All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to Amazon.com through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ten More for 2010

Happy New Year! Choosing ten books of 2010 was a challenging task. There were many books that were memorable and important I didn’t include in my list published on Cats and a Book December 31, but deserve mention here.

Of books that cause readers to consider their place in the world, I chose Hot, Flat, and Crowded for my Top Ten. However, the powerful book Say You’re One of Them by Uwen Akpan, would also have been a good choice, which forces the reader to turn a full face to the human condition. Akpan published this collection of stories to enlighten others about the common daily struggles for African children, whether it is to find food, make money, become part of the dominant religious group, hide or proudly display their ethnicity, or even to join in or declaim violence. Graphic and brutal at times, the stories show us a world we know exists but few Westerners experience. Other notable books in this category include Strength in What Remains, by Stacy Kidder, which is the true story of Deogratias, an immigrant from Burundi, Africa, and Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, the fictional story of sixteen-year-old Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee who represents thousands like her caught between their homeland and an opportunity for a new life.

A couple of books were remarkable for their unique and inspired narration. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak, was told by Death. The book's prologue and the first few chapters introduce you to this unusual narrator and to the colors he sees, which figure prominently in the descriptions of taking souls from the dying. The story is set in Germany. It is 1939, and Hitler is in power. Death is very busy. Death is also weary of his work, and tells of emotions one wouldn’t expect the Grim Reaper to have. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated is a moving and complex story--more accurately, it is a story within a story within a story. The author is Jonathan Safran Foer, which is also the name of one of the main characters in the novel, and referred to as "the hero" by the narrator. Foer hires Heritage Tours to escort him in Ukraine on his search to find a mysterious woman named Augustine. The book's narrator is Alexander Perchov, who serves as Foer's guide in Ukraine, and reads Foer's manuscript ("the hero" is a writer), which is a kind of history of Foer's family and their hometown of Trachimbrod.

Of current popular fiction, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert tops the list. The book and movie were wildly popular, in part because Gilbert is an honest narrator, and writes her story in an entertaining way. Rather than being self-indulgent and self-absorbed, Gilbert manages to avoid the blog-like self-obsession many writers fall victim to. Eat Pray Love is an entertaining story which may make the reader pine for a year in Italy, India, and Bali. A "search for happiness" book with a happy ending, Eat Pray Love will leave the reader feeling buoyed by Gilbert's experiences and the lives which touched hers. Other books worth a read include Room, by Emma Donoghue, the story of Jack, a five-year-old boy who had lived his entire life within four walls, The Matchmaker of Perigord, which follows the career of Guillaume Ladoucette, a barber who set up shop in the tiny hamlet of Amour-sur-Belle, and Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, the epic story of the lives of the Walter and Patty Berglund, beginning with the release of an unflattering article about Walter in the New York Times.

Finally, a nonfiction book that is particularly timely as we begin 2011 is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This is a primer on how people successfully make behavior changes and how to effect changes in others. This is a perfect choice for the reader about to embark on another round of resolutions.

This brings my list of notable books to twenty for 2010. I invite your comments and suggestions for the Top Ten (or Twenty) of 2010, or to add to our reading lists for 2011.

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