Your Best Reads of 2011: A Retrospective
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I know some of you have already posted something similar in your threads but I I thought it would be useful to have one place where people could list some of our favourite reads of the year. I'll be posting my favourites soon!.
(If you've already done a 'best of' post in your own thread, don't be afraid to copy and paste!)
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
That Deadman Dance, Kim Scott
The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan
The Lottery and Other Stories, Shirley Jackson
Bereft, Chris Womersley
Zoo City, Lauren Beukes
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
Small Wars, Sadie Jones
The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason
Solo, Rana Dasgupta
Persuasion, Jane Austen
They're probably the ones that'll stick with me the most. And Persuasion is an old favourite. :)
I've got to try and trim down to 10 books for my bookgroup's "Best Ten" list. It's going to be hard...
My best of 2011
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
Rumo, Walter Moers
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathon Stroud
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
The Trout Opera, Matt Condon
The Order of Odd-fish, James Kennedy
The Age of Absurdity, Michael Foley
The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher, Doug MacLeod
About a Girl, Joanne Horniman
The Midnight Zoo, Sonya Hartnett
The Red Wind, Isobel Carmody
The Magicians, Lev Grossman
Secret Scribbled Notebooks, Joanne Horniman
When God was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
The Darkness that Comes Before, R Scott Bakker
The Passage, Justin Cronin
Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
Listed in order of reading, special mention to A Fine Balance and The Passage as standouts.
My favourite books from 2011 in no particular order
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Annabel by Kathleen Winter
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning
The Better Mother by Jen Sookfong Lee
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal
Cleopatra : a life by Stacy Schiff
Mordecai:the Life and Times by Charles Foran
Shadow Maker:the Life of Gwendolyn MacEwan by Rosemary Sullivan
The Boy in the Moon:a Father's Search for his Disabled Son by Ian Brown.
Ooh I have a few of people's favourites on my TBR pile, here's hoping to a good year!
My top books are:
Best fantasy: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Best Sci-fi: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
Best Western: Lonesome Dove
Best Romance: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (well it's sort of a romance)
Best Horror: Dark Matter by Michellle Paver
Best YA A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Best comic/graphic novel: Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan
Best Non-Fiction: The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh
Best new weird: The Troika by Stepanakert Chapman
Best Short Story Collection: The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
Best Series: The Jerusalem Quartet by Edward Whittemore
Not including re-reads (because I re-read some old favorites this year, including all of Jane Austen, all of the Brontes' work, and the Harry Potter books):
Smiley's People by John le Carre - a fitting end to a wonderful trilogy. Smiley is one of my all-time favorite characters now.
The Hunger Games trilogy - incredible world-building, and I can't wait for the movie. I read both of the first two books in one sitting; just couldn't put them down. The last book was not the best, but the first two are amazing.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne - hilarious.
Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson - he really made the Civil War fascinating.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison - she's just such a wonderful writer.
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman - really absorbing historical fiction about the Lancaster/York wars. A very different Richard III than Shakespeare gives us.
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda - swoon.
@8 - you're not wrong! I've been furiously scribbling down names and bookmarking webpages while reading these lists! :)
My Top Ten Reads of 2011:
Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 by Joe Sacco:
Reporting from Bosnia in graphic novel format. Outstanding.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi:
A young girl's autobiographical memoir of the growing up in revolutionary Tehran. Another graphic novel.
Instant City by Steve Inskeep:
A incisive and readable account of a troubled Third World megacity. (nonfiction)
Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick:
Outstanding investigative war reporting (nonfiction)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid:
Wonderfully readable fiction work which leaves the reader with plenty to mull over.
Frontline Pakistan by Zahid Hussain:
Excellent look at the unfolding of the 'War on Terror' in a frontline state. (nonfiction)
The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker:
Darkly humorous account of reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan. (nonfiction)
A History of the Crusades Vol. 1 by Steve Runciman:
Excellent history of the first crusade (nonfiction)
Napoleon and the Awakening of France by Felix Markham:
Old but concise and insightful biography of Napoleon's career as the ruler of France. (nonfiction)
The Ballad of Abu Ghraib by Errol Morris and Philip Gourevitch:
Disturbing and thought-provoking look at the reality and perception of the Abu Ghraib abuses. (nonfiction)
As is evident from the list nonfiction generally made much more of an impact on me this year than fiction (I left out my GRRM 'Song of Ice and Fire' re-reads). Also notable is that the top two books were both graphic novels.
I love/hate these lists. Love them because I can hiss with horror at some choices and laugh with glee at others. Hate them because the TBRs get even more out of hand.
But what a lot of good books to look forward to in 2012!
These are the books that I gave 5 stars last year. I also had 15 books with 4 1/2 stars too. But I don't want to bore you . . . .
The Body in the Clouds
Hand me Down World
A Kind Man
The Last Brother
We Had it so Good
Grace Williams Says it Loud
Past the Shallows
The Buddha in the Attic
Faces in the Clouds
Hello all--and great idea to compile our "best of" lists here... I'd missed several of these posts.
These are my "new to me" favorites this year. Each one of them was blow me away, can't believe I've not read it before, freaking amazing. In my personal and humble.
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
Completely heartbreaking. I wanted to shake Stevens half of the time and just make him change his views… but that’s the point. The transformation of British society from early 1920’s to late 1950’s—not really all that long in terms of years–creates a nearly unrecognizable terrain which Stevens is completely unable to navigate. I love the format of this book—it’s just so quiet, Stevens is so mild-mannered and unassuming, but so complicated. The juxtaposition of his memories—when he knew exactly who and what he was—and the present is, yep, heartbreaking.
Howards End, E. M. Forster
I love the way Forster uses words. I haven’t read everything of his—only this and A Room with a View—but I can’t wait to read ‘em all. I love the ideas being debated in this book: the place of money and intelligence in society, and the tension between progress and love of the past, and family loyalties and disloyalties and drama and peace… so wonderful. (And this concludes the Merchant-Ivory Emma Thompson/Anthony Hopkins portion of the post.)
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
I put off reading this for ages—I’ve always been a Catherine/Heathcliff kinda girl—but finally this spring I tried it. And it was fantastic. And way less doom and gloom than I was expecting. Why am I so stubborn? I’m still a bit conflicted about Rochester—I hate hate hate his manipulation (letting poor Jane think he was engaged to Blanche Ingram, of all people!) but I guess uncomplicated heroes are boring.
The Crimson Petal and the White, Michael Faber
Victorian society, post-modern sensibility. This is the book that I’m most looking forward to rereading, might actually have to do it in 2012. I read it in one 36 hour gulp that, in retrospect, was just a blur of oooh I love this and very vague impressions of what happened. Sugar, the prostitute and (arguably) the main character was one of my favorite characters… but I really liked the mad wife with the growth behind her eye that she’d never know about. And the unnamed and inexplicably modern narrator was the perfect bridge to really highlight the ins and outs of the society. So often I read Victorian lit to immerse myself in that world--the narrator kept me off kilter just enough to keep me evaluating and focusing on all of the wonderful and weird things that we take for granted about Victorian England.
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
Holy mother, I loved this book. I say that a lot, but holy mother. This is kind of a tribute to The Woman in White, which I love, but it's incredibly strong even without that link. I loved this book. (Of course, I’m a sucker for Victorian sensation fiction—I’ve read TWiW at least five times and presented papers on it twice.) I loved how Waters updated and perhaps deepened the themes while keeping many of the sensation fiction earmarks (asylum, doubles, unexplained noises, unprotected women) safely intact. Good stuff.
A Very Long Engagement, Sebastian Japrisot
Five French soldiers were condemned to death for the crime of self-mutilation. Although there are rumors that a pardon was granted, they were thrown over the trench into No-Man’s-Land, provoking a firestorm that allowed the French troops take the German trench. Mathilde is determined to learn what happened to Manech, one of the five, and in her investigation learns each man’s story. Beautiful book. I sobbed several times (it’s just so freaking senseless) but Mathilde is so brave and clever and interesting that the story is more hopeful than not. And I love the movie, but as great as Audrey Tautou is, Mathilde, as written, is even better. Also--it's rare that a main character in a novel is written with a disability--I mean, without that disability being the primary focus and descriptor--in short, the entire identity--of that character. Mathilde is in a wheelchair. But that's not her identity. Should be on disability/difference class reading lists.
And my favorite re-reads:
Possession, A. S. Byatt (I actually read this one twice this year. It's getting to be a sickness. I think this has become my favorite book. Of all the beautiful books in the beautiful world.)
The Children's Book, A. S. Byatt (Ok, I'm obsessed. A little more difficult than Possession, or maybe I'm just more familiar with literary criticism than the dawning of the 20th century, but highly recommended. There are so many characters I had to make family tree note cards, and I read it with Google at hand--she assumes you just know all about everything from Fabian societies to the Arts and Crafts Movement to Russian Revolutionaries--but it's so good, you'll want to know. Great book.)
The Hours, Michael Cunningham (Love it. Such a gorgeous intertwining of the characters, following the transformation of the woman's role throughout the last century--what changes and what stays the same)
The Flight of the Falcon, Daphne du Maurier (My favorite of hers. I love this book. It is one that I’ve consistently cited (along with Possession, and Gaudy Night) as a favorite. I love the mingling of the present (well, 1960’s) problems (student demonstrations, questioning of the place of the arts in a world of commerce) with the utter timelessness of the walled Italian city. Du Maurier does such a good job of establishing the time in this novel—the events of the second world war, now twenty years in the past, are as present and as intrinsic to the plot as what happened yesterday. And what happened yesterday arose directly out of what happened five hundred years ago. )
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