Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Books of 2011

The Strangest Man: the hidden life of Paul Dirac, mystic of the atom, Graham Farmelo.
Fascinating biography of a brilliant physicist and endearing human being, 539 pages.

Running for the Hills: growing up on my mother's sheep farm in Wales, Horatio Clare.
A story of brilliant and imperfect parents through the clear but loving eyes of a particularly bright child, 273 pages.

The Sabbath World: glimpses of a different order of time, Judith Shulevitz.
Beautiful, beautiful book, part personal memoir, part cultural history, a Jacob's wrestling with the idea and reality of the Day of Rest, 246 pages.

Olive Trees and Honey: a treasury of vegetarian recipes from Jewish communities around the world, Gil Marks.
History and geographical survey of the Jewish diaspora, by way of recipes.  Good, wholesome food, 454 pages.

A Blessing of Bread: the many rich traditions of Jewish bread baking around the world, Maggie Glezer.

Spotlights on individual bakers with professionally exact recipes and detailed techniques.  A treasure, 336 pages.

Understanding the Book of Mormon: a reader's guide, Grant Hardy.
A fluid and mountain-creek-clear structural analysis of this text as a text, how it functions as a text, how parts comment on neighboring parts.  Insightful, 346 pages.

The Great Angel: a Study of Israel's Second God, Margaret Barker.
Theology, unconventional and thought-provoking, 272 pages.

Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses, Claire Dederer.
Loved this contemporary memoir of an ordinary but extraordinarily attentive contemporary woman, 332 pages.

Subversive Sequels in the Bible: how Biblical stories mine and undermine each other, Judy Klitsner.
What the subtitle says is what this book does.  Interesting and insightful way of reading the stories of the Bible, relating stories together and weaving a whole cloth from  different episodes, 224 pages.

A Tour of the Calculus, David Berlinski.
A manic ode to math.  Required reading for all wordy mathophobes amonst us, 331 pages.

What the Nose Knows: the science of scent in everyday life, Avery Gilbert.
My personal obsession with understanding how scent works continues, 290 pages.

The Secret of Scent: adventures in perfume and the science of smell, Luca Turin.
My personal obsession with smell personified in one stubborn, unconventional, and charismatic man, 207 pages.

Creating a Forest Garden: working with nature to grow edible crops, Martin Crawford.
A blueprint for restoring Eden, with gorgeous photos and useful plant lists, 384 pages.

Alone Together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other, Sherry Turkle.
Enter into the thought-chamber of a particularly intelligent researcher and survey alongside while she looks back over decades of her research about technology and what it means to be human.  Fresh and insightful, backed up with hard data and extensive familiarity with the topic.  Brilliant, 360 pages.

 The Winter of our Disconnect: how three totally wired teenagers (and a mother who slept with her iPhone) pulled the plug on their technology and lived to tell the tale, Susan Maushart.
Fun account of a family that goes technologically cold-turkey.  Enough to inspire emulation, 278 pages.

NurtureShock: new thinking about children, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.
Always satisfying to read convincing studies that back up your parenting intuitions.  Even more helpful to pick up more useful techniques and insightful approaches, 336 pages.

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron, Jasper Fforde.
This audiobook took us many miles across country and played severely with our brains.  Waiting impatiently for the sequel, 390 pages.

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