The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Only 10 pages in, I began wishing I had read this eight years ago, when it was first recommended to me.
Tending the Wild by Kat Anderson
A life's work in ethnobotany. A reconstruction of Native Californian plant cultivation, harvesting, and use.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggars
Based on the true story of a Muslim family in New Orleans and how Katrina changed their lives. The blend of novelistic and reporting sensibilities is surprisingly fluid.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Deliciously written characters, belly aching laughter, and America's (un)reconstructed racism all rolled into one narrative.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Full of unexpected moments of vulnerability and hilarity; so layered that I found myself reading it twice. Also, a humble suggestion for a 4th Rule: Do two female characters talk about something other than stereotypical female domains?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Biomedical research's troubled history intersects with race, gender, and the first ever immortal cell line in Baltimore. So glad Ms. Skloot is donating some proceeds to the Lacks family.
We the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
A lullaby to seafaring and the Danish towns that relied on it across three generations of an Æro family.
S by Doug Dorst & JJ Abrams
A good way to pass the time while awaiting the next installment from Black Letter Labs—although I swear the cipher in Chapter 8 is erroneous.
Decisive by Chip & Dan Heath
Concrete suggestions for considering more options and addressing confirmation bias. Interesting overlap with the principles of design thinking.
Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo
Storytelling and findings from a data-driven approach to poverty alleviation. Interesting summary of the evidence base for various interventions--most of which is mixed.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
I liked this even better than Lacuna, possibly due to the heavy dose of entomology and compassionate portrayal of both sides of an entrenched debate.
Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson
A refreshing contrast to the reified film version of TE Lawrence. The subtitle says it all: "War, deceit, imperial folly, and the making of the modern Middle East."
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
After abandoning the Brothers Karamazov, Tolstoy provided a nice balance of insight into characters' interior worlds while keeping pace with the sweeping changes of a century.
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
The best plain English explanation of Bayesian modeling yet. I wish Mr. Silver would apply his skills to fields other than sports, cards, and elections.
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
The true story of the American man who contributed richly to the Oxford English Dictionary's first editions from an asylum.
All Souls' Rising by Madison Smartt Bell
Brutal and beautifully written fiction about the slave revolt in Haiti and the class tensions that fueled the violence. This was on Hilary Mantel's list of recommended historical fiction.
1493 by Charles Mann
The sequel to Mann's 1491 contains interesting insights into the galleon trade. It's also nice to see information about maroon communities outside of the academic literature.
Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
A convincing narrative about Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More, and Henry VIII without pandering to common caricatures. (Although Cardinal Wolsey still makes me see Orson Welles.)
The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
A very satisfying pun and interesting data about human welfare in the context of social and economic disparities.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The characters are a bit over the top, but the semi-fictional tour of our very own Temescal is worth it.
© Kirsten Thompson