person reads, here goes. This is a list of the books I read from start to finish in 2011.
1) The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 2) Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso, 3) The Disappointed Man, Henning Mankell, 4) Doctor Glas, Hjalmer Soderberg, 5) Methland, Nick Reding, 6) A Portrait of The Artist as A Young Man, James Joyce, 7) Sons of Mississippi, Paul Hendrickson, 8) Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, 9) To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 10) The Rogue: Searching for The Real Sarah Palin, Joe McGuinness, 11) Cochise, Edwin Sweeney, 12) The Pied Piper of Tucson, Don Moser and Jerry Cohen.
The most enjoyable read was Lee’s Mockingbird, essentially the story of racism in a small Alabama town and highlighted by the trial of a black man for the attempted rape of a young white woman. Set in the 1930s at the height of disgraceful white supremacy in The South, the landscape is narrated objectively by Scout, the pre-teen daughter of a local lawyer, Atticus Finch.
Joyce’s Portrait, although a more difficult read, was almost as enjoyable. Its powerful message struck deeply. Here you observe a boy, Stephen Dedalus, growing to manhood in his native Ireland. Stephen questions everything. At the conclusion he abandons his country, his Catholic upbringing, a promising career in the Church, and even his family and friendships to pursue a free and principled life as a writer.
I couldn’t make up my mind which was the best of the nonfiction books, either Hendrickson’s Sons or Reckless Endangerment, the latter describing the causes that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
Hendrickson hit on a compelling idea to describe the face of racism in 1960s Mississippi. He used a famous Life magazine photo of 1962 as a touchstone. The photo showed seven white sheriffs preparing for “battle” during James Meredith’s integration attempt at Ole Miss. Decades later Hendrickson located and interviewed the sheriffs and their families and the layed out the legacy of their actions.