51. How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table by Russ Parsons - A fact filled skim of where and when our fruits and vegies are at their best, along with some classic recipes for showing off the flavors. As we become more aware of the high price of eating healthy (environmentally and economically), it only makes sense to try to get the most for your dollar and your carbon footprint. Unfortunately, Parsons just scratches the surface on all the types of food that fill the produce department and farmers markets in this country, perhaps because there's no getting around the fact that unless you live in Florida or California, you're going to have a very limited diet if you want to eat locally year round. If you are buying food that's travelled across the continent to get to your plate, Parsons tells you what to look for and how to keep it from turning to green mush in your refrigerator.
52. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan - A family of two girls and two boys takes their minor quirks and turns into full blown disfuctionality after both parents die. Told from the point of view of Jack, the second oldest, the story covers about three years of a downward spiral that no one seems to notice, even though there is some interaction with world beyond their house. Jack feels no conscious judgment about what they have done and what they do, leaving it up to the reader to fill in the emotions. The book is only 150 pages long, but this early novel of McEwan's is what he writes so well - incredibly personal stories told with so much detail you can almost smell the characters. (Quick question for anyone reading this that has read the book - what was up with Tom? Was there a medical reason for his immaturity, or was it all psychological?)
53. Fool Moon: Book Two of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher - There's a bit of a "hollow man" thing going with Harry Dresden in this volume of the series, with him taking quite a beating (more than once) but still he keeps charging on. Well, it is sci-fi, right? Ignoring that aspect of the story isn't too hard though, because Butcher invents a whole new species of werewolf, one that doesn't have survival as its only purpose in life. These werewolves are environmentally and socially conscientious. Makes a lot of sense for an animal that's endangered and lives in a pack, no?
54.Sin In The Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott - This book tells the story of the infamous Everlaigh Club, one of the most exclusive and well known brothels in America in the early 1900s. Intertwined with its story is the story of the two sisters who owned and ran it, and how reformers and politicians won the battle against sin in Chicago's Levee district. In an attempt to balance the story, there's a little too much about the "good guys", and quotes and antidotes are sometimes repeated for no reason, but it's a very interesting read if you're into Chicago history or the recent history of whore houses.
55. Later, At The Bar by Rebecca Barry - A novella about the clientele at a small town bar set in rural New York told as a collection of short stories makes for a very pleasant read, once you get into the book. The first few chapters had the feeling of a group of wacky original characters in search of story, but eventually the lives and the plots of the short stories begin to overlap, and you'll have finished the book before you know it. I'm giving bonus points to the author for having one of her fictional characters suffer the very non-fictional consequences of a life spent drinking like a fish.