Gena Johnson’s Best Reads of 2014

Johnson Family - CopyMy name is Gena Johnson, and I work at Lurie Children’s Hospital putting the “zing” in Fundraising.  I have lived in Evanston since 2005 with my husband and 2 children.  I love history, genealogy, and learning about how things came to be.

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1) Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2012)

I loved this sweet story about a girl and her eccentric mother.  It was written in a creative style; a collection of clips from diary entries, emails and newspaper articles.  It made it fun and feel like you were piecing together the story instead of simply reading.  I genuinely laughed and cried throughout the book and could not put it down!

2) Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (2012)

This was one of those stories that literally transports you through time.  Written from the perspective of several characters, you have a modern story and a historical story in one.  The historical takes you back to the 1960’s and the film set of Cleopatra, the disastrous movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  This glimpse into their tumultuous lives is fascinating and inspired me to read many other books this year about their lives and movies!

SkinnyDipCover.244161919_std3) Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen (2004)

This unique story was hilarious and a great beach read.  Scorned wife Joey survives her idiot husband’s murder attempt at sea in South Florida.  The ensuing revenge plot is so ridiculous and hilarious that you cannot put the book down.

4) Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz (1999)

Inspired by a family vacation that brought us to the South for the first time, we were struck by the prominence of Civil War history and culture.  I wanted to learn more and turned to this fantastic book by Tony Horwitz.  This cultural history of the South reveals the continued passion many have for the Civil War and their inability to let go of some of the struggles and issues of the conflict, all these years later.  Horwitz spends time with reenactors, meets Shelby Foote (the amazing contributor to Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary) and examines difficult topics like race tensions still alive and well in the South today.  Truly eye opening for Northerners that think of the Civil War as something exclusively for the history books!

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