Here are my favorite memoirs from 2011, as part of my series, “The Year of Books.” The books with extended reviews are the ones that I rated as “5”; the ones without reviews, I rated as “4”. The reviews themselves are what I wrote at the time I read them (edited slightly for the blog).
1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson
A very interesting, thought-provoking book. I wish we could take all the money that’s being poured into fighting the war in Afghanistan and give it to Greg Mortenson. I think the Taliban would be defeated through peace. I also found this book very interesting because I’ve had so many students who come from Pakistan. (ETA – See my comment below in reply to Cassie to get my current feelings about Greg Mortenson and the work that he does.)
2. The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris
Read this book. You’ll learn about race relations in America, about African-American soldiers in WWII, and about how important it is to listen to what is said and what is not said in your family. I heard Ms. Norris speak at the Baltimore Film Festival in September 2010 and I’m glad to finally have read her book. It did not disappoint. It felt like I was reading NPR (which to me is a very good thing).
3. The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us by Jeffrey Kluger (This is both memoir and presentation of current research findings.)
One of my favorite books of the year. I’m interested to talk to my siblings about some of the stuff in this book whenever we get together next.
4. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma, Jim Brozina
This is a wonderful book. Some of the chapters were laugh-out-loud funny. A couple times, as I was reading while Ellie nursed, I looked down to find that she had stopped nursing and was laughing along with me! As a lover of books and reading, this book hit [almost] all the right notes for me. Her last few chapters (after The Streak ended) were not as compelling. But other than that, a great book. As a teacher, I read out loud to my students a few times a year. I usually read them Pippi Longstocking because the chapters are fairly self-contained (perfect for one period) and SO FUNNY. I wish now that I had read aloud to them more. This book reinforced in me the belief that listening to a story is not wasted time. Highly recommended – particularly to anyone who is thinking about reading to kids: their own sons or daughters or nieces or nephews or any other well-loved children in their lives
In addition, I also enjoyed the following memoirs in 2011:
Prisoner of Trebekistan by Bob Harris (about a very successful Jeopardy champion)
The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart (about a woman who cut her and her family off from all media for six months).