Looking Back on 2011: The Honorable Mentions

Whenever I put together one of those year-end “best of” lists, there’s always a number of  excellent books that come very close to making the list, but in the end just didn’t make it. That doesn’t mean they’re mediocre books. Far from it. For the most part, it just means that at the end of the year when I finally sit down and compile my best of list there are a few other books that happen to beat them out for being the year’s best. So, as I look back on what I read in 2011, here’s my list of those kind of books. In no real order of preference, here they are:

  1. Voodoo Histories: The Role the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch. Sometimes Aaronovitch can be dry. Sometimes he spends too much time discussing topics that really aren’t that significant. But when he’s on, he’s ON.
  2. The Supremes’ Greatest Hits: The 37 Supreme Court Decisions That Most Affect Your Life by Michael Trachtman. Living proof that great things can come in small packages. This rather slim book is a superb introduction to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  3. The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. This other book on the Supreme Court was headed for my year-end best of list ’till Toobin’s The Nine knocked it off the pedestal.
  4. Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Robert Barron. An excellent book on the Catholic faith written by a true believer. So good even a non-Catholic like myself could enjoy it.
  5. The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom by Simon Winchester. You have NO idea how hard it was to leave this book off my 2011 best of list. A great story about a fascinating and multifaceted individual.
  6. Allah: A Christian Response by Miroslav Volf. Intelligent and original. Volf’s ability to discuss detailed theological matters using accessible language helped make this a remarkable book.
  7. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Germany by Erik Larson. While I liked his 2003 book  The Devil in the White City a bit more, I really enjoyed this engrossing look inside the early years of Hitler’s Germany. Trust me, it was difficult to leave this book off my year-end best of list.

All seven of these are great books and I’d have no problem recommending them to anyone. By they way, Voodoo Histories, The Supremes’s Greatest Hits, Catholicism and Allah: A Christian Response I discovered only because I happened to find them sitting on the shelf at my local public library. If not for the good people at my library, I might never have even heard of them.

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