Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Books of 2011 ~ the year in review


2011 was a very good year us and our family: good health, no job loss, and much to look forward to in 2012.

I joined (6) challenges in 2011 and was able to complete them all (posted on left side bar).

I was trying to figure out why I read (46) fewer books in 2011 - 121 in  (2011) and 167 in (2010)?? I quickly remembered how I became addicted to the Scrabble App on my iPhone about mid-year. I have played over 2,500 games since, with (2164 wins and 401 losses). I have had fun with this alternate form of mental stimulation so I really can't complain.

I've been having fun reading all of your posts about your favorite reads of 2011, and have added a few more books to my must read list as a result.  I've been going back and forth with my own favorites for a week or so now and still keep coming up with (at least the same top 5).  Here's my top picks:

Favorite Fiction
  1. A Kind of Intimacy; Jenn Ashworth - Annie is a whacky gal, who I found endearing in a bizarre sort of way. At times I pitied her, and her desperate attempts for love and acceptance. The story is dark and addictive. An unforgettable birds-eye view of the dark side of a fractured mind.
  2. A Good Hard Look; Ann Napolitano -  a fictionalized version of the life of the late author Flannery O'Connor. An at times heart-wrenching story, which changes everyone, as they quickly understand what the author meant when she said, "the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."  This book made my go out and purchase all of Flannery O'Connor's books. Loved it.
  3. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake; Jenny Wingfield -  A richly detailed account of good and evil in 1950s Arkansas. It's both heart-breaking and uplifting; simple wonderful.
  4. 11/22/63; Stephen King - Having been born in the early 50's, reading this novel was like a blast from the past. Whether it was the music references, the vehicles, or the laughable price of gasoline, every detail from that period seemed authentic. It's one of those books that if you allow yourself to suspend belief and just go along for the ride, I think you'll agree it was worth your time. 
  5. Of Mice and Men; John Steinbeck -  The story of two drifters, Lennie, a mentally challenged, gentle giant, and George, the man who looks after Lennie. Heart-breaking but wonderful.
  6.  Sing You Home; Jodi Picoult - Having read all of Picoult's novels, this one --her 18th, is probably her most controversial yet. A powerful story about what constitutes a family, and why committed gay couples should be seen no differently from straight couples when it comes to marriage and raising a family.
  7. The Elegance of the Hedgehog; Muriel Barbery -  The Elegance of the Hedgehog is truly a beautiful novel about life, and about looking for the beauty in every person you meet. It gave me so much to think about. It's not the type of story with lots of action, it more philisophical, but don't let that scare you. It's a wonderful character study that examines not only what makes the main characters tick, but it is also a deep exploration of all that surrounds us in the world we live in. 
  8. State of Wonder; Ann Patchett -  Pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh sets off into the Amazon jungle to find the remains and effects of a colleague who recently died under somewhat mysterious circumstances.Beautiful writing, page turning plot.
  9. How to Read the Air; Dinaw Mengestu -  A wonderful story about the immigrant experience. The writing is beautiful and detailed and the story intimate. If you love introspective stories,  this one gets high marks in that area. 
  10.  The Easter Parade; Richard Yates - This book too deals with the disenchantment of everyday life, and the longing for something more....the illusive butterfly, that if found, would make our life just perfect. The people in this novel drink too much, make bad choices in relationships and live their lives afraid to share how they really feel. It's wonderful.
 Other Favorites (non fiction and childrens)

Have you posted your 2011 favorites yet?

Happy Reading in 2012! Readers Rock!

33 comments:

  1. I've only read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but I'm glad to see your list as I now have some good books to look forward to in 2012. Happy Year of reading.

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  2. "the laughable price of gasoline", I got my license in the early 60's and gas was .21 cents a gallon. We moved here in 1999 and gas was .70 cents a gallon. Geez, now look where we are. Ridiculous!

    Nice list you have. I've made note of a couple of books. Here's to 2012 being another year of wonderful books, health and joy for you and your family.

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  3. That is so amazing you could pick just 10! From all of us to you...Happy, Happy, Happy New Year!!!

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  4. You amaze me with your reading!

    Have a wonderful New Years, I look forward to blogging with you in 2012.

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  5. You had a great year! I really want to read that Stephen King book. It really sounds great.

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  6. Oopps...forgot to say HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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  7. 121 books this year with an app addiction is not too shabby Diane! I hope 2012 turns out to be a wonderful year for you...reading and otherwise!

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  8. Looks like you had a wonderful reading year, Diane! Lots of great books on your "Best of" list, including several I am dying to read. I rarely get to read the newest releases.

    Glad to hear that your family had a good year, too - I hope 2012 is even better.

    Happy New Year!

    Sue

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  9. My son who's a book worm wanted the 'Emory's Gift' book for Xmas. He can't put the book down, and I'm definitely going to buy the rest of his books, 'A Dogs Purpose' and one he's busy writing now 'A dogs Journey'. I heard in his interview on 'The Book Report' radio show that he is going to make a movie out of 'A Dogs Purpose'. I've read some extracts of this book and it appears that the dog has quite a lot of depth to his character. This dog goes through a few lives, every time getting re-incarnated to find out what his purpose in life is.
    Cameron sounds like a down to earth easy going guy and he says people just expect him to always be writing stories about animals.

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  10. I loved State of Wonder but needed to whittle my list down, as it stood I had 17 on the list.

    I do want to read the fictionalized Flannery O'Connor book. I'm intrigued by it.

    Hope you have a prosperous new year.

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  11. I have A Good Hard Look and Samuel Lake on my to-read for 2012. I also enjoyed State of Wonder and The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Happy New Year!

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  12. Diane, you had a great year in reading! Please feel free to add your Sing Me Home review link to my Jodi Picoult Project Mister Linky, if you'd like to.

    Here's to a happy and healthy 2012!

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  13. That is A LOT of Scrabble!! Like so many other best of lists, I'm bookmarking yours to come back to. (I already got the King book based on your review!!)

    Wishing you a wonderful 2012 filled with 5 star reads!

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  14. I enjoyed a lot your numbers #7 and 8, but here are my favorites of the year: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/12/30/year-of-reading-2011/

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  15. I think tomorrow I will start serious reading of 11/22/63 - almost everyone seems to have loved it!

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  16. You just added to my wish list. I hope 2012 is a wonderful year for you!

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  17. May you have another fantastic year of reading. I just finished State of Wonder (audiobook) and really enjoyed it.

    Happy New Year to you!

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  18. Great list - so hard to pick favourites. I've been reading such good things about the Stephen King I put a hold on at the library.

    Happy New Year!

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  19. Nice list. 121 books is a good number even without playing scrabble. I loved 11/22/63 and it was one of my favorites for the year too.

    I really must read some Richard Yates one of these days. Until I read your reviews I had not heard of him and I'm not sure how he managed to fall through the cracks.

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  20. I haven't done my favourites yet (worked today and it was incredibly hectic!). Glad to see The Easter Parade made it on to your 'bests' list. Happy New Year!

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  21. Of Mice and Men is such a greg classic, it's one the students at my school actually enjoy reading in their English classes.

    Happy New Year!

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  22. Happy New Year!

    Some of your favourite books look very good. Thanks for writing a brief synopsis too, sometimes it's hard to follow favourite posts when I don't know what the books are about!

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  23. Woohoo for 11/22/63! :) Great selections on your list and some that I can't wait to read!

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  24. Yay for Of Mice and Men! I've really got to get around to reading Elegance of the Hedgehog. I'm starting to feel as thought everyone has read it but me. My husband read King's newest and loved it too and is insisting I fit it in to my reading somewhere.

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  25. Happy New Year! A Kind of Intimacy is buried in my TBR pile. I haven't seen much raving about it, but as you list it as number one I'll have to dig it out and give it a try. I hope 2012 is a wonderful year for you. :-)

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  26. I LOVED 5, 7, 8, and 10. Several of your others are on my list. Happy New Year, Diane!

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  27. This post of yours make me want to read Easter Parade and State of Wonder. Have a wonderful reading year in 2012 Diane.

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  28. Oh yes - Samuel Lake! Great book. :) I also loved Of Mice and Men when I read it. I'm looking forward to State of Wonder as it is on my iPod. I've seen it on other year end lists, so I'm more excited now.

    I fully understand about getting distracted by other hobbies, etc. I've done the same thing, but I'm good with that. Variety is the spice of life and all that - you know?! :) I do wish there were more time in a day, though.

    Happy New Year!

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  29. I love your list of fav books! I want to especially read How to Read the Air! Happy new year, Diane!

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  30. So many great books and because of your kindness and generosity I have 2 of them in my possession!

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  31. What a great list of books! I am laughing at your admission that you became addicted to Scrabble. I think it is a great form of mental stimulation.

    Happy 2012!

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  32. Great list! I haven't read any of them but The Homecoming of Samuel Lake and the new Stephen King are on my radar. Happy new year!!

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  33. WWF on Facebook takes way too much of my time! I remember loving Of Mice & Men but haven't read it in years. The new King is one I'm actually intersted in, which isn't the case for all of his books! Happy reading in 2012!

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