Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Best Books Read in 2011

2011 was great for reading books.  It has been a long time since I have read so many good books.   Because there are so many I'll separate them into categories, and probably spread them out in a couple posts.  You can see all the books I read in 2011 at librarything.

My brother gave me this book on my birthday and this was a very excellent fantasy series. What I most appreciated about these books was the fact that the series wasn't just one long story separated into three books. It was actually three stories about the same characters. Having a heroine as the main character is always a plus. ;) I will definitely be re-reading these as some point.
Dave Duncan is by far my favorite author. He is very prolific (4 books coming out in 2012!!) and all his books are good, and many are all-time favorites of mine. This is the first book of a two part series, while on it's own it was good, but not great, but when the second book came out this year I had to re-read this one, and as a whole the series was great!
My sister gave me this book a long time ago in revenge for me giving her Twilight. She wanted to give me a book that would prevent me from doing anything productive for an extended period of time. Fortunately this book draws you in, is well written, and isn't for teenage girls. BUT she did get her revenge in that the second book took years before it came out. But finally it did. Of course I had to re-read the first book and then read the second book. Both were excellent and very well written. Funnily my brother called me a few weeks ago aiming to tell me about these books, but I had already read them. ;)
If you haven't heard about the Hunger Games then you might be living under a rock. Personally I felt the series started off strong and kind of fizzled at the end, but even so I recommend them.

Education and Learning
This book has an amazing summary of knowledge about the benefits of exercise--all benefits taht do not have anything to do with weight loss or cardiovascular fitness. He starts the book discussing a protein called BDNF. It is nicknamed miracle grow, because if you sprinkle this protein on neurons in a petry dish they will grow and connect. Growing and connecting neurons signifies learning. BDNF floods the spot in your brain that handles memory when you exercise! Just think about the ramifications of this in regards to public schooling and their cutting of recess and PE. It has been common sense since schools were created that children need exercise, but recently we are ignoring that common sense, and this research points out that we are essentially shooting ourselves in the foot (or head as the case may be). This book also discusses how exercise is more effective at treating depression than medications. How it helps with anxiety, and even prevents aging and reduces your risk of Alzheimer's. Unfortunately it isn't written in the most entertaining fashion, but the information provided is fascinating and is something everyone needs to know.

I read a handful of books by Paley this year and they were all wonderful. She has an interesting style in that her writing tends to be a journalistic account about the happenings in her classroom. Lots of it is simply descriptions of the stories the children tell, and the games they play. I found it fascinating that the games and stories her pupils played and told are exactly the same stuff that comes out of my own children's mouths despite them being a generation or two more recent then the children she wrote about. The universality of super hero and doll play is fascinating. But in this particular book she explores the success she has had in getting teaching children to include and not exclude. It is extremely touching, uplifting, and fills you will hope.

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