Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Reads of 2012 (18th in a series)

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve read this year.  It is not a list for everyone.  I enjoy non-fiction primarily and learning about different cultures and topics around the world.  

Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies by Mikey Walsh

Coming of age story about a boy growing up in the Romany gypsy culture in England.  If you’ve watched any of the recent reality series on gypsies, you may know it tends to be a rather male oriented society.  The story includes a twist as Mikey discovers he is gay and not well accepted among his own.  I must warn you there is a bit of violence throughout.

Interventions: A Life in War and Peace  by Kofi Annan

An interesting biography of the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, serving from 1997 through 2006.  It provides glimpses into his background and how he moved up within the United Nations.  Born in Ghana, he was the first from sub-Saharan African to serve as Secretary General.  During his tenure, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 along with the UN for their role in pursuing peace around the world.  He helped establish the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council, and promoted the universal fight against AIDS, TB, and malaria.  One of his greatest achievements was the acceptance of the “responsibility to protect” by member states to prevent genocide and other crimes against humanity.  Through many conflicts across numerous countries and governments, Kofi Annan was able to keep human rights and the role of peacekeeping central to the UN’s mission.

No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses by Peter Piot

If you have ever read The Hot Zone or The Lost City of Z you will find some parallels early in the book.  However, despite his adventures trying to contain and combat an early outbreak of Ebola, the author spends more time on how his career proceeded from an infectious disease specialist to an advocate for AIDS at the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN).  Due to differences in cultures around the world, he understood that this disease was spreading quickly and in many different ways across the world, needing different means to stop it.  There is an exploration of world politics and what it takes to get the attention of the world to focus on the health issues that can affect us all.

The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA by Jeff Wheelwright

If you’ve ever wondered about your own family history, or tried to figure out where your curly hair came from, this book may interest you.  It is the story of a family from Colorado and New Mexico who believed themselves to be Native American and Spanish Catholic.  After one daughter developed breast cancer, it was discovered she carried a very specific gene that is tied to the disease.  However, the specific gene, BRCA1, is usually characteristic of Ashkenazi Jews from Europe.  Spoiler alert – it turns out her family had like many others converted to Catholicism to save themselves during the days of the Inquisition and later traveled to America.  If DNA research intrigues you, you may just want to go get a DNA test to see what secrets may be in your lineage.

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

This is the final work of Christopher Hitchens that appeared in a series in Vanity Fair magazine.  It is a journal of sorts of how he felt from the time of his diagnosis with esophageal cancer to just before his death in December 2011.  Any fan of his will find this a perfect example of his writing style, and he handles it with his usual wit and dark humor.

Joan Dudzinski
Information Specialist