For my birthday I received the following:
Bomber County: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War by Daniel Swift, which I read about in Booklist. It combines the search by the author into his grandfather's life, who disappeared in a bombing raid during WW2, and the wealth of poetry he discovered among the bomber squadrons of WW2. (NYTimes review.)
The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald. A zillion years ago I read part of it and then lost my copy and didn't find it and got sidetracked by other things and recently realized how nearly criminal it is that I have not read this book. So now I have it again, and I'll be very very careful this time.
Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski. I can't even remember when I first heard about this one, but I've long been intrigued by both the author and subject. Seemed like the best way to learn about Herodotus is with Kapuscinski as a guide.
In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck (yes, he is the son of John). A mystery set in CA that just sounded interesting - combines history, some archaeology, some oceanography...plus a blurb from Bradbury!!
Rebuilding the Indian by Fred Haefele. A memoir about rebuilding an Indian motorcycle, writing, fatherhood and some midlife crisis. (All great subjects.)
Field Notes on Science & Nature, Edited by Michael Canfield. A book about taking notes which seems odd but is really gorgeous and interesting. It's peeking into the minds of scientists in the field and the illustrations they make while on the job. I read about this all over the place and I'm really happy to have it.
Darwin's Ghosts by Rebecca Stott. I've been interested in evolutionary theory forever but Stott is a writer who really approaches this topic from a unique perspective - she was raised in a creationist household! Tons of rave reviews, highly readable from the first paragraphs, it looks like it will easily live up to the hype. (And I love how there is hype about a book on the history of evolutionary thinking!)
And, what I'm reading right now:
Heroines by Kate Zambreno. I really wish I remembered where I read about this one, because I'd like to send some gratitude their way*. I was familiar with Zambreno's blog and it's connection with Francis Farmer (named for her in fact) always stood out for me. Heroines is her examination of the lives of several misunderstood women, from Farmer to Sylvia Plath to Vivenne Eliot, Virginia Wolf, Zelda Fitzgerald and on and on. (You get the thing they have in common.) She writes in short paragraphs, following a stream of thought about misunderstood women who were creative and vibrant and all too easily dismissed as hysterical or crazy by the men they loved and the larger world as well. It's really personal (Zambreno was having her own problems when she wrote this - she was actually using the writing to work through her own frustrations) and it's really direct and it's enormously compelling. I want to read a stack of books on all the women she writes about and I want to call all my former lit teachers who never mentioned these women in anything more than passing and SCREAM at them about how much we lost in those lectures about the "Great Men" and their books.
I have miles to go in this book and what I think of it but so far - wow.
*I remembered - it was this piece at Jezebel!