Not that you asked (or care), but here are some of my favorite books of the past year.
The absolute best is Diane Ravitch’s superb Reign of Error. Anyone who cares about public education (and, to a larger extent, our future as a democracy) must read this book. It’s that important. When any public servant tells you he or she is “for education reform,” find out if he or she has read Ravitch. If they have, good. If not, put a copy of Reign of Error in their hands now.
Rounding out my top ten, in no particular order:
The Circle, Dave Eggers – What if a company took over Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and Amazon, and had the capability of knowing everything about everyone? In the age of NSA and Edward Snowden, The Circle has come around at the right time.
The Dog Stars, Peter Heller – After a flu epidemic wipes out most of North America, two men and one dog struggle to survive in the flatlands of Colorado. Dystopian, heartbreaking, and hopeful, with shades of Cormac McCarthy.
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemmingway – Yes, I know it’s been around for awhile. I finally took the plunge this summer. I knew what was coming, but Hemmingway still managed to break my heart.
The Holy and The Broken, Alan Light. One song (“Hallelujah”), two artists (Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley), and the amazing story behind the song’s stunning power.
Help Thanks Wow, Anne Lamott – Three simple, profound prayers presented in Lamott’s trademark elegant prose.
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wicker – A fantastic first novel, full of mesmerizing characters, that follows the unlikely alliance of two mythical beings of different cultures.
The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence – Any YA novel that name checks Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving is okay with me. Never has doing “the right thing” been more poignant.
Life Itself, Roger Ebert – I read this shortly after the great critic’s passing. It made me miss him even more. Such an honest book.
The Black Count, Tom Reiss – The amazing true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo. This is the kind of writing that makes history come alive.
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, David Rakoff – Rakoff’s final work is a set of interconnected prose poems that will get under your skin and make you want to read them over and over.