Yes, I did read books in December. I humbly apologize for not writing about them here sooner! Here's the December recap. (Although I'm writing this after the fact, I'm backdating the post for archival purposes.)
Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America and Found Unexpected Peace by William Lobdell
This is one of those non-fiction books that catches my eye from time to time and muscles its way into my already-too-large, ever-expanding queue of Books To Read, for no reason other than right time/right place. It was a super quick read, and a good story. The author was an LA Times Orange County reporter so I could relate to his So Cal journalisming. He tells a good story: his story, of how he grew kind of religious but kind of apathetic (like so many in the U.S.), then found religion for realsies at en evangelical retreat, then became a thoughtful and spiritual religion reporter, and then realized it was all hooey, to borrow my friend Amy's word for religion. I think the story is interesting for seekers, ponderers, and confirmed atheists. And I know it's interesting for at least some still-in-the-faith Christians, because I read a bunch of comments and reviews online by people who were "moved" by his tale and are now holding out hope for him and praying for his return to Jesus. Which, hello. I guess we've just been too conditioned to "wait for the sequel." If nothing else, though, his insights into the shenanigans surrounding the Catholic priest scandals confirm in his mind the damage organized religion does. Philosophically, the fretting is done and I think he is totally at peace, as we atheists tend to be.
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
I read this one for my women's fiction book group at the feminist bookstore down the road a piece in Chicago. I miss my book group! Well, anyway, like most of you I had never heard of it before, but it was apparently a bestseller in its day, which was in the 1950s. Twentysomething girl goes off to live the foreigner life in Paris instead of "settling down" and subsequently finds ALL SORTS of interpersonal drama, much of it her own making but a good bit of it just part of the swirling cloud of creative expats doing creative expatty things. Needless to say, I related to this book too. It wasn't AWESOME, but I would go so far as to call it delightful. I'd say it deserves to be resurrected by more book groups.
Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest by K. Jack Bauer
So there's one thing Jack Bauer can't do: write a presidential biography. Ha ha. This book was the driest of the dry. Out of twelve presidential biographies I have read, this easily ranks twelfth. I feel bad being so negative about it, because I did learn some things (and after all, that is the point of my prez bios project), but my goodness was it dry. And not just academic-stilted dry, but honest-to-god holy-s*@!-this-is-boring dry. It really read more like a college report on a military battle. No, make that a high school report on a military battle; there was nowhere near as much focus as a thesis of a college-level paper would provide. It was a recitation of facts in Ol' Rough and Ready's various military endeavors for a few chapters. Then it got slightly more interesting in Mexico when Taylor was at odds with his commander-in-chief, then-President James K. Polk. I had already read Polk's side of the story in the bio of him, and I had some sympathy for Zachary even then, which is more than I can say for the author of the Taylor bio, who really seems to loathe his subject. The actual presidency part of this book was so meager at the end that I can barely recall any of it. I have no idea, really, why he wrote this book. Someone needs to give us a little better examination of Z.T.'s life.
On to 2011!