Top Five Books of 2004

A reader asked what my top five picks would be, out of the books I read last year. I was able to pinpoint my favorites immediately from the list. Interestingly, three of the five books were recommended by fellow bloggers. In no particular order:

1) If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, by Jon McGregor. I bought this book after Mr. Cactus raved about it. It’s suspenseful—not in the sense of being a thriller-mystery, but because everything that’s happening is building up to something.

2) The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. I’d never read anything by this author until last year, but although it’s very long, I finished it quickly. It’s one of those stories where you get to a certain point and you can’t stop reading until you get to the end.

3) We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch. The title struck me, so I looked up the description and then went to the library and checked it out. It’s a true story about the genocide in Rwanda, back in the mid-1990s. It was upsetting—while I was reading it, I couldn’t believe that I was old enough to know about these horrific massacres back when they were actually going on, and even it sounded familiar, the truth of what happened, and the scale of the murders, was shocking and humbling. The book goes into that, too—why the Western world knows about certain things, and why we don’t—depending on what the media thinks their audience is going to be interested in. Incidentally, the new movie “Hotel Rwanda” has recently come out, and is getting rave reviews.

4) Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. I read this book while I was doing a research paper on Wal-Mart last spring. The author took a number of low-wage jobs to illustrate the virtual impossibility of how the people who actually do these jobs, survive. She goes from having a comfortable lifestyle, to having to work minimum-wage jobs, usually involving physical labor. All this, with the knowledge that—unlike her co-workers—she has the option of making the choice to go home at any moment.

5) No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, by Naomi Klein. This book has a ton of information, a lot of which was disturbing, but this one has to do with advertising and branding. I liked the book so much, I bought a copy for myself after reading it first from the library. I haven’t yet read it a second time, but I would.

So there they are. My tendency, when I talk about fiction, is not to give away a lot because I don’t like to give away the story. I can say more about nonfiction, and they way they affected me, because I like coming away from these books feeling like I know something that I didn’t know before. I’m not a reviewer, but I would recommend any of the above to anyone interested in those topics.

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