Books of 2011

At the end of my Books of 2010 post I said I wanted to make it through 20 titles. In 2011, I only conquered 12. But I have high hopes for this year because I’ve already finished 5 and January isn’t over yet. Between the Kindle and a folder full of audiobooks, I’m raising the stakes the and declaring that I want to double my last goal and hit 40 by the end of the year.

Food Matters

If you’re looking to introduce someone to the idea that we need to eat less meat, more whole grains, and make more of our own food instead of reheating what a factory produced for us, I consider this an excellent place to start. I recommended it to my dad, and he liked it too. I bought the Food Matters + cookbook version as an e-book and I really regret it because it’s too difficult to navigate through and actually utilize the recipes, even on my iPad.

The Culture of Fear

My thoughts on this book can be found here. I liked it because I like folklore and urban legends, AND because it helps me remember to not get worked up over silly media hype. It was very repetitive and a bit dry at times though.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Tells a fascinating story and makes you think about some hard questions. I really appreciated how hard Rebecca worked to not take a side and let the reader attempt to come to their own conclusions. A discussion thread on this book can be found here.

The End of Overeating

Loved this book for two reasons. It was like an inside look at how food is marketed and produced (the author talked to several different industry insiders to learn how they manipulate the food they produce to be as appealing as possible), and because he got into how the brain works when it’s around food. After I read this book, I was able to admit what a binge eater I am, and how that doesn’t make me sad/bad/weak/little/etc. Years of bad food choices have essentially conditioned my brain. I heard the author on NPR and he mentioned the book The Compass of Pleasure, which I also want to read.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Janssen told me she liked Omnivore’s Dilemma more than In Defense of Food. I didn’t believe her, and yet, somehow it’s true. Pollan follows four different meals from conception to digestion, including a hunting trip and making yeast with bacteria that is apparently floating in the air all around us right this moment. I think this is my favorite non-fiction food book of them all (which is saying something because I’ve read quite a lot from this genre by now).

Our Babies, Ourselves

My friend is at Columbia and gave me this book talking about how fascinating he found it as an anthropology student. It was very interesting, and somehow freeing. Our current American way of raising children is neither the only way, nor the best way. You can read more of my comments here. It can be a bit dry, and I did struggle with the portion on breastfeeding (she made me feel like if I had just tried harder, tortured myself longer, breastfeeding would have worked because everyone else is doing it).

The Hunger Games

Note: Do not start this series while on vacation with your spouse. Your spouse will hate this book for the many ways it sucks you in. We were staying in Florence in a beautiful hotel and all I wanted to do was LISTEN TO MY BOOK.

Catching Fire

I loved this one too.


And this one.

Why We Get Fat

I can’t fully get behind Taubes because I like my vegetarian ways, and eating zero carbs AND zero meat would be incredibly difficult, but I found a lot of this ideas thought provoking. I actually think his theories helped my workouts because now I do them for the endorphins and the stronger me, not because I want to burn calories.

Predictably Irrational

Behavioral economics is fascinating, and I love turning to That Husband and saying “It’s just like in Ariely’s book!” I recommend you and your spouse both read this one so you can have those moments as well. Favorite sections include the power of free, how arousal influences our decision making skills (read this section if you have teenagers and want to figure out how to keep them from getting pregnant/getting someone else pregnant), how price and placebo work together.


I listened to this one in audiobook form (there are some F-words scattered throughout) and I highly recommend it because Tina reads it herself. I love 30 Rock and particularly enjoyed the section where she talks about how the show came about and gave some little behind-the-scenes bits (shoutout to one of my favorite quotes from 30 Rock that’s mentioned in the book: Stop eating people’s old French fries, pigeon. Have some self respect! Don’t you know you can fly? – Tracy Jordan).

What were some of your favorite books from last year? My Goodreads to-read list is always growing.

18 thoughts on “Books of 2011

  1. I read most of your reads too and liked a lot of them! I liked the Hunger Games premise but couldn’t move onto the next book :-( I might if I don’t find anything else of interest.

    I loved Bossypants! It made me LOL quite a few times! I read that in the early newborn days and it got me through some tough times.

    I suppose since I was pregnant and had time (loads and loads of time! why wasn’t I more productive pre-baby?!) I read a ton of child development type books. My favorite reads of those were Child of Mine (good eating habits book) and Nurture Shock.

  2. Love this! I am always looking for good book recommendations. It’s also a good reminder I need to recommit to reading more; the Internet is not good for my other reading :(

    My top 5 of 2011:

    High Fidelity, Nick Hornby: funny yet profound: about immaturity, relationships and growing as a person;
    The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, Judith Wallerstein: longest-running study of the effects of divorce on children; conclusion: they are almost uniformly bad;
    Life After Birth, Kate Figes: thoughtful and super honest description of the physical, emotional and psychological changes motherhood brings;
    Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn: very unusual parenting book, with a very different take on discipline and other parenting techniques. Backed up by a lot of research though;
    The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan: awesome description of the food systems in the US. I learned so much from this!

  3. Ooh, I should really pick up Food Matters because I freakin love that stuff. I’m reading Omnivore’s Dilemma now. It sounds like you had an incredibly educational year! That’s some seriously good variety…I’m terrible at getting myself to read a variety of books…I usually stick within genres/topics that I’m already very interested in. I can’t wait to see what you pick for 2012!

  4. I’ve always been a big fan of In Defense of Food.

    I’ve got a Theology of the Body book by Christopher West on my Kindle ready for Lent :) I don’t read all that much anymore though–it’s sad!

    Right now I’m reading Milk Memos–it’s been my saving grace going back to work and pumping.

    I don’t remember reading your breastfeeding post when you first posted it, but BOY do I commiserate after going through those first few weeks myself recently. I didn’t struggle with supply issues, but Noelle had major latching problems. I was ready to quit. I had to use a nipple shield for 6 weeks until I got her off it…I was taking her to a chiro for therapy and everything. There was also one week that she didn’t gain enough and I FREAKED. It was awful. I felt like I was confined to a pumping dungeon. Then the little stinker went and gained 4 lbs in a month after…I had nothing to worry about. M y nipples are still suffering a little, though! We also introduced a bottle really early to supplement breast milk when she wasn’t gaining. It made my life easier because she takes it well now and I can go out for a couple of hours if I need to.

    I’ve been wanting to ask you if you will be attempting breastfeeding #2. I know there is a chance you just might not make enough milk, but it is really worth it if you can make it work. At 10ish weeks, it’s awesome. I can nurse here lying down at night so I don’t lose much sleep and she is way more efficient–45 minute nursing sessions have been cut down to 10-15 min max. It’s nice to be the only person that can nurse her now that I’m back at work, too…definitely more of a bonding experience than it was before.

    Cant say I’ve seen the weight loss benefits, though!

    Either way, don’t beat yourself up over it…you fought hard! I do hope you give it another try, though. It might be easier if you know what to expect. I was completely blindsided by how hard it was and it seems like you were too. I think we all are!

    Jenna Reply:

    Yes, I think I will try again with #2. Maybe I will end up trying longer, because I’ll feel more prepared. Or maybe I’ll give up sooner because it’s SOOO depressing to be hooked up to a pump for 45 minutes and get less than a 1/4 ounce for your efforts.

    I’m so glad you were able to make it work though!

    Marissa C Reply:

    It was the hardest thing I have ever done, hands down. I spent an entire day sobbing at my mom’s house.

    .25 oz is REALLY depressing, though. I don’t blame you for quitting!

  5. I LOVED Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Happiness Project. Currently reading Bringing Up Bebe and totally absorbed by it.

    So glad you liked Omnivore’s Dilemma!

  6. Love your book list posts! I loved the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! There is actually a high school for sciences being built in my area and they are naming it the Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School.
    I couldn’t get into Bossypants. I think it was a little to dry for me. But I do love Tina Fey!
    Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman is next on my list also.
    Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv. This one looks really good!
    Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling (Kelly from The Office.) This one looks funny too!
    I read “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Committed,” By Elizabeth Gilbert and loved both of them. Committed was a really interesting book about marriage and I loved her insight on the matter. I loved “The Help” and “Water For Elephants.”

  7. One book I highly recommend that I think you will love: Having Faith, An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood.

    I found it to be an utterly compelling window into a biological ecologist’s changing view of the world around her throughout her pregnancy. Absolutely amazing and also terrifyingly educational, you will learn so much about what’s around us and how it impacts our children. I can’t recommend it enough, even to people with zero interest in babies/pregnancy.

  8. I so need to read more books. Don’t get me wrong, I read all the time, but they’re usually “escape” books like mysteries or thrillers. I am, however, currently trying to read a book about how to discipline your children and another one about what to feed picky eaters. :)

  9. Thanks for this list! I’ve been wanting to find some good-reads! I am curious about the Hunger Games but scared I’ll get sucked in.

  10. Hey – I just came across this blog via feedingthesoil. I love the books you’ve listed and I can’t wait to read more about your cute cute baby. I just had to point out, in the interests of knowing where your food comes from, that the yeast flying around in the air is YEAST, not bacteria. Yeast is a type of fungus, and is more closely related to animals than to bacteria.

    Sorry to get all pedantic on your reading list post, but I spent a semester teaching this stuff and what’s the point of knowing it if you can’t share it. Now off to the rest of your blog!

    Jenna Reply:

    Yeast = fungus. Not bacteria.

    Hooray for kind commenters that teach me new things!

  11. I think reading on your Kindle will make a huge difference. It did for me – I read 50 books in 2011 (falling short of my 52 weeks/52 books goal) and started 2012 with the Kindle. I’m now on book 23, so any reservations I had about ereaders are now gone. I was also finally able to read books it would have costed me a fortune to ship to my country.

    From your 2011 list, I’ve only read the Hunger Games trilogy, mainly because my little sister was reading them and she wanted to talk about them with me. I’m very glad I did, though. It’s hard to find books for young adults that don’t underestimate them.

    I think you would enjoy The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson very much (I’m sending you a recommendation through Goodreads). I don’t usually read nonfiction (although I’m making an effort to mix things up this year) and I loved it.

  12. Thank you so much for this list! I don’t get a lot of free time to read, but when I do, I really hope for awesome reviews like these. I’m reading Bossypants now, love it!

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