Monday, January 11, 2010

Books Read in 2010

In 2009 I tried to do a short recap of all the books I read during the year. I failed. I didn't even manage to list all the books I read, never mind write any worthwhile short review of them. In the spirit of giving it another try, here are the books I've read in 2010:

Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid
Denis Leary

I picked this up in the Houston airport on my way back to Florida. I remember watching Denis Leary on HBO when I was a kid. I think it was his No Cure for Cancer stand up routine or something. I think he was MTV a lot back then, too.

I know he's from Worcester and grew up in an Irish Catholic family and my Aunt Molly claims to have been his 1st grade girlfriend. That's the main reason for me buying the book. I've never watched that show about firefighters because I've been stuck in the 1980's on Saipan, an island where people still wear stone washed jeans (like the owner of that one bar in Garapan).

Why We Suck is funny, laugh out loud funny in several parts, but this book isn't winning any awards. I liked when he talked about growing up in an Irish family. The O'Connor half of my brain could relate. A lot of the other stuff isn't that new. You can hear the same stuff drinking in any bar in New England, or any bar where people from New England are drinking. In fact, I think a lot of his observations and jokes may have came out of my own mouth at one time: hating on the Yankees, Republicans, and fat, lazy Americans in general.

And I read this while I was supposed to be studying for the GRE. For the record, there isn't much GRE vocabulary in this book.

Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan
Chun Yu Wang

This is the only first hand account about what life was like for the Chinese women working in Saipan's garment factories. There are no damning charges made, no accusations of forced abortions and prostitution; at its core it is a story about how much it sucks to be born poor and how hard these girls worked in order to get ahead. Not that life was all roses. The girls get scammed, belittled, and taken advantage of at every turn.

It is a story deserved to be told and shines a light on a situation that should never have been allowed on American soil. I recommend this one, especially if you want to know about Saipan at the turn of the century. I imagine this book will grow in importance as the years go by.

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures
Malcolm Gladwell

An alternative title for this book could have been "A Book Whose Cover Looks Like My Other Books to Trick People Into Buying It." That's exactly what happened to me. I picked this book up because I thought it was going to be like Tipping Point or Outliers. It wasn't.

What the Dog Saw is a collection of 19 magazine articles Gladwell has written for The New Yorker magazine over the last 15 years. I was disappointed at first, but once I jumped into the essays I saw that they were written in the classic Gladwell style of pulling seemingly unrelated things together to make a point that after reading seems so obvious.

I especially enjoyed the essay about plagiarism called Something Borrowed, probably because I cut and paste and borrow pictures into my blog all the time.

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
Franklin Foer

This book takes us from the Balkans, to Scotland, Ukraine, Brazil and Italy and ultimately to the United States and weaves some great stories about soccer. The book is part anthropological study, part history, and part travelogue all told through the lens of soccer. It explores the part soccer has played in history, politics, and race and class relations. I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Lord of the Flies (50th Anniversary Edition)
William Golding

The Wrecking Crew
Thomas Frank

A book about how the Republicans destroyed America, with a large section dedicated to Jack Abramoff and his dealings in the Northern Mariana Islands. Governor Ben Fitial gets a lot of mention.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordon

I saw this movie over the summer and hated it, but Kevin and Catie swore the books were great. Disney absolutely dropped the ball on this one. The books are great! They are a little silly and don't have the depth of the Harry Potter books, but are still a fun read. Plus, the reimagining of Greek mythology is great.

I guess Disney only planned on making one movie because they pulled elements from several books into the first movie and completely changed the plot. These are great airplane books.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters
Rick Riordon

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Titan's Curse
Rick Riordon

Jamaican in Saipan
Walt Goodridge

A Sand County Almanac
Aldo Leopold

A must read for any environmentalist. I enjoyed the discussion about the farmer's in Sand County and couldn't believe how much they sounded like the fishermen in the Pacific.

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
C.S. Lewis

The Silver Chair
C.S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy
C.S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew
C.S. Lewis

The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis

Call It Courage
Armstrong Sperry

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton's book on many different ways in which we can give back to our communities and the world. I would have enjoyed it more if I was younger and more idealistic. Just sayin'.

The Creation
E.O. Wilson

This is the fourth or fifth book I've read by E.O. Wilson, the Harvard biologist who came up with one of my favorite biological theories, the theory of island biogeography. The Creation is a long letter, written from the point of view a scientist, addressed to a theologian, to try to come to some middle ground in explaining the Creation. The book gives an easily understandable rundown of the planets biodiversity and environmental wonders, while explaining our current environmental crisis.

The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America
H. Bruce Franklin

A book about fish.

The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat
Charles Clover

Another book about fish.

From Colonialism to Self-Government: The Northern Marianas Experience
Jose Dela Cruz

A book about Saipan. It's not available on, which is kind of lame.

Sharks in Question
Victor Springer

A book about sharks. Written in the 1980's, the book is hideously outdated. Most of the chapters end with great ways to eat sharks, as if that were their only worth.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth
Rick Riordon

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Last Olympian
Rick Riordon

Our Northern Islands
Dennis Chan

I actually read this one about 25 times. The story about the first expedition to the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. The best book of 2010!

The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown

I read this one last year when it first came out, but I read it again because I now live in the city where most of the story takes place: Washington, DC.

Eye of the Albatross
Carl Safina

A book about birds and fish and the environment.

Why I Write
George Orwell

A collection of essays that I enjoy reading from time to time.

Wildebeest in a Rainstorm
John Bowermaster

Wildebeest in a Rainstorm is a collection of profiles of famous environmentalists and adventurers. The best profiles come in the front of the book. One of my favorites was the profile of David Brower, the guy who founded several organizations, including my former employer, League of Conservation Voters.

I consider myself an environmentalist and reading about the heavies in my "industry" was great. I'd like to think that I saw a bit of myself in each of the profiles. I won't get that in to it though. Comparing one's self to famous people never comes off well.

Animal Farm
George Orwell

Decision Points
George W. Bush


Walt said...

hey Angelo,
Thanks so much for the review of Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan.

Just want to let Saipan and Guam residents know that a new shipment of books is on its way. However, copies are already being grabbed up even before it gets here, so I would encourage people to reserve their copy (or copies) by ordering now at In this case, it's true: supplies are REALLY limited! :-)

(Note, once the books arrive, I'll notify people by email or text and they can pick up, or I'll have them dropped off, or delivered as requested.)

p.s. I've added your review to the saipanfactorygirl site.

Vicki said...

Glad to see your assessment of the Percy Jackson movie vs. the book series. My son, who was 13 at the time, actively hated the movie and complained about just what you did: they pulled from different parts of the series and jammed it into one, randomly sequenced, movie. So, as is too often the case, movie bad, books good.