ABC’s Favorite Reads of 2011, Part H

The penultimate installment of our Favorite Reads of the Year! Here are Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D, Part E, Part F, and Part G.

These favorites come from Mark and Aviva.  Mark has taken over as Supreme Head Honcho of the Warehouse at ABC Amsterdam (and was yours truly’s first ever trainee)(and he’s still here; surely a measure of success?).  Aviva is ABC Amsterdam’s Travel and Nature/Animal books buyer who loves to be serenaded.

We would love to hear about what YOUR favorite reads of 2011 were, too! They don’t have to be books published in 2011, just read in 2011. Please send your top 5 to blog@abc.nl, and be sure to include your mailing address so we can send you an ABC gift voucher as a thank you. We’ll be publishing your Top 5s at the beginning of 2012, so you have the rest of the month to hand them in. Thank you to those who have already mailed them in!

And now, without further ado… the lists!

Mark

The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Not a word is wasted in this beautiful story. Without using verbose descriptions the old master still paints a picture clear scene. Best short story I have ever read.

Howl: And Other Poems – Allan Ginsberg
I recently started writing poetry myself, and this book has inspired me to use my own language, to be a poet instead of pretending to be a poet. There is such an urgency in this work that it grabs you by the throat.

Kane: Complete Plays – Sarah Kane
The complete works of one of the most controversial playwrights of the 90’s. Again, this grabs you by the throat. It is so much more than directions and lines for people on a stage, this is a direct tunnel into someone’s head, and what you see there, even if you’ll not always like it, you’ll recognize as art.

The Birthday of the World and Other Stories – Ursula K. le Guin
Le Guin is one of my all-time favorite writers. She tells stories in which the progress towards the end of the plot is not as important as being in the story. It is a house, not a ride, and in everyone of these short stories you can take your time and wander around in a complete fictional universe while pondering about the one we live in.

Human Planet: Nature’s Greatest Human Stories – Dale Templar
Ever wondered if there were people who lived in trees and have never set foot on the ground? Or people who lived on the ocean, on rafts? What does a Mongolian hunter look like, and how does he live? You can now find the answer to those questions in this magnificent photo book that portraits one of the most incredible species on our planet: us.

Aviva

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea – Barbara Demick
This absolutely fascinating work of journalism allows readers a glimpse into what daily life is like under one of the most repressive regimes in the world today. Demick interviewed six North Koreans who had managed to defect to South Korea, about their experiences under the tyrannical rule and cult of personality of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. An enthralling peek into a country so little known or understood by the West, and that seems like a fictional dystopia.

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America – Barbara Ehrenreich
Finally, a book to vindicate my curmudgeonly pessimism! One of America’s foremost social critics and “myth busters” takes a scathing look at the cult of positive thinking that has made its way through multiple layers of society, from the medical world through corporate America, and which has become a multi-million dollar industry for self-titled gurus and inspirational speakers. Not only does she debunk a lot of the claims behind the ideas espoused within this growing movement, she also looks at how dangerous a lot of the messages behind this seemingly harmless trend can be. From victim-blaming to the acceptance of oppression, and even to the current economic crisis, Ehrenreich shows how Positive Thinking™ is not necessarily a positive thing, and calls for a return, not to pessimism, but to reality and rationality.

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did. It’s a follow up to Atwood’s dystopian vision of genetic manipulation gone awry, Oryx and Crake. As Oryx and Crake kept me glued until the very end when it ended rather abruptly; I was hoping Year of the Flood would tie up some loose ends from that story. It did that and more.  Atwood has taken the world she created in that novel and given it a depth and culture that is at once strange and recognizable. Definitely read Oryx and Crake first, but this is a more than worthy sequel.

Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet – Jack Norris and Virginia Messina
More and more people today are choosing plant-based diets, whether for health or ethical reasons. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there both within and without vegan circles and it’s not always easy to know how to meet all of your nutritional needs. Enter Jack Norris and Virginia Messina, two vegan RDs (registered dieticians) who know their stuff! This well-researched, highly readable nutrition guide is designed to help vegans make the best choices possible for their health at every stage of their lives. Looking at a broad range of peer-reviewed studies, Norris and Messina cut through all the claptrap out there to equip both new and veteran vegans with the most up-to-date information available about their nutritional requirements and how best to meet them.

Appetite for Reduction – Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Get this cookbook. Seriously. You don’t have to be vegan. You don’t have to be trying to “reduce”. You just have to love yummy food, served creatively, and with a minimum of fuss. I’ve always been intimidated by cookbooks, but this book changed my relationship with cookbooks forever. Easy, healthy, and delicious recipes made with easy-to-find ingredients, written in a witty, entertaining voice. Perfect for those healthy weeknight meals. Highly recommended: Chickpea Picatta, Ginger Bok Choy & Soba, and the Goddess Nicoise. Bon appetit!