In reverse chronological order, roughly; not necessarily the order in which I endorse them.
1. BYE, MZUNGU! by Janice Ellen Lever. Lever’s memoir of her eighteen years running a kindergarten in Uganda is funny, adventurous, sweet, and absorbing all at once. If you’ve been to East Africa, you’ll know what she’s talking about at once; if you haven’t, this book is a great way to go without risking malaria.
2. FOUNDATION: THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND FROM ITS EARLIEST BEGINNINGS TO THE TUDORS, by Peter Ackroyd. The first of six planned volumes covering the entire history of England, Foundations contains not only dates and battles but also construction manuals and poo jokes. (TRUE FACT: one of the oldest continually-used words in the English language is “turd.”)
3. THE GOOD GIRLS REVOLT: HOW THE WOMEN OF NEWSWEEK SUED THEIR BOSSES AND CHANGED THE WORKPLACE, by Lynn Povich. Povich digs into the little-known history of Newsweek’s EEOC lawsuit in the 1970s and how, the more things changed at the storied publication, the more they stayed the same.
4. OPIUM FIEND: A 21st CENTURY SLAVE TO A 20th CENTURY ADDICTION, by Steven Martin. At first pulled into collecting opium paraphernalia by the drug’s extraordinary art and history, Martin soon discovers its uses – and its traps.
5. FULL BODY BURDEN: GROWING UP IN THE NUCLEAR SHADOW OF ROCKY FLATS, by Kirsten Iverson. Rocky Flats manufactured the plutonium “pits” of nuclear bombs for several decades; Iverson and those who lived near the plant and its contaminated air, soil, and water supply paid the price.
6. RED NAILS, BLACK SKATES: GENDER, CASH, AND PLEASURE ON AND OFF THE ICE, by Erica Rand. Rand explores gender and sexuality issues as they relate to figure skating, hockey, and roller derby, as both an observer and a participant.
7. PARIS, I LOVE YOU BUT YOU’RE BRINGING ME DOWN, by Rosecrans Baldwin. Baldwin and his wife pick up and move to France, where he takes a job at an ad agency and she struggles to learn French in this funny and touching memoir.
8. DREAMING IN FRENCH: THE PARIS YEARS OF JACQUELINE BOUVIER KENNEDY, SUSAN SONTAG, AND ANGELA DAVIS, by Alice Kaplan. The time in Paris spent, but not shared, by three of the twentieth century’s most prominent women are detailed and discussed in this slim, readable volume.
9. ARCADIA, by Lauren Groff. Life in a hippie commune and after, through the eyes of one of the group’s youngest (and smallest) members.
10. A GOOD AND USEFUL HURT, by Aric Davis. Featuring serial killers, tattoo parlors, and ghost revenge, this is probably one of those “so, so addled” books – but it’s a delightful read.