The Best Book I Read This Year

What kept Tampa Bay turning the pages in 2007.

PAM IORIO, Mayor of Tampa

Brutal Journey: The Epic Story of the First Crossing of North America, by Paul Schneider: "It details the ill-fated expedition led by Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528. An army of 400 landed in the vicinity of Tampa Bay in 1528 and proceeded north through Florida in search of gold. ... It's a fascinating account of exploration. Long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spaniards explored the Tampa Bay area. If only they had focused on a lasting settlement instead of on the search for riches, our history would have been vastly different."

RAY ARSENAULT, Author, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice/ USF-St. Petersburg professor

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright: "It's essentially the history of al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism. It begins in Egypt in the 1940 and ends with the attack on the twin towers. You know the ending but you can't believe it, that they ended up producing a movement that ends where it does. It's a frightening book in a way, but it's in no way sensational or gratuitous."


KATHY CASTOR, U.S. Representative, Florida 11th District
The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, by Michael Grunwald: "It's simply the most comprehensive analysis of the impacts that growth and development have had on the Everglades. Anyone who cares about Florida's beautiful natural environment and realizes it's interconnected will be fascinated." A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini: "Even though it is a fictional account of the struggles of an orphan girl who becomes a woman in Afghanistan, you can't help but relate to the circumstances of the country. If someone's looking for a book that will outright make them weep, that's the one."


BRAD CULPEPPER, Tampa attorney/ Former defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A Land Remembered, by Patrick Smith: "Like a Michener book, but about Florida. It traces a family from the 1860s to the 1970s and how they grow wealthy. It harkens to a simpler but far more difficult time. I'd recommend the book to anyone who lives in Florida."


CARLA JIMENEZ, Co-owner, Inkwood Books, Tampa
Fiction: The Gathering, by Anne Enright. "It's a stunning piece of writing — it just won the Booker Prize." Nonfiction: Deep Economy, by Bill McKibben. "It's a radical re-examining of how we define growth and progress." Big-Box Swindle, by Stacy Mitchell: "This highly acclaimed expose of the reality behind the big box hype features several local businesses including Inkwood. Mitchell is the nationally recognized expert on retail development and independent business and has the facts and analysis to back up her claims. A timely and informative message for anyone who cares about community."


LORNA BRACEWELL, Singer/songwriter
The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt: "I read this book during my six-week tour of Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic; I'm sure that is part of the reason why I found it to be so revelatory. Arendt delves fearlessly into some of the most baffling and horrific events in modern history and emerges with a profound call to action: 'The subterranean stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our tradition. This is the reality in which we live. And this is why all efforts to escape from the grimness of the present into nostalgia for a still intact past, or into the anticipated oblivion of a better future, are vain.' As you can probably infer, it is a disquieting, challenging and brilliant read." 


JUDY GENSHAFT, President, University of South Florida
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen: "The book was so different. It took me into an absolutely different world that I didn't know about. Very gripping and suspenseful. You can't put it down." 


DAVID BROWN, Co-owner, Old Tampa Book Company
Dark Light, by Randy Wayne White: "I can't say it's my absolute favorite this year, but I loved Dark Light. I enjoy the chief protagonist of the series, Doc Ford. All of these mysteries, there are 12 of them, take place on the west coast of Florida, this one shortly after Hurricane Charley."


PENELOPE LIVINGSTON, Old Tampa Book Company staff
Moon Woman, by Pamela Duncan: "I found Pamela Duncan in another used book store — not ours." Duncan's book helped fuel "this whole Appalachian thing" (perhaps aided by a bit of wanderlust), and Livingston went on to read Duncan's other books, Plant Life and The Big Beautiful. "Now I'm hooked on another writer; he's from Kentucky: Silas House." House writes about mountain life and Kentucky coal-mining families in Clay's Quilt, The Coal Tattoo and A Parchment of Leaves.

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