13. The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Mark Epstein. The best of the lot. Abraham and Mary Lincoln -- two extraordinary people -- are viewed the prism of that most ordinary institution -- marriage. It's beautifully written and compassionate. They both come to life and by the end of the book, I missed them.
12. The Cat Who Went Up the Creek by Lillian Jackson Braun. An oldie (2002) but a goodie. From Shelfari, "Qwill and the cats -- Koko and Yum Yum -- are at the Nutcracker Inn in Black Creek when a drowned guest puts a damper on their stay." It's not a thrilling thriller, there's not a lot of action, but it moves at a good pace and the characters are charmingly eccentric.
11. Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell. A new Scarpetta! This time with Kay back narrating! From Shelfari, "A young man drops dead, apparently from a cardiac arrhythmia, eerily close to Scarpetta's new Cambridge home. But when his body is examined the next morning, there are stunning indications that he may have been alive when he was zipped inside a pouch and locked insider the Center's cooler."
10. Bright Lights, Big Ass. The subtitle says it all, "A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?" A funny memoir by Chicagoland's own Jen Lancaster. It's my least favorite of the three I have read, though, because it's so mean-spirited. She has railed against those who compare Bush to Hitler, yet makes it clear that she would like to "pee" on the campaign signs for a certain "socialist" candidate displayed on her neighbor's lawn during the 2008 Presidential campaign. She thinks it was funny that she and her husband (both admittedly overweight) knocked small children over while hurtling downhill on a sled. By the end of this book, I thought the "she-could-be-a-gf" vibe I got from her other books was by mistake.
9. Between a Rock and a Hot Place by Tracey Jackson. A woman deals with menopause by any means necessary, and shares her experiences. She has a great sensitive of humor and an accessible writing style. She also has a lot more resources, alas, than most women do as we struggle through this.
8. Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster. Now this is the funny one. This is the Jen whose voice you like having in your head when you're at the grocery store or the gym. It's about her struggle to lose weight, and it's both inspirational and a riot.
7. Robert Redford by Michael Feeney Callahan. An in-depth look at a very private, very stubborn, very smart man. In a way, like Gatsby (who he rather unsuccessfully portrayed in the 1970s), he's not well understood, nor does he seem to be wish to be.
6. Sixkill by Robert Parker. From Shelfari, "On location in Boston, bad-boy actor Jumbo Nelson is accused of the rape and murder of a young woman. From the start the case seems fishy, so the Boston PD calls on Spenser to investigate." I don't know how I felt about it. It's not a great Parker effort, but it's the last Spenser he finished himself before his death, so I savored it.
5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It's a good book. It's not a great book. It's not To Kill a Mockingbird or any of the other classics it's been compared to, but it's an example of spellbinding storytelling. These are women you care about and root for!
4. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. It's slim and superficial. But so what? Even a mediocre Carrie Fisher memoir is a witty thrill ride.
3. Mommy's Little Girl by Diane Fanning. A chronological retelling of the Caylee Anthony murder. There's little that's new here, but having the story laid out in this way is chilling.
2. The Ultimate Weight Solution by Dr. Phil McGraw. I'm not Dr. Phi fan -- not by a long shot -- but this book is so full of common sense that I had to respect it. Once my current health problems are behind me, I look forward to putting them into practice
1. Against All Odds by Senator Scott Brown. Yes, I'm reading a book by a Republican. A really hot Republican. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that his looks make his politics easier to take. But it also must be said that he's had an amazing life. And he's an independent (if not especially deep) thinker, not an idealog, and his decisions are informed by life experiences and compassion.
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