9. Strength In What Remains - Tracy Kidder. Kidder, whose powers of observation should not be compared with those of lesser mortals, trains his fine journalistic eye on Deo, a young medical student from Burundi. He escapes genocide not only in his home country, but when he flees to neighboring Rawanda as well. He is smuggled onto a plane to New York City in 1994 and arrives with $200 in cash. Deo is homeless that first year, but thanks to the efforts of an indefatigable former nun and her network of resources, he is able to enter Columbia University during his second year in the USA. As if Deo's story wasn't already compelling enough, he decides to return to still-dangerous Burundi and open a clinic in the town where his mother and father settled after the war. Along the way, Deo worked for for Dr. Paul Farmer, who is the topic of Kidder's 2003 book Mountains Beyond Mountains. Both are must-reads. From the TBR shelf.
10. Shutting Out The Sun - Michael Zielenziger. The author's initial look at hikikomori, (a syndrome in which teenagers and young adults feel overwhelmed by the pressures of Japanese society and retreat to their bedrooms for years on end) turned into a look at practically every aspect of Japanese culture. He also discusses women in their 30s and 40s who refuse to marry and have children -- the Japanese refer to them as "parasite singles". It seemed strange in the latter part of the book to see Japan and South Korea compared and Japan coming up wanting. Usually, Japan is praised for being wonderfully civilized and Korea is seen as pretty rough around the edges. Illuminating, but there was some unnecessary repetition in the text. From the TBR shelf.
11. Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead George. I can't believe I missed this book when it first came out. Excellent story about a 13-year-old Eskimo girl, Miyax (English name Julie) who flees her arranged marriage and ends up lost on the Alaskan tundra. She is able to survive because of the hunting and gathering skills her father taught her and also because of her savvy in learning wolf "language". She does this so successfully that the leader of a wolf pack accepts her, feeds her and protects her. The research that went into this book is astounding, and Jean Craighead George's naturalist background stood her in good stead and she deservedly picked up the Newbery gold medal in 1973. Miyax has to eat some questionable things in order to fight off starvation, so this is one of the rare books in which I didn't feel hungry when the characters were eating. I can't praise this book enough. From the TBR shelf.
12. Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. - Bette Greene. The setting for this 1974 Newbery Honor book is Pocahontas, Arkansas, the rural community in which Beth Lambert's family's farm is next to Philip Hall's family's farm. Beth is in love with Philip Hall, but he's also her favorite competitor. Just as often as not, she comes to his rescue rather than the other way around, although he is supposedly "the first best at everything". Although it is wonderful to see a smart, strong girl as a role model, this book is such an odd mixture of hokey humor and women's liberation consciousness-raising that I couldn't warm up to it. I could hardly believe that this was the same author who wrote the beautiful, incomparable Summer of My German Soldier. Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. is part of a trilogy featuring these same characters, but I think I'll stop with this one that was already on my TBR shelf. I'm not giving up on Bette Greene, though. The Drowning of Stephan Jones (1991) is on my definite wishlist.