The clear winner, we'll call it book of the year, was by NPR's Deborah Amos. Though we won't accuse C.I. of attempting to influence the outcome of the poll, we will note that many voting for this book as their favorite wondered why, as C.I. pointed out, Thomas E. Ricks regularly ignores this book? Why? Because Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East deals with the realities of the Iraq War and that's too much reality for Tommy Ricks. Amos' book is moving throughout but especially when she's charting what refugee status means for a number of Iraqi women -- late nights in clubs attempting to turn a trick in order to support their families. Amos is covering the realities of the Iraq War that so few have. Make a point to pick this book up. However, considering how this was the clear winner -- it wasn't even close -- most of you already have picked the book up.
At number two? "The election of Obama was one more triumph of illusion over substance. It was a skillful manipulation and betrayal of the public by a corporate power elite. We mistook style and ethnicity -- an advertising tactic pioneered by Calvin Klein and Benetton -- for progressive politics and genuine change. The goal of branded Obama, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand for an experience. And that is why Obama was named Advertising Age's marketer of the year for 2008, beating out Apple and Zappos." That gem, noted by Brady and by Susan in separate e-mails, is from page 199 of Chris Hedges' Death Of The Liberal Class.
Number three is Tariq Ali's The Obama Syndrome: Surrender At Home, War Abroad. And for those who wonder, four more votes and it would have tied with Hedges' book (five more votes and it would have beat it). In this tight and well executed book -- one that Trina advocated for strongly in "Books: The Obama Syndrome" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) -- Ali pens the truth so few in the United States are able to. It's not a book of excuses or minimizations. It's a book that lets the chips fall where they may as Ali tells his truth. And, as Trina put it, " I'll let others go into the politics and all of that and I'll stop hogging the discussion by noting that he's someone who not just has something important to say but also has a wonderful way of saying it. We have a lot of writers on the left that we read for the information who would never be read for style. Tariq Ali truly is a writer. He has tremendous talent and style and is such a pleasure to read."
Number four was a surprise to us, Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking. We love this book. So does the community. In fact, they voted it the best book of 2009. Enough people hadn't read it last year, saw it at the top of the 2009 list, read it this year and said, "This is the best book." And Charlie. Charlie read it last year and voted for it last year. He's re-reading it over and over and made it his number one pick for this year again arguing that, "It's worth noting two years in a row." We agree. We're also thrilled that last year's list had an impact.
Number five is Jerry Lembcke's Haoni Jane: War, Sex & Fantasies of Betrayal. This book's title hurt it, sorry if that truth hurts. Kayla bought it at her Borders' only to have the female clerk ask her why she hated Jane Fonda. Writes Kayla, "It could have been worse. The clerk could have said, 'Oh, I hate Jane Fonda too!' But I'm standing there trying to explain that this is a book about Jane Fonda's activism and how it was distorted and the book's attempting to reclaim reality but the woman's just looking at the cover and shaking her head." Kayla's experience was a common one at bookstores and libraries. With that in mind, if you haven't picked up the book yet, please do. From page 160:
The celebration of women's independence and power through the lenses of America's defeat in Vietnam and the dissolution of Western colonialism was an easy addition to the many other sociopolitical realignments taking place in the late twentieth century. But even more than gains of, say, national sovereignty in Asia and Africa or voting rights for African Americans, the gains made by the American women's liberation movement during the 1960s and early 1970s were perceived by many men to have come at the expense of their own social and economic standing. Coming as they did during the war years and integrally linked as they were to gender relations within the antiwar movement, it was no surprise that those hurt feelings would combine with resentments stemming from the lost war with their own sexual and gender connotations specific to the war and the way each side fought.
Number six was concerned with the status of women currently, Gloria Feldt's No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. This was actually our own number one pick (so never accuse us of rigging the results!) and we'll sum the book up as: If you're ever going to confront systematic discrimination in our society, you're going to need to know it's history and your power. This book is the workout for your activist self.
Number seven is Pat Benatar's Between A Heart And A Rock Place. 80s rock queen Pat looks back on a past she can not only remember but also illuminate. Reading the book reminds you that it took an artist to produce the music she did and also informs you of just what a behind-the-scenes struggle that was.
Number eight is Roger Hodge's The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism. Third's "Book discussion" found everyone making solid points -- some pro, some negative. We believe that's the standard community reaction to the book.
Number nine is Sara Paretsky's latest V.I. Warshawski mystery Body Work. Read it and see why so many loved it. And from her website:
New Year's Day, at 6:30 p.m., tune in or stream WFMT for a celebration of women's lives, including Elaine Strich, Veuve Clicquot, the women of the Plaza del Mayo--and Sara Paretsky, who will be toasted by Nicole Hollander.
Sara has been named the 2011 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America; the ceremony will be April 28 at the Grand Hyatt in New YorkThe WFMT broadcast is today and that's 6:30 p.m. EST.
Number ten? Thanks to sight-impaired community members and their loved ones for raising the issue of audio books. We're honestly embarrassed that we've never thought to explore that issue. Those using audio books -- sight impaired and non-sight impaired -- banded together as a block this year to make their own list and to whittle it down to their number one choice. It is Jane Fonda's My Life So Far. The book came out in 2005. It is their choice because it is enjoyable and because it is over forty hours long. Said Selena, who is sight impaired, "There are good audio books that really get to a story and there are the ones that just breeze through. But, and this was the point so many of us had, there are very few where the author shows so much commitment. Mine was an iTunes download and is forty-four hours. Others have downloads that are as much as fifty-one hours. We feel that we not only got a real sense of the printed book, we got a great deal more than those who read the printed book. This was a real treat and a real honor and we'd love to see more audio books like this in the future."
Martha & Shirley have also done the year in review of books in 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005.