Thursday, August 29, 2013

Halley's Top Ten Books for the Year

When thinking about my imminent departure from Boswell, one of the things that made me saddest was knowing that I wouldn't have the opportunity to wax poetic on my favorite reads at the end of the year in our holiday newsletter.  Thankfully we have our blog, The Boswellians.  Here are my ten favorite books for 2013, in no particular order.  I'm sure you'll notice that all titles involve either science, history, or dogs - subjects that if you talk to me in the store you'll know I'm very fond of.

 #1. Gulp by Mary Roach
  Now I know that I claimed that I wouldn't be listing these in order, but Gulp is truly my favorite book from 2013.  The book is packed with interesting and disgusting facts and experiments around the alimentary canal, and easily tops Roach's book Bonk, a book that I was convinced would always be her best work.  Her writing remains top-notch, there are very few authors who can illicit the range of emotions that she can, I fluctuated between thrilled, awed, grossed out, and sad. This book would probably also win the "Most Times Halley Can Annoy Her Boyfriend About One Book" award, as my boyfriend and I like to sit and read together and I interrupted his reading every five minutes while reading this book to tell him something new that I learned along the way.

#2. The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

I picked up a galley for this book on a whim at one of our rep nights, I thought that perhaps my boyfriend the plant nerd would get a kick out of it.  When he didn't pick it up immediately, I decided to check it out and was instantly hooked.  It became a book that I would read out loud to Andrew while he cooked, and that got him on board the Stewart train as well.  The book opened my eyes to other books by Stewart which I subsequently gobbled up.  The Drunken Botanist is a beautiful blend of botany and history, and also of some of the social and economic repercussions that are wrapped up in certain crops. Stewart was also part of one of my favorite events that Boswell held at the Great Lakes Distillery earlier in the spring.

#3. The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
I wrote a whole blog post about this one here.  I should add that Kiernan was a great presenter and the event at Boswell was wonderful, the crowd was filled with people who had ties to Oak Ridge, TN.

 #4. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
I picked this book up after reading The Girls of Atomic City, knowing that I still had a historical itch to scratch.  I LOVED every single bit of this book.  I became immersed in the lives of the women standing behind the men of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo - every reading session ended with me running to Wikipedia to learn more.  Of all of the books I've read this year, this is the one that left me saddest at the end, I wasn't ready to be done.  This lead to Netflix binges of space documentaries, the search for the perfect edition of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff, and my boyfriend thinking I was obsessed enough with astronauts to want a big box of astronaut ice cream.

 #5. The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson 
 This is another book mentioned alongside Kiernan's Girls of Atomic City in my earlier blog post.  The only thing I can add is that this book deserves a Pulitzer just as much as his first in the Liberation Trilogy, An Army at Dawn.

#6. My Dog: The Paradox by Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal)
First let me shamelessly flaunt my dog Poppy, the most perfect specimen of a dog on the planet:

 To know me is to know that I am obsessed with my little white dog.  When I first read the My Dog: The Paradox comic on The Oatmeal, I laughed, I cried, and I showed it to all of the dog lovers that I knew.  Inman captured all of the emotions and oddities involved with dog ownership perfectly.  When I got my hardcover copy of it I took it home and read it to Poppy.  That reading session ended in tears when I got to the part about dogs not being able to live forever, but it also made me appreciate the time that I do get to have with my sweet little P.

#7. Once Upon a Flock by Lauren Scheuer
When we were younger my best friend Jodi had chickens on her farm.  I hated them.  They ran around wherever they pleased and were stinkier than any cow I had ever met.  This did not seem like a book for me, but I was intrigued by the mixture of photography and illustration and decided to give it a try.  This was my most pleasantly surprising read of the year. I became engrossed in Scheuer's flock, caring about every single detail of the chickens' lives from their eating habits to egg laying.  I became so wrapped up in the bunch that I finished this book in a laundromat in tears after the death of one of my favorite chickens. This was a fun read that may make the reader obsessed with having a flock of their own.

#8. Maddie on Things by Theron Humphrey
When Stacie first introduced me to Maddie, I oohed and awed over how cute the adorable coonhound was.  After meeting Maddie at Boswell I was even more in love.  Humphrey's photographs are a nice blend of humor and art that showcase the different parts of the United States.

#9. The Inheritor's Powder by Sandra Hempel

Hempel brings together chemistry, crime, law, mystery, and history in this book on arsenic - a once popular method for poisoning.  I loved that Hempel was able to write on science and history while keeping a side plot on an actual case of arsenic poisoning.  This book is not out until October, but it is well worth the wait.

#10. Electrified Sheep by Alex Boese
I have not yet finished this book, but as I am over halfway through I can say with confidence that this is easily one of my favorite books for 2013. Boese writes on the stranger side of science, covering experiments that would probably be frowned upon by most of humanity.  The book is hilarious and crazy, two things that I can get behind.

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