Rebecca Nash, London
Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) is as much about his mother as his father’s life. Obama narrates his mother’s story, which he knew well – her significant intellect, her idealistic but often disappointed father, her hardworking mother (Obama’s now famed grandmother, ‘Toot’) – alongside a more literal search for his father’s identity within a vast Kenyan kinship network that, by the end of the story, makes Obama its new centrepiece. Of course, it is impossible to read this book now without thinking about historical destinies. Obama’s supporters, myself included, often felt during the long campaign that they themselves ‘discovered’ him. Some were then surprised, in fact, to witness his gift for politics. Much of this must be due to Dreams from My Father, written in a complex and honest voice, and of a time when the President-elect was not yet a public being.
Josh Treuhaft, New York
“It’s a truism of the age of globalization that where we live doesn’t matter – we can work just as easily from a ski chalet in Aspen as in a house in Provence or an office in Chicago.” At least that’s what Thomas Friedman and a host of other globalization pundits have been touting since the world became ‘flat.’ According to Richard Florida, however, the world is doing the exact opposite of flattening – it’s getting spikier as more talent co-locates in the world’s ‘mega-regions’ and fuels innovation and economic growth. Technology is making us more mobile, and today’s creative global nomads are taking advantage by moving to the places which provide the best opportunities and the right personality fit. So how do you choose the right place? What makes one location ‘better’ or ‘righter’ than another?
In Who’s Your City, Florida makes the point that where we live is quite possibly the most important decision of our lives. It determines our potential to find a mate and start a family. It determines the range of our employment opportunities, our networks, our friends, and to some extent our values. And not all cities are created equal. Who’s Your City compiles almost 20 years of data on geographic preference, personality and attitudes, census data and a host of other resources to paint a picture of what makes certain cities attractive to certain types of people…and what may contribute to the eventual economic success or failure of a number of great American places. The data is rich and compelling, his storytelling is captivating, and he adds some great personal anecdotes.
Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in urban planning and the forces driving urbanization. And if you’re considering making a big move and need some insight into where you might be most happy and successful, the book may help. Be warned though, the end of the book turns into a ‘self-help’ reader and is sort of flimsy and obvious.
Sarah DelliGatti, Chapel Hill
The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer is my book of the year. I wasn’t a huge Harry Potter fan so I hesitated when my friend and colleague Stephanie McDonald told me I should read these books about vampires and werewolves. Twilight is a love story between the two main characters, Edward (vampire) and Bella (human). Their love and relationship should be impossible, but yet it ends up overcoming all of the obstacles that Meyer creates throughout the four novels.
I know these books are marketed to teens and tweens, but I think it’s fair to say that they have crossed age barriers. In these tough economic times, it’s important to step away from the headlines and just get away for a little while. Twilight is the perfect way to do this. I can say that for the two weeks that it took me to read the 500-700 plus pages in each of the four books in the series, I was totally engrossed in Bella and Edward’s world.