From Crafting with Cat Hair to the Disappearance of D.B. Cooper” Ten Books I Enjoyed in 2011by Larry Cox on Jan. 03, 2012, under Uncategorized
Happy New Year and welcome to my list of ten books I especially enjoyed during 2011. This is not a “best of” column but rather a revisit of ten extraordinary books from this past year, entertaining books that merit a second mention.
Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray (Crown, $25)
This book about one of the greatest cold cases of the 20th century which centers around “D.B. Cooper,” a man who purchased a one-way ticket from Portland to Seattle on Northwest Orient Airlines one rainy autumn night in 1971. Shortly after takeoff, he ordered a bourbon and soda and then passed a note to the stewardess that stated he had a bomb in his briefcase. He demanded $200,000, it was paid, and Cooper then leaped from the jet with more than 20 pounds of cash strapped to his body. He was never seen again – dead or alive. The author revealed new information and had exclusive access of FBI files. Although what happened to Cooper remains a mystery, Gray’s account of this event is intriguing and an example of exceptional crime reporting.
I Love Lucy: A Celebration of All Things Lucy by Elisabeth Edwards (Running Press, $30)
This highly entertaining book was published on the 60th anniversary of the premiere of the “I Love Lucy” TV series and is the ultimate commemoration of the show. Filled with rare photos and anecdotes, this tribute brings to life the world of the landmark television show and its enduring impact. A highlight is Lucille Ball’s personal commentary on her favorite episodes including “The Diet,” “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” and “Job Switching.”
Elisabeth Edwards worked with the Arnaz family for more than a decade on this project and also compiled the “I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Edition” and “The Lucy and Desi Scrapbook.”
Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty with a foreword by Brian Williams, photographs by Nick del Calzo, and a text by Peter Collier (Arison Books, $45)
This new edition of “Medal of Honor” was published on the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s creation of the Congressional Medal of Honor and on the 70th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor which triggered WWII. This magnificent volume features over 275 photographs, extraordinary stories of courage, and portraits of 144 living or recently deceased men who earned our country’s highest military honors for their service in World War II, Korean, Vietnam, and our present conflicts. Only three living American soldiers have received the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, all of them during 2010. This beautiful and significant book is an inspiration.
A Free and Hardy Life: Theodore Roosevelt’s Sojourn in the American West by Clay S. Jenkinson with a foreword by Douglas Brinkley (University of Oklahoma Press, $45)
Theodore Roosevelt traveled to western Dakota Territory in 1883 whewre he bagged his first buffalo. In the process, he fell in love with the region and even spent the better part of 1883-87 ranching in addition to serving as a deputy sheriff and attempting to become an authentic cowboy. Jenkinson’s book contains 70 stories, many set in Dakota Territory, about Roosevelt’s life as an adventurer, politician, and a man of letters. The wonderful images and lively text bring both the man and his era into sharp focus.
The Good, the Bad, and the Godawful: 21st Century Movie Reviews by Kurt Loder (Thomas Dunne Books, $21.99)
Kurt Roder, a former staff writer and senior editor at Rolling Stone, serves up a lively excavation of some of the most notable movies in recent years — the over-hyped, the under-loved, the rousing, the wretched and the even-worse. His collection of 200 reviews is even more entertaining than many of the movies he writes about.
Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year by Charles Bracelen Flood (Da Capo, $27.50)
Flood has written several bestselling books about the Civil War including “Lee: The Last Years” and “Grant and Sherman.” In his latest book, he documents the final year of Grant’s life. It was a difficult time when he faced terminal cancer and struggled to complete his memoirs so that he could help his family financially. Completed just four days before his death in 1885, Grant’s book was an instant hit and has long been considered the best ever written by a former military leader or president. Flood provides the riveting true story behind this literary achievement.
Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet (W.W. Norton, $24.95)
This novel by Tucson writer Lydia Millet is one of the most insightful, beautifully executed books of 2010. Her keen and exacting observations, scathing satiric portraits, and an uncanny fluidity between comic hilarity and sobering realism make Millet one of the finest writers of her generation. This is literary craftsmanship and stylish storytelling so lively it seems to leap from the printed page.
Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (Simon & Schuster, $22)
In many ways, Carrie Fisher’s latest book is even better than her previous bestseller, “Wishful Drinking.” In this rather thin but lethally funny and disarming new memoir, Fisher reveals more about her bi-polar disorder and her electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatment). Since her treatments are stealing bits and pieces of her memory, she plunges into her story so that she can get the best bits on paper before they are gone forever. She reveals such juicy tidbits as her experiences on a double date with Senator Ted Kennedy, inactions with friend and neighbor, Michael Jackson, and why Elizabeth Taylor pushed her into the swimming pool during an Easter brunch.
Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant (Vintage/Random House, $15)
When I originally reviewed this book, I described it as “Jaws” with paws. Set in the bleak and forbidding cold of Siberia, a Siberian tiger stalks the region in this heart-pounding true story that explores the nature of predator and prey. This is an epic tale by the author of the previous bestseller, “The Golden Spruce.”
The New Atlas of World History: Global Events at a Glance by John Haywood (Princeton University Press, $49.95)
When did humans first inhabit different parts of the world? What was happening in China when Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire? What was the global reach of the great religions at the time of the Reformation in Europe? These questions and more are examined in this first historic atlas to present global history in a series of uniform world maps, allowing at-a-glance comparison between different periods and regions.
—————–And one of the most bizarre books of the year —————–
Crafting With Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat by Kaori Tsutaya and translated from the Japanese by Amy Hirschman (Quirk Books, $14.95)
It seems appropriate that the country that gave us “Hello, Kitty” would also produce a book of craft suggestions made from cat hair. By taking stray clumps of fur, a little imagination and work can turn out a cute coin purse, a pin cushion and much more. The ten projects documented in this book will have your giggling within minutes.