Sunday, January 01, 2012

Books - 2011

For those interested, see last year's annual book review, listing all the books I read in 2010 and recommendations on the best reads of the year.

I surpassed prior years' totals in sheer book count by reaching 64-1/2 books read in 2011. I didn't quite reach my (to date) unachievable target of 100 books in one year.

The books in BOLD are the ones I rated the very best.

Alone at Sea - John Morris** (why all the irritating footnotes?)
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton****
Daily Coyote - Shreve Stockton****
Three Cups of Tea - Mortenson&Relin
Garcia's Heart - Liam Durcan***
Letter from Point Clear - Dennis McFarland***
How Will I Know? - Sheila O'Flanagan** (irritating cliche of lip chewing used excessively)
No Such Creature - Giles Blunt***
The Other Side of the Story - Marion Keyes***
The Empty Family - Colm Toibin****
Winter's Bone - David Woodrell****
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner **dropped.awful.
The Singing Boy - David McFarland ****
Solar - Ian McEwan****
The Glass Room - Simon Mawry*****
One Day - David Nicholls****
Book of Longing - Leonard Cohen***
The Unseen - Katherine Webb*****
Skippy Dies - Paul Murray**** my, what a BIG book
Animal Dreams - Barbara Kingsolver*****breathtaking
Blackfly Season - Giles Blunt***
By the Time You Read This - Giles Blunt*****could not put down
Where Old Ghosts Meet - Kate Evans**
Trunk Music - Michael Connelly***
Fortune's Rocks - Anita Shreve*****
With No One As Witness - Elizabeth George****another 800 page whopper
There Are Little Kingdoms - Kevin Barry*****brilliant
The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist****
After You'd Gone - Maggie O'Farrell**
The Penguin Book of Contemporary Canadian Women's Short Stories - Lisa Moore
A Bird In the House - Margaret Laurence {reading it again, it's so wonderful!}*****
Sister - Rosamund Lupton****
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell****
The Age of Longing - Richard B. Wright****
While I was Gone - Sue Miller****
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery*****
The Hand that First Held Mine - Maggie O'Farrell***
Natural Order - Brian Francis****
A Virtuous Woman - Kaye Gibbons****
Broken Ground - Jack Hodgins*****
The Good Sister - Drusilla Campbell***
The Forgotten Waltz - Anne Enright****
Before I go to Sleep - S. J. Watson*****
My Lover's Lover - Maggie O'Farrell**
The Birth House - Ami McKay*****
Twenty-Six - Leo McKay Jr.****
Belle Maro - Marshall Godwin**(Unfortunately could have used massive editing)
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay****
Change Baby - June Spence***
The Woefield Poultry Collective - Susan Juby****(funny, funny, funny)
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audry Niffenegger* (remind me not to read her again)
A Map of the World - Jane Hamilton (gee whiz, 1/3 the way through I realized I'd read before :( )
The Murder Room - P.D. James (can't get into it)
Send Them Home Sweating - Vincent Power**
Piece of Work - Laura Zigman* Gah at 1/2 way through.
The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes*****Splendid
Arthur & George - Julian Barnes*****fabulous literature
The Sea Lady - Margaret Drabble(BC)****
Pulse - Julian Barnes****

The Wench is Dead - Colin Dexter***
Life of Pi - Yann Martel(going to try this one again)****
For Love - Sue Miller****

Judas in Kilkenny - Theresa Lennon Blunt***
Diamond - Dawn Rae Downton***
Skin Room - Sara Tilley (not finished so scored a half)

Top Picks

I loved ~
"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" which all takes places in an apartment building in Paris and features a precocious 12 year old girl.
"The Sense of an Ending" which was all about memory and how distorted it can be.
"Arthur and George" was gripping. No more can I say without giving major plot points away.
"Solar" and "The Woefield Poetry Collective" had me in tears of laughter.
"The Birth House" was extraordinary and I have just acquired her new novel.
"Unseen" was a recommendation by my 60+years of friendship friend, Helen and I agree with her assessment, a beautiful book.
"The Glass Room" was magical with the main character a house.
"Before I go to Sleep" was unputdownable from beginning to end and also involved memory.

And as always, I would love recommendations from readers out there.


  1. You've read a lot of quality books and should be happy for that because you have not wasted your time. Be proud of your list. A lot of us have achived a lot less.

  2. I adored The Elegance of the Hedgehog - especially the magnificent last chapter. Unfortunately I found The Sense of an Ending to be a frightfully dull story with woefully shallow characters.I think the last Booker winner I actually liked was Life of Pi. Can't wait to check out some of the ones I haven't read as judging from your rating system we have a similar taste.

  3. Loved your choices of best reads. I share your taste. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox had a profound effect on me when I worked in the psychiatric field.

    Have you tried Donna Leon's detective Commissario Brunetti stories? They're set in Venice, where you can get well and truly steeped in the culture and politics of her themes.

  4. Oh, I forgot....C.J. Sansom's 4 books about 16th century lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, starting with "Dissolution". He, reluctantly, does Thomas Cromwell's bidding re affairs of state. The books sing, IMO.

  5. My list runs to forty three books bought during the year and quite a few that I borrowed and read.

    In fiction, I enjoyed the trilogy by Stieg Larsson and two Indian stories on Shiva.

    In non fiction, I quite enjoyed reading Christopher Hitchen's God Is Not Great, Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey and Timothy Freke's How Long Is Now?

    I also re-read Denial Of Death by Ernest Becker and Justice by Michael J Sandel.

    The book that really impressed me most was Underworld: The Mysterious Origins Of Civilization by Graham Hancock.

    The rest were mostly about Indian spirituality/myths etc.

    Quite whether this list will be to your liking, I do not know, but if you can lay your hands on them, you can scan and decide for yourself.

  6. Thanks all for your recommendations, I will certainly investigate.
    As I read a lot of news and opinions on line I tend to get away from non-fiction when I read. I like to escape :) into other worlds as I find "this world is too much with me".


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