Books read in August 2011 (chart)

My reading theme for August was grab books off the table nearest the library check-out and as a result the books were largely pretty bad.  My thoughts, from best to worst.

Unbroken: was probably the best book I’ve read all year. I enjoyed Hillenbrand’s previous book, Seasbiscuit, except for it being a bit chewy on the part of the Jockey’s lives.  This book, like its protagonist, has no fat or excess.  It would have been an incredible non-fiction book with the twists, turns, overall story, and the heroes and villains.  After reading it I had a better understand of history and wish more of what was taught to me would have been taught like this.  The inevitable movie version will be the best war movie since Saving Private Ryan and if done well it will be better.  The story is that good.

In the Garden of Beasts: is the story of ambassador Dodd living in Hitler’s Berlin.  Both this and Unbroken are recent publications which makes now an excellent time to be reading about World War 2.  If Unbroken excels in the telling of history this book does well in focusing its light on a small piece.  There are probably many books about Germany and Hitler leading up to the invasion of Poland but probably none are as good as this.

The Buffalo Creek Disaster: is the story of the lawsuit following a 1972 coal dam failure that lifted water levels to over 30 feet and killed 125 people.  The stories the victims tell of the disaster were the most difficult tragedies I’ve ever read.  Somewhat striking to me, the book written by a the plaintiff’s lead counsel, reads quickly though deliberately, a model for any lawyers writing books.

I’m Feeling Lucky: a story of the beginning days of Google. This book wasn’t especially well written or compelling on its own.  It’s about the beginning years of a really incredible company and would probably have been the same story had any one of the first two-hundred people there written it.  Very little content on the engineering about not much new about the Google culture.

The Hidden Reality: was a lot of heavier reading than I thought and didn’t fit my mood. I would come back to it if I was in a science reading mood. The content was interesting but may have been negatively ultra-focused.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: I read in two days and enjoyed. Much closer to a long magazine article than full length book and the impression it left on my was similar.  If you’re a parent read it, if not skip.

Four Fish: I really wanted to enjoy and it seemed like it has a lot of components to books I do enjoy but I could never get past the tone of the author. It just felt like he kept coming back to his feeling of violation that the fishing of his youth didn’t exist anymore.  I never finished it.

Strong Father, Strong Daughters: was the most redundant book I’ve read this year.  Over the forty pages I read the author kept returning to a few ideas, none especially groundbreaking or interesting.

My reading enjoyability is based – subjectively – on pace, readability, formatting, ability to drop in or out, hyperbole (a negative number), the quality of content and multiplying these weighted factors by what percentage of the book would have been enough (almost all books are too long).

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