As the year winds down, I’m posting the last brief reviews of books that I’ve read this year. My initial challenge of 50 books in a year seemed daunting at first (a book a week? Who has time?) yet I somehow did it, and I don’t even feel like I spent that much time reading this year. I think everyone should do the 50 book challenge, because A) why not and B) it doesn’t actually require that much time or effort.
61. God is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens, read by Christopher Hitchens
I love this book. Once I hit 60 and knew I’d probably get to 65 for the year, I decided that I could just go ahead and do some guilty pleasure re-reads if I wanted to. I admit I simply love to listen to Christopher Hitchens speak, and I would probably listen to him read a cookbook, so long as he was allowed to make snarky remarks, but this book is truly remarkable if for no other reason than it offers opinions on things that are much different than what you hear from day to day. Mother Teresa and Gandhi are sold, compellingly, as villains, as is all religion, including Eastern Religion. There’s also an interesting chapter on why religions don’t like pigs and another on whether religion is child abuse.
Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody — not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms — had the smallest idea of what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge. Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion.
62. QI Second Book of General Ignorance
I started with the second book because it was more recent (logic!) and I did enjoy it. QI, for those not in the know, is a British Trivia show (Quite Interesting) where comics answer tricky trivia questions and are awarded points for being interesting and lose points for being obvious and wrong. It’s awesome. The book repeats the show a bit, but it was interesting.
63. Book of General Ignorance
I liked the second book more.
64. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
This is an amazing book. You need to read it. It’s about a poor black woman in the 50s who died of cervical cancer, but whose cancer cells were the first immortal human cells and have been used in millions of experiments since then and contributed to almost all human biological knowledge discovered since they were cultured. But no one asked her for permission to take the cells, and no one told her or her family that they were being used. Here’s an excerpt.
65. The Nuremberg Trial – John and Ann Tusa
I didn’t know anything about the Nuremberg Trials, really, just that they existed. This was a really human and fascinating account of the first trial. It was a slow read, but it was a lot like reading a courtroom drama, especially because the Nazis were portrayed as three dimensional. If you like courtroom stories, this is a good, if disturbing, one.