Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Favourite Books of 2011

It’s a holiday tradition to review the books I’ve read over the past year. Here are my favourites for 2011:

Nature
Bees: Nature’s Little Wonders by Candace Savage
The mix of graphics, myth, history and science was entrancing.

Travel
A disturbing look at the lives of women in Egypt - they are so constrained by societal, male rules.

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam, Andrew Pham
How do people survive in a country that has been ravaged by war and occupation for generations? Pham, whose family escaped to the United States, returns and experiences the conflict between his American values and beliefs and his family ties to Vietnam.

The Woman who fell from the Sky: An American Woman’s Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth, Jennifer Steil
Steil is an American journalist who moves to Yemen as editor of a local newspaper – an informative look at Yemen and journalism in a small Arab country.

Communications
I am a freelance communications specialist. These are the books that were particularly helpful to me professionally in the past year.

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo
I used some of the 80 games in this book while facilitating a two-day communications workshop. They were a useful tool for stimulating discussion and creative thinking.

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas, Dan Zarrella
Zarrella's latest book provides practical tips, based on scientific research, for increasing your effectiveness on social media.

McGovern stresses the importance of making it easy for readers to find the information they are looking for on your website.

How you present your information is so important. The way the words are organized on the page affects the way they are perceived. If this topic interests you, check out my slideshow on Elegant Simplicity.

Food and Wine
Chocolate Chocolate: A True Story of Two Sisters, Ton of Treats, and the Little Shop that Could, Frances Park and Ginger Park
Chocoholics will enjoy reading about two sisters who establish a chocolate shop in Washington, DC. Be sure to have some chocolate on hand to eat while reading.

To Burgundy and Back Again: A Tale of Wine, France, and Brotherhood, Roy Cloud
This book set me to dreaming about becoming a wine distributor and spending my time travelling through the wine regions of France and Spain.

Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris, Lauren Shockey
The author works in 4 very different kitchens in 4 different countries - from molecular gastronomy in New York to street food in Vietnam. You catch a glimpse of the disconnect between becoming a chef because you love cooking and feeding others and the sheer drudgery of preparing food in a high-end kitchen.

Richardson provides a fascinating tour of Spain and its regional cuisines.

I wasn’t familiar with American grape varietals, such as Virginia’s Norton, and found this book to be an absorbing look at the history and current status of American grapes.

Fiction
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
A lovely, gentle book about maintaining high personal ethical standards but having the courage to be flexible when necessary.

Mystery
The Blood Royal, Barbara Cleverly
I’m not usually a fan of historical mysteries, but the Joe Sandilands series based in post-World War I India and England captured my attention. The characterization, plot and setting are all rich in detail.

See also: Outstanding Books of 2010

2 comments:

Stephanie V said...

I feel as though I should have read at least one of your best books. But having read none, it's good to know that I have some new ones to add to my list.
Happy New Year!

Penny McKinlay said...

So many good books - so little time! Happy reading in 2012, Stephanie!