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The 2011 Reading Round-Up

Everybody knows Ms. Makeda is a book/blog/magazine-pusher. She can’t be satisfied with merely mentioning a book to you, she must ensure that you get the full summary, her recommendation, and directions to the closest bookstore. Or now in the digital age, she promises to “lend” it to you through her trusty Nook (that may malfunction under the rapid fire downloading of seven books at once). Her Facebook page is dotted with article recommendations and she’s been known to shove her Blackberry in someone’s face to make them read a particularly interesting blog entry. So it only makes sense that she give you her thoughts on the books/blogs/magazines that were read in 2011.

The Hands-Down Winner: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin by Hampton Sides

My fellow bibliophile Dr. Whetstone recommended this book back in November. Three days later, I was done. It’s an amazingly well-researched crime biography of MLK’s assassin. Along the way, Sides also gives an incredible inside look at King’s life and inner circle (including a cringe-worthy account of Jesse Jackson smearing King’s blood on his shirt for a photo-op). Read it. Right now.

Sleeper Hit: Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

I am usually not a fan of mysteries but do enjoy a good British novel. Forget Agatha Christie and Masterpiece Theater, this is highbrow literature that happens to center on a riveting mystery. There are several storylines to follow but the most emotionally captivating is that of Tracy, a middle-aged policewoman who snatches a baby from her drug-addicted mom. Atkinson writes beautifully and her understanding of love and loss holds your attention long past the mystery plot being revealed. This book turned me on to Atkinson’s other hits like “Case Histories” and “When Will There Be Good News?”

Best Books NPR Told Me to Read: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

You’ve already been told 900 times to read both of these books so I will just add my voice to the chorus. Wilkerson tracks the stories of several African-Americans as they make the history-changing migration from the American South. The excruciating detail of Wilkerson’s stories make you want to know about your own family history.

I’ll be honest- I didn’t finish “Henrietta Lacks” because I was so angry. I was angry not only for the subject of the story who suffered a painful death while researchers at John Hopkins made off with her cells but also for the legacy of pain her death caused her family. I was happy to hear that the author created a foundation (http://henriettalacksfoundation.org/) and will use some of the book’s earnings to help Lacks’ descendants.

Best Magazine Article: “Heaven Is a Place Called Elizabeth Warren” by Rebecca Traister, NYT Magazine, Nov. 18, 2011

Ms. Makeda jumped on the Warren bandwagon so fast you think she was actually a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This article explains the liberal fascination with Warren and warns Obama fans with PTSD not to place the same lofty expectations on a junior senator,

“Now, with labor protests, campaigns to block voter suppression and personhood measures and the occupations of cities around the nation, there seem to be some small signs that liberals are remembering that politics requires more of them, that they need movements, not just messiahs. But their engagement must deepen, broaden and persist beyond last week’s elections and well beyond next year’s elections if there is any chance for politicians like Warren to succeed.”

Book I Refuse to Read (but Stupidly Watched the Movie): The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I don’t care how many people tell me this book is great, I can’t get over the basic premise. And the rumor that the author stole the likeness of the main character from her sister’s maid. My grandmother was a “domestic” and I don’t think I need Kathryn Stockett to interpret her story for me. I’m good. I did watch the movie on a bored Sunday night which only further convinced me that the book was not worth reading.

Book You Need to Know About Because the Author is the Next Big ThingSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Yeah, I’m not above shouting out Stanford grads whenever I get a chance but you should actually read this book. Jesmyn Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for her fictional account of Mississippi family struggling to survive Hurricane Katrina.

Blog You Should Always Read Just Because: Ta-Nehisi Coates, TheAtlantic.com

Sure, he’s obsessed with the Civil War and Jane Austen but TNC also knows how to put out quality writing and always seems to be connected to the best of the blogosphere.

Second Place: verysmartbrothas.com

The quality is inconsistent but they have put out too many hits over the years for me to deny them.

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