Ruby Ramblings

15 Favorites
June 27, 2009, 12:17 am
Filed under: Books

I finally caved and did the fifteen first memorable books you think of on facebook. I figured since I did all the work to do it, I might as well post it here as well. Here I was able to add interviews and such.


1. SparrowThe Sparrowby Mary Doria Russell – an anthropological team explores a new planet. Nothing goes as planned. Everyone dies. That is a way oversimplified version of a truly inventive and creative book. Amazing writing, characters you would swear you actually know, and lots of social commentary.

2. The Handmaid’s Taleby Margaret Atwood Ah, distopian novels are my favorite. Some call this too feminist, I call them chicken. Chemical disruptions have created a society where procreation has become almost impossible. The few possible fertile women are forced into being “handmaids”, vessels for the future of rich men’s families. In the book torture is justified as a means to national security.

3. Oryx and Crakeby Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s answer to the Handmaid’s Tale being too feminist. Also a distopian novel, but the two main characters are boys, one sweet and kind, his best friend a mastermind who has discovered a way to destroy the world. The book opens with “snowman” as the kind child is known, wishing he had believed his friend when he said he would push the button.

4. A Prayer for Owen Meanyby John Irving One of my all time favorites. I don’t feel the need to explain it. Just read it.

5. The Cider House Rulesby John Irving The book takes place in Maine. I grew up in Maine. But I read it while living in Nepal. Surreal.

6. Finding George Orwell in Burmaby Emma Larkin – Classic travel narrative. A woman traces George Orwell’s path across Burma trying to find links to his writings and inspiration.

7. The Snow Leopardby Peter Matthiesen – My first trip to Asia was to Thailand. I was trying to get to Nepal, but got offered a teaching position in Kanchanaburi instead. I read this while living there, and was completely inspired, but it wasn’t until seven years later that I actually made it to the himilayas.

8. She’s Not There: A Life in Two Gendersby Jennifer Finney Boylan
I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who is open minded about such things. Jennifer teaches at a University in Maine, and I met her once, a brief touch with someone who is almost famous. The writing is great, and it goes more into the emotional side of being transgendered than looking at the actual mechanics of deciding to get a sex change.

On a side note apparently the premiere place to get a sex change is Thailand. Due to the large number of wives cutting off their husbands wangs, Thailand’s doctors have become masters of unattaching and reattaching such things: courtesy of The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner.

9.Snowby Orhan Pamuk

10. Geishaby Liza Dalby An anthropology dissertation that reads like a travel narrative. Great writing, great imagery. This book was actually the basis for most of Arthur Golden’s research for Memoirs of a Geisha. Dalby lived in Japan from the time she was a teenager, and was the first western woman to ever become a fully fledged Geisha.

11. Speaker for the Deadby Orson Scott Card An anthropology based Sci-Fi. One of those books I recommend to everyone – it’s really not just for sci-fi fans. But you really should read Ender’s Game first.

12. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Placeby Terry Tempest Williams
My first memorable introduction to writing on environmental issues. Williams lives in the Salt Lake City area and talks about the shrinking lake, toxins, nuclear testing, and all things you didn’t even know you should be worried about. I also met her at College of the Atlantic when she received an honorary masters from there.

13. Small Wonderby Barbara Kingsolver I love Barbara Kingsolver, and this is a particularly good collection of essays by her. My least favorite book of hers is most people’s favorite: The Poisonwood Bible.

14. Memories of My Melancholy Whoresby Gabriel Garcia Marquez – “We already are old, she said with a sigh. What happens is that you don’t feel it on the inside, but from the outside everybody can see it.”

15. There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Childrenby Melissa Greene – an expose of a widow in Ethiopia who decides to open her home to HIV positive orphans. Besides being a moving story, it shows how things can go very sour when western influences get involved, offer large sums of money, and the rest of the neighborhood gets jealous.

There are so many more…..

2 Comments so far
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I wonder if you’d enjoy ‘Little Daughter’ by Zoya Phan, a moving tale of a Burmese refugee. I once taught this outstanding young woman. See it reviewed at

Comment by Emperor Ming

Thanks, I’ll check it out. It looks like something I would like.

Comment by therubycanary

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