Books To Get You Thinking

As 2013 quietly slips away into the annals of history, it is a good time to reflect on the many outstanding books of the year, both fiction and nonfiction, that will continue exciting the minds and imagination of readers. Each year leading newspapers and journals publish their 10 Best Books of the Year lists covering widely disparate genres. Highlighted this month are selections from the different lists that we think our readers would enjoy. 

Washington Post 

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
Acclaimed historian, Jill  Lepore writes a fascinating narrative about Jane Franklin’s life and her abiding relationship with her brother Benjamin Franklin. The book sheds light not just about Franklin’s sister but also draws attention to an era of American history when women received little or no education and had no voice of their own. Despite the paucity of sources,  Lepore has painstakingly woven together bits of information that document the pain and difficult times that faced Jane throughout her life, as well as her thoughts and feelings on different issues as expressed in her letters to her brother. 

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel
Editor, and staff writer for the Washington Post and a McArthur Fellow, David Finkel writes a though provoking, mesmerizing and deeply moving account of American soldiers who returned  home after deployment in Iraq. Based on personal interviews with many war veterans, their wives, widows, therapists and counselors,   Finkel weaves a kaleidoscope of  stories that bring to the forefront the irreversible emotional  trauma and psychological  damage inflicted by war long after the guns have been silenced. The sounds and the images of war, horrific and painful, stay embedded deep in the minds and hearts of these soldiers bringing with them the anxiety, nightmares and depression that destroys entire families .  

New York Times 

Five Days at Memorial : Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Physician-journalist Sheri Fink looks into the way that struggling hospitals in New Orleans dealt with patients amidst the devastation and inadequate infrastructure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She pieces together many sources of information depicting how medically, morally, and ethically ambiguous the scenario at Memorial really was.  Fink brilliantly recreates the uncertainties faced by the medical staff who realized that many patients were suffering and dying in transport due to the chaos and inadequacy of the medical disaster response. Sheri Fink has applied her experience covering humanitarian disasters in the Balkans to this gripping nonfiction work which raises important questions about the challenges of end-of-life care and the reality of rationing in medical disasters, particularly when contingency planning is inadequate.

After the Music Stopped : The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead by Alan Blinder
Five years after the onset of the financial crisis, Princeton University professor Alan Blinder presents a comprehensive analysis of the complex factors instrumental in triggering the crisis and turning it into a global phenomenon, as well as the government’s unprecedented efforts that helped contain its severity and impact.  He further discusses the steps needed to finally end the stagnation and unemployment that continue to plague the US and much of the world today.  Central to Blinder’s analysis is the belief that the economic crisis erupted from the convergence of factors including subprime mortgages, a complex and leveraged financial system and a lack of effective economic regulations. (Also featured in our July edition of Books to Get You Thinking.)  

Financial Times 

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
The author, Facebook’s CEO Sheryl Sandberg, shares her perspective on why relatively few women have succeeded in major leadership positions, and then introduces a set of principles that would  help women propel themselves to professional success, maintain those positions, and feel more comfortable and empowered by their priority-setting abilities. The book has generated spirited discussion in a society where professional gender equality continues to be elusive and women from many walks of life have been publicly sharing their individual challenges in achieving professional success and work-life balance. Since publication, she has reached beyond the pages of her book to make its message more applicable by creating official “Lean In Circle” support groups designed to help women change how they think about and structure their time and efforts.

Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, by J. Craig Venter
The term synthetic biology encompasses an emerging field of science that could make real many of the wildest creations of science fiction, from medicines and vaccines printed from a box in your house to studying samples of life from other planets without having to physically transport them back to Earth. In this book, Craig Venter explains how DNA can be understood as a mode of information storage that can be constructed, manipulated, and transported in the same manner as analog and digital signals. Synthetic biologists take a programming and engineering approach towards handling and "designing" genetic material. Venter describes several prototype projects that can create biological products made-to-order and much more rapidly than previously possible, at the same time discussing the technical challenges and ethical frameworks required to handle this technology. 

All of us at the Mercer County Library wish all our readers a Very Happy, Peaceful and Joyous New Year  - Nita Mathur


  1. Thank you Nita for the interesting list of thought provoking books.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ocean-in-a-Bottle Craft for Kids

Neil Gaiman Ruined My Life

The Discipline of Gratitude