12/31/14

Favorite Book of the Year . . .


If you include the books I read to/with my daughter, I read nearly 50 books this year. I read 28 for me (slightly beating my goal of 26 and I have four books in the works that I plan to finish in January as I start ticking away at my 2015 reading goal) and that doesn't include the books that I picked up, read enough to decide (one page or 100 pages) it was not for me and put down (I mean that in the euphemistic, killing a family pet way).

I love to read. It is among my favorite activities in the world and something I have always enjoyed and doubt I will ever stop (until my last good-ish eye goes dark, at least). That being said it was very hard for me to pick my favorite book of the year but, in the end, I went with the "value" of the book (I have read dozens of "best of" book lists for 2014 but only one put the rankings in the context of what the reader might get out of/take away from the book vs. the quality of the writing and storytelling and that inspired me) and chose The Beekeeper's Bible by Richard A. Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch (note - there is another book that seems to be very similar (including cover art) called Collins Beekeeper's Bible that was written by Phillip Mccabe but seems, otherwise, to be the same book . . . feel free to investigate or just go with my version and know what you're getting).

The book is not really a "book" in the classic, categorize-able sense of the word because it is a bunch of parts . . . part history of bees and honey, part history of bees and food and mother nature, part history of man, part of how-to on beekeeping and honey making, part education on the types and origins of honey, part recipe/cook book, part doomsday rant, part romance of the nature of man, honey, and bees, part beeswax collection and usage guide, part naturalist meme, part yadda, yadda, yadda.

To say I "read" the book (which was a much-appreciated gift (that came with a Beekeeping 101 lesson that I will gleefully attend int he spring) is a bit of a lie . . . I've read bits and pieces and I've thumbed through other parts and I have dog-earred pages and recipes and I've poured over some of the book and I've ignored bits and pieces. I am not sure that you really should read it cover to cover. It is more of a manual/reference guide.

So WHY is this my favorite book of the year? Because while I'm not a total hippie I am a firm believer that we're putting ourselves and our planet in danger and one of the most obvious ways is in the depletion of bees (colony collapse) and the trickle down to the depletion of food to the depletion of availability of food to the rising prices and false products we'll need to rely on if something as beautiful, majestic, and hardworking as the bee is allowed to disappear. If you don't want to read a book but are curious check out More Than Honey,  Vanishing of the Bees an old NOVA special called All About Bees or even the animated, kid's comedy Bee Movie (that showcases the role bees provided in a fun, non-threatening way).

Also - honey is friggin' DELICIOUS!

Check this book out. I won't guarantee it will have you building a bee box by sundown but I would venture that you'll learn something, get inspired, and pay more attention. Also - you'll remember how friggin' delicious you find honey.

Honorable Mentions . . .

Erik A. Kimmel (Author) and Jon J. Muth (Illustrator). Gershon's Monster - Kimmel has a bit of a gift for telling Jewish stories (his book Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is also splendid) and this one is my favorite. It talks about a man who doesn't apologize, doesn't feel remorse, and doesn't much factor others in to his decisions (No. I am not Gershon. But I can relate!) but tries to cast off his transgressions once a year during the high holy days. NOT that simple, clearly. A great read.

Erik Larson (2012). In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin - To say I admire Larson's "narrative non-fiction" writing is a grand understatement. My favorite book of ALL TIME is his The Devil in the White City and I'm already willing to bet my favorite book of 2015 will be the long-awaited Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (due in March, 2015, I've already pre-ordered it through Watermark Books) and Laron's recently made my YEAR by responding to a Tweet I sent at him telling me my obsession was fine by him. Anywho - this book talks about America's ambassador to Germany during Hitler's rise and just how much effort and energy the world put in to ignoring Hitler until it no-longer could. A great read.

Beatrice Silverman Weinreich (Editor) Leonard Wolf (Translator) (1988). Yiddish Folktales - I like the original, cut-paper cover of the book better than the current version but the book is a collection of hundreds of Yiddish folktales (as the name clearly illustrates) that give warnings to a life poorly lived. I don't want to give away the book but pretty much every story tells you that greed is bad, spoiled children are worse, and love must be nurtured or it is the worst.

Joshua Ferris (2014). To Rise Again at a Decent Hour - This is also an early favorite for my favorite book of 2015 (I started it just a few weeks ago and, despite the chaos of moving and the holiday season I am tearing through the book and loving every page). It tells the story of a listless man who becomes obsessed with a fake, digital version of himself seems to have a more full and enjoyable life than the New York City dentist's real life.