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Best Memoir About Surviving a Tsunami
By Sonali Deraniyagala
Sonali Deraniyagala and her family were vacationing in Sri Lanka in 2004 when the tsunami hit, and her world fell apart. She managed to survive by clinging to a tree branch, but the rest of her family — husband, children, parents — perished. Wave is a grief memoir, with the author trying to adjust to a new life of being alone. She goes through a desperate period of wanting to kill herself. She drinks too much alcohol and barely leaves her room. She obsesses over the memories of her husband and children, wanting never to forget anything. This isn't the kind of memoir that delivers the reader a triumph at the end, when the writer has survived and moved on. Your relief as you finish reading is simply that Deraniyagala survived at all.
Best Memoir Comparing the Taliban with Vampires
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
By Malala Yousafzai, with Christina Lamb
Malala, 16, advocates for girls to have the same right to go to school as boys. In her native Pakistan, she lost that ability when the Taliban took over the area in which she lived. She writes: "I was 10 when the Taliban came to our valley. ... It seemed to us that the Taliban arrived in the night just like vampires. They appeared in groups, armed with knives and Kalashnikovs." The Taliban bombed schools and decreed that girls would be denied an education. Malala got media attention when she spoke out against the Taliban. She was threatened, and in October 2012, a man with a gun climbed aboard her school bus and shot her in the head. Amazingly, she survived and recovered. Her graciousness is such that she does not wish revenge on her attacker and instead prays for peace. This is a heartbreaking and inspiring story.
Book That Made Me Laugh Until I Cried
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
By Allie Brosh
Allie Brosh writes and illustrates the popular blog Hyperbole and a Half, and this collection culls her favorite Web comics, plus a few new ones. I'm glad to have her post "This Is Why I'll Never Be an Adult" within permanent reach. It's a well-told tale of how occasional bursts of motivation to Get Stuff Done are quickly overtaken by the exhaustion of being responsible. Other fun pieces chronicle her trying to train her "simple" dog, an early obsession with cake, a hilarious and terrifying attack by a goose, and some letters she writes to her younger self. She even handles a bout with depression in an amusing and self-deprecating way. Several of her chapters made me laugh so loudly and uncontrollably that I started crying. I say that's a good thing.
Best Guy Humor
Power Moves: Livin' the American Dream, USA Style
By Karl Welzein
This is a collection of two years of tweets from @Dadboner, written in an easy-to-read diary format. Karl Welzein, actually a character created by comedian Mike Burns, considers himself an average American guy: He hates his job (so sick of this), he's separated from his wife (Ann is so boring, you guys), his roommate is gross, and all he wants to do is drink beer and eat some bold flavors. Welzein is looking forward to the weekend and is living the bad-boy life. To wit: He sets off fireworks in his apartment as a July 4 prank on his roommate. There also is the occasional dieting tip. He might ditch his cheeseburger's bun to keep the meal in the "health zone." At work, he likes to take naps in the toilet stall and scam chili from a food-donation bin. Keep livin' the dream, Karl.
Diane Kockler Martin is a librarian at Metropolitan Community College. Her book reviews can be found at Goodreads and the blog Shelf Inflicted.