I read a bit in 2011, so I thought I'd follow Kate's lead and share my reading list from last year with everyone. Enjoy!
Elizabeth This biography humanizes Elizabeth and removes much of the fairy-tale story that Hollywood has assigned to her. In the end she is revealed to be a much more powerful, clever and well-rounded monarch than I'd previously known.
The Sisters This was Katey's book, but she enjoyed it so much I decided to read it also. This one generation of one family enjoyed a front row seat for some of the most historic moments of the 20th century. Plus, the family itself is kind of cooky. Worth reading for sure.
Cleopatra Last year I read a lot of Roman history. This year I picked up the new Cleopatra biography and enjoyed it immensely. The author doesn't do Mark Antony many favors. Read Cleopatra and Elizabeth back to back and compare.
This Side of Paradise For my money (and I don't think I'm the only person), this is Fitzgerald's best work. Amory is one of my favorite characters and the writing is so good I found myself re-reading pages from this book because I'd never read anything described so well.
The Italians If you plan to be in Italy for any period of time longer than a week, read The Italians. It's a bit dated in places - it was written in the 60s I believe - but this is the best introduction to Italian culture I've read yet.
Stonewall Jackson I needed some American history during this year abroad. This biography of Stonewall Jackson fit the bill. The history isn't perfect; Bowers must have made up a lot of the dialogue in the book. But if you read it as hyper-accurate historical fiction instead of rigid history you'll enjoy the crazy life that Stonewall Jackson lived.
You Are Not a Gadget Jaron Lanier is a master of technology who has a problem with the way the web is developing. Read this book. Weather or not you agree with Lanier when you've finished, you won't be able to say he didn't warn you.
Meditations Stoic philosophy. Sometimes it's necessary reading to help you develop the patience you'll need to navigate the Italian bureaucracy.
Florence & The Medici A straight-ahead review of Florence during the lives of all the Medici. From Cosimo the Elder to the last Grand Duke, Florence and the Medici takes you through some of the city's best and most turbulent years.
1688: A Global History This was assigned to me back at GW. Not sure why I re-read it, but I was glad I did. The author does exactly what the title implies: he give you a nice look at what the world was like in 1688, and it turns out that a lot of what we base our world on today emerged right around that year. The Fourth Part of the World Here's the thing, I'm a nerd. This is a book about sailing to the Americas and all that was involved in doing it. From the politics to the science to the religion, The Fourth Part of the World examines Western Europe's obsession with exploration of the new world and far east.
Bonus: A Farewell to Arms I don't read a lot of literature. I mostly read histories. However, I read A Farewell to Arms in three days over our Christmas vacation. If you haven't read it, read it soon. If you aren't speaking in short, direct sentences when you've finished, I don't know what is wrong with you.