Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ten Best of 2011

This year I read some wonderful books. It wasn’t immediately apparent that I had read so much that tickled my fancy, but when I went back over the year, I was happily surprised to discover that there were quite a few standouts. I actually had to cut down my list a little bit to keep from going overboard. One of the things that surprised me about this year’s list was that almost all of my favorites were books that I had chosen for myself and were not review copies. This realization only strengthens my resolve to read more from my shelves this year and to let my reading be directed by my whims and not by what I’m expected or obligated to read. I’ve heard others say that when they decided on this route their reading became robust, stimulating and rewarding, so I’m hoping that 2012 is a year of rejuvenation for me when it comes to reading. As always, I will be looking to you all, my blogging buddies, for all those books that I simply must read right away!

This is the list of my ten top reads of the year. Instead of posting a synopsis of each read, I’ve decided to just give you a couple of sentences on how the books made me feel and the overall impression they left me with. Of course, if you want to find out more, you can always click through and read the previously posted review. Here is my list, in no particular order:


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
: A stunning and strange powerhouse of a book that melds eyebrow raising science with the story of a family who are powerless against the medical innovations that wrecked their lives. A deeply resonating read that made me angry and amazed and also had me reaching for the box of tissues at my side.


A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
: Academia, witches, vampires and demons, oh my! A book that was rather large but had me excitedly flipping pages for hours and hours, wondering what would be revealed next. Magic, time travel and romance, and let me tell you, Edward Cullen has nothing on Matthew.


State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
: A strange discovery in the jungle that holds the secret to life, and a doctor who will do anything, no matter how unsavory, to hold onto this discovery and make it her own. A thrilling and inveigling read that kept me agog with its strangeness and edginess. Patchett’s writing wasn’t too shabby either!


A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
: Time, relationships and music converge in this non-linear exploration of a handful of characters and their desires to make the kinds of connections that defy explanation. A read the kept me constantly wondering and off balance, but in such a good way! I had to see this one all the way to the end because I just couldn’t look away. Egan is a very talented lady.


Q: A Novel by Evan Mandery
: An absurdist adventure that intersperses time travel and romance. But this isn’t like The Time Traveler’s Wife at all. Witty, sarcastic and philosophical are all great words to describe this book, but most of all, it was damn funny, and I may have snorted in public while reading it. I’m just sayin’.


Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
: Frightening and consuming, the story of a surgeon with Alzheimer’s who may or may not have committed a murder. She doesn’t really know, and neither do you, until that final whopper of a chapter that will have your stomach sinking into your toes.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
: A classic that I’m ashamed to admit took me this long to read. A heroine with modern sensibilities and a backbone as thick as can be. An amazing read that defied my expectations, and will be read again. And perhaps again.


Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid by Wendy Williams
: Who knew that squid were such fascinating animals, and on top of that, who knew how incredibly important they are to humanity and modern medicine? A very weird and fun book that kept me constantly entertained and amazed. A nonfiction feast for the brain.


We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
: So disturbing that I had to sleep with my bedroom door locked and a night light on for a few days after reading it. Unsettling and oh so realistic, this is Shriver’s tale of a mother who raises a sociopath and her attempts to normalize a child who will never be normal. Chilling and expertly written.


Horns by Joe Hill
: I’m not a big reader of horror novels, but this strange little book by Joe Hill was so funny, and yes, scary, that I couldn’t resist adding this to the list. A young man slowly morphs into a demon complete with the red skin, horns and a new set of disturbing powers. Unexpectedly brash and totally unusual. Hill must do his daddy, master horror writer Stephen King, proud.

So that’s my list, and I have to say that I had fun reliving all these amazing books and coming up with these little snippets to entice you with. I’ve loved a lot of what I read this year, but these were the stand-outs, and I’m hoping you might give some of them a try! I also wanted to thank you all for reading my ramblings and for being such great friends to me. I hope that you all have an amazing New Year’s and that your reading for 2012 is both exciting and amazing. I’ll be happily following you through your year’s reading journeys!

42 comments:

Jenny said...

I've been wanting to read We Need to Talk About Kevin but the little snippets I'm reading make me super scared to, LOL!

I have YET to read Jane Eyre! (Other than what I "read" in high school of course haha)

bermudaonion said...

Great list! I've only read two of those books but do own a couple more. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I haven't read Jane Eyre. Happy New Year to you and your family!

Kathy said...

Great list! I am adding a couple of these to my TBR list. Your summary is encouraging me to read The Turn of the Mind. I am also adding Horns based on your review. Again thanks for great reviews! Happy New Year!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting list! I'm surprised not to see The Language of Flowers on it. In fact, I'm surprised not to see it on MY list either! LOL

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I love these lists! The Henrietta Lacks story made my top 10 list in 2010, and State of Wonder will be on my Top 10 list this year.

Several others are on my TBR list. (Sounds like I need to read Jane Eyre again after 40 years:)

Happy new Year!

Zibilee said...

Jill,
That actually was going to be on the list, but I hadn't yet written my review, so I left it out. I think my review will be up next week.

TheBookGirl said...

You've got two of my standout reads for the year-- State of Wonder and Turn of Mind.

I have been intimidated by A Visit from the Good Squad, but I think I need to get over that and just read the darn book, lol.

Hope you have a wonderful New Year Heather, and I look forward to your reading observations and more in 2012 :)

Aths said...

Fabulous list! I've only read State of Wonder and Jane Eyre, and loved both, so I can't wait to check out the rest! I'm myself just working on my post. I hope you have a fabulous new year, and that 2012 is just as fabulous in reading. I know what you mean by most of your favorites being non-review books. I am curious to see how my list stacks up.

Jillian said...

Yay for Jane Eyre!!! That's the first classic I read (in 2010), and it inspired me to begin my current quest to read many more. :-)

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

About three of the titles: Visit from the Goon Squad, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and State of Wonder have appeared on several lists. I've got to be on the look out for them.

Harvee said...

Looks like some books that I need to add to my list for 2012! Except ofr Jane Eyre, I haven't read any of your top books! Thanks for the heads up!

Lisa said...

What a great variety you enjoyed this year! I'm so looking forward to reading Immortal Life for my book club soon and State of Wonder is high on my list because I love Patchett. We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of those books that I will never forget - more than two years after reading it, I still can't put the details out of my head!

Aarti said...

Oh, great list! I also realized in going back over my list that I read more good books than I expected this year. And, like you, most of those brilliant books were not review books but ones I chose for myself. That isn't really surprising, I suppose. I'm so excited for more reading projects with you next year :-)

joanna said...

I've only read Jane Eyre and We Need To Talk About Kevin from your list, and loved both. And of course I added several of the others to my TBR list. Not the surgeon murder one, that sounds way to disturbing and I don't want nightmares! :-)

Wendy said...

Wow, a treasure trove of books there, Heather! I have a couple on my TBR stacks (Henrietta Lacks, Visit from the Good Squad, We Need to talk about Kevin). And there are some on your list that look interesting - ah, more to add to my must read list! Hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead!

Tracy said...

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books, and I did like reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The Ann Patchett one is now on my wishlist!

Wall-to-wall books said...

Discovery of Witches was the only of those I've read, but I agree it was one of the best!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Yay for Henrietta! And I really need to read The Discovery of Witches and Horns. Egads, 2012 is going to start off quite busy :)

Happy New Year, Heather! I'm so excited for another blogging year with you!

Trisha said...

What a great list of books! Quite a few were already on my wish list.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Most of these are on my WishList as well...how in the world am I going to get to all these great books in 2012?? Oy. I don't know about We Need To Talk about Kevin...sounds a little Dexter to me...which I love by the way? Have you seen the series?

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Most of these are on my WishList as well...how in the world am I going to get to all these great books in 2012?? Oy. I don't know about We Need To Talk about Kevin...sounds a little Dexter to me...which I love by the way? Have you seen the series?

Nymeth said...

The only one of those I've read is Jane Eyre, but the others are (unsurprisingly) all on my wishlist. I particularly want to read the non-fiction Kraken, since I had such luck with the fiction one. Happy New Year, Heather, and all the best for you and yours in 2012 :)

Amy said...

Your list is very interesting and surprising. I think I have some reading to do, too, because I haven't read many of your favorites although I recognize a lot of them. Glad you had fun compiling this list!

Vasilly said...

H, I think you are so right about reading more off our shelves. While reading this post, I looked back on my own favorites posts and only two review copies made the list. I'm hoping to get to Henrietta Lacks soon. Your list looks amazing! Happy New Year!

Jenners said...

I think it is interesting that the books you chose for yourself were the best reads. : )

I read a few of these and agree with you … but I'm going to have to go back and check out some of the others that I haven't read yet.

Wishing you a wonderful 2012 filled with 5 star reads!

Ann Weisgarber said...

What fun list! Kraken was the one that really caught my attention. Squid. Whoever would have thought? I have to give that one a try.

Many wishes for good cheer and happy surprises during 2012!

Kaye said...

Isn't it fun to see lists like this? I've loved reading them the past few days. It's also interesting that the ones you loved the most are the ones you picked. Have a wonderful year of joyous reading in 2012!

softdrink said...

I really need to get on the ball and try State of Wonder. And Q sounds fun! I'm all about the fun.

Happy New Year!!

Andi said...

I'm keeping your list close in 2012, Heather! WE have such similar tastes, I see some books here I just HAVE to try!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I've read only one of the books on your list (HELA), which, of course, means I've added the other nine to my wish list.

Thanks for this round-up, Heather, and Happy New Year to you!

nomadreader said...

The ones I've read (State of Wonder and Goon Squad) were both on my best of year list--one last year and one this year! Many others are on my TBR. I need to make time for Q too. Suddenly everyone is recommending it to me. Congratulations on a wonderful year of reading!

Ti said...

I've not read one book on here, yet most of them I listed on Goodreads as TBR. I must get to them!!

Bonnie said...

I love the diversity of your list and your snippets were great to read! I agree with you on Henrietta Lacks, a must read. I have been on the fence about Discovery of Witches as I am tiring of the vampire themed books but this one sounds well written. I have State of Wonder on my TBR shelf and I plan to read more from my shelves as well this year. You've got my interest with Turn of Mind and We Need to talk about Kevin! Happy New Year!!

irisonbooks said...

Jane Eyre :) I think that was my top favourite book of 2010, though I had read it before.

I did enjoy A Discovery of Witches and Q too, and I will have to look into the rest of your top books.

Happy 2012 :)

Literary Feline said...

I should just print out your list and go shopping! You have such good taste in books, Heather.

Skloot's book is one I actually have in my TBR collection already. I just need to get to it. A Discovery of Witches is another I am anxious to read. I even bought it for my nook for convenience sake and yet I still haven't gotten to it! What's wrong with me?! Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorite novels. I'm probably due for a re-read. All your other choices sound so good too . . .

Beth F said...

Now that's one good looking list!

Steph said...

All the books that you have on your list that I've also read I have really enjoyed, so I can only imagine how good the ones I'm not familiar with are! I am putting all the unknown ones on my TBR so that I know I have some good reads ahead! :D

Marg said...

Nice list! You know that Discover of Witches was on my best of list as well!

Here's to a fantastic reading year in 2012.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I have several of these on my list. I love doing the year end wrap-ups. I did the books I liked best and the biggest disappointments!

2 Kids and Tired Books

Amy said...

I'm sad that I've read none of these! I keep meaning to read the Henrietta Lacks book though. One of these days! It does seem like there is a big push on by many to read more personal than review books. Good luck :)

LBC said...

I am so excited to see Q on someone else's top of the year list. I loved it.

melanie said...

Fabulous list! I'm intrigued by the Kraken. And so glad you've read Jane Eyre and loved it - it is my all time favorite. The Immortal Life is on my must read list this year - I am hoping to get my bookclub to choose it AND The Paris Wife.

Post a Comment

 
Blogger Template by Delicious Design Studio