Books I have read this year

slide_5794_78322_largeSecret Language of Doctors by Dr. Brian Goldman
I was kind of meh about this book. While he did deliver on some of the ‘secret language’ mostly the book focuses on how much doctors dislike the obese, the elderly and the mentally ill. Want to be treated well by doctors? Don’t fall into one of those 3 categories.

Laughing all the Way to the Mosque by Zaraq Nawag
This book is written by the woman who brought “Little Mosque on the Prairie” to CBC. I mostly enjoyed this book. My main criticism is that it treated some serious issue in a trite manner.

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
I devoured this book. One would think by the length of time she spent in captivity (15 months) that it would be drudgery and boring. It was anything but. Lindhout studied all her captors and was able to bring the reader along for the ride. At times, it was like the reader was right there with her. There are people who are critical of her for going to Somalia with her lack of experience. Regardless, the book is a great read. I highly recommend this book.

Creatures of the Rock by Andrew Peacock
I found this book to be a pale imitation of James Herriot’s far better books.

The Night of the Gun by David Carr
This is another book I devoured. David Carr worked for the New York Times for many years. Prior to becoming a stable adult though, David led a life of drug addiction and petty crime. The birth of his twin girls to his junkie girlfriend forced him to sober up and get his life together. To write this book, Carr did not rely on his own memory (which was quite faulty). Instead he interviewed people from his past, relied on court and other documents to substantiate the accounts. This was an amazing book. Carr recently had a heart attack and died shortly after a NY Times event.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui
Old world meets new world in this wonderfully funny and engaging memoir about her mother written by Lui. I loved this book. It was hilariously funny at times and very emotional at others. Do yourself a favour and read this book!

Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? By Timothy Caulfield
Not being a big fan of Paltrow’s lifestyle blog/newsletter Goop, I was looking forward to reading this book. I was disappointed though when less than half of the book focused on Paltrow. The rest seemed to be about all the other wacky things people do that have no basis in science.

Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus with Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan
This was a great book. It was written by 2 of the women held hostage in that Cleveland house of horrors.
Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness by Michelle Knight
This is the book written by the third woman who was held hostage in Cleveland. It seems that conflict amongst the women meant that they all didn’t collaborate on one book. This book was also interesting. Michelle was held in captivity the longest.

They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson
This was a really great book about family and the secrets a house holds. The author is tasked with cleaning out her parent’s house after her mother dies. A task that she thinks will take 6 weeks takes about a year. She learns a great deal along the way about her parents and the meaning of family.

There were a trio of escape from North Korea books:

A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Ensun Kim and The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonso Lee
These books were very similar. The both escaped North Korea via the northern border with China. Invariably they face hardship, fear and eventually make their way to South Korea. While these stories were interesting they were both quite similar.

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park
This book was hands down the best in the ‘escape from North Korea’ genre (is it a genre?). This young woman becomes the head of her family even though she is the youngest. She does this through her intelligence and ability to figure her way out of situations. She and her mother eventually end up being taken by human traffickers. She also eventually makes it to South Korea and is able to mostly unite her family.

Rock Meet Window: A Father-Son Story by Jason Good
Jason Good is an erstwhile comedian. He is mostly known for the blog he did for a year with his reflections on parenthood. He wrote this book while he was looking after his father at the end of his life. It has some good moments.

Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
Burroughs is best known for his first memoir Running with Scissors. This book chronicles the author getting sober. It was not his best.

Gut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders
This was a transformative book for me. The author is a young woman (25 at the time of the book) who noticed that there was little written about the gut that was accessible for the average person. Her answer was to write this book. What comes across from this book is the importance of gut bacteria.

The Emperor Far Away by David Eimer
This was a really interesting book about minority populations in China. We often think of China as a monolithic culture but this is far from the truth. There are many groupings of minority populations especially where China borders other countries. Beijing treats these groups differently with those in Tibet being the most oppressed.

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill
This was a very, very long book or maybe it just seemed that way. Miscavige-Hill (niece to David Miscavige) grew up in Scientology. It is really clear how cult-like Scientology is, complete with its own language. There are some very disturbing things that the author relates including her being responsible for the medical welfare of a group of children at age 7.

Doctor memoir figure rather prominently:

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
This was a great, gentle and insightful book. The author is a neurosurgeon in Britain. He admits to arrogant and boorish behaviour in the twilight of his career. Each chapter is the title of a surgery and usually centers on an interesting patient or a lesson he learned. Great book.

Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home by Samspon Davis with Lisa Frazier Page
The author is a black ER doctor in New Jersey. I enjoyed it.

Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflection on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy, MD
The author not only addressed being a black doctor in America but also the implications of race in health issues. Diagnosed at a very young age with hypertension, he uses his own experience to highlight medical issues faced, in high numbers and severity, by African Americans.

Without You There is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim
Another book about North Korea. The author poses as a missionary to be able to teach at a university in Pyeongyang. The purpose of this school is to teach the North Korean elite to speak English. While her whole purpose in being in North Korea was to write this book, it does not detract from the quality. The book is primarily comprised of her observations about what happens to people when they lie all the time. Living in North Korea requires one to be able to suspend disbelief about everything from the wealth of North Korea (it is actually poor) to the military skill of the ‘great leaders’ (who actually have no military skill). Great book.

Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World by Brooke Borel
This was a great book about bedbugs, including a history. Great book. Oh and if you ever get bed bugs don’t use chemicals to get rid of them. A hand steamer is your friend.

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
Another father dying memoir. A lot of people raved about this book. I thought it was just ok. I think Kinew has great potential as an author he just needs to age more.

Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy
I loved this book. It was about a woman who grew up in the Mormon church and maintained her virginity. As she moves through her 20s and into her 30s with no marriage proposals coming to her she begins to question her beliefs.

Open Heart, Open Mind by Clara Hughes
Clara Hughes had a hardscrabble childhood and deals with mental illness. Those are pretty much the takeaways of her book which seems to be of the flavour of: ‘I went here and did this’ and ‘I went there and did that’. She was an Olympic medalist in both speed skating and cycling.

My Leaky Body by Julie Devaney
The author has ulcerative colitis and it is about her journey through the medical system. I completely related to everything she addressed especially the ‘imposter’ syndrome. I honestly felt like she wrote the book for me.

Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable by Mark Towhey and Johanna Schneller
The author was part of Ford’s campaign team and eventual chief of staff. He details Ford’s spiral down into crack cocaine use and alcoholism in excruciating detail. Every. Single. Detail. I would have felt sorry for Towhey except he was instrumental in getting that train-wreck elected.