I read 57 books in 2011. Initially that sort of sounds impressive, but really, it’s barely more than a book a week. BOOOO! That is not that great. Regardless, here are my top 7 favourite books that I read in 2011, in no particular order:
1. Swim Back to Me — Ann Packer
The last book I read in 2011, this is a collection of short stories that inspired me to resolve to start writing something substantial in 2012. One of the stories falls a bit flat, but the rest more than make up for it. I look forward to reading more of Packer’s (older) work in 2012.
2. Hark! A Vagrant — Kate Beaton
She’s smart, she’s Canadian, and I have a total crush on her. 2011 was a great year for Kate Beaton, and for
me fans to stalk see her at comic shows and author festivals. I love her clean drawings and the way she perfectly captures facial expressions. And let’s face it, anyone who can make Wonder Woman interesting is clearly an amazing talent, ha ha.
3. Eating Animals — Jonathan Safran Foer
I was already vegan when I read this book, but if I hadn’t been, Eating Animals would’ve tipped the balance for me. At times a very painful and sad read, this book should be required reading for those who choose to remain ignorant about where their edible animal products are coming from.
4. Ten Thousand Saints — Eleanor Henderson
If you’re at all interested in reading about New York City in the late 80s, this is a great starting point. The story lags a bit at times, but the way that Henderson uses major cultural and social touchstones of that place and time — the AIDS crisis, the straight-edge movement, CBGBs — as a backdrop to her story is deft.
5. The Historian — Elizabeth Kostova
HAHAHAHA oh boy this book was ridiculous! But in the best way possible! Very entertaining, and I inadvertently learned a lot about Vlad the Impaler, so.
6. The Paris Wife — Paula McLain
Paris in the 1920s with Hemmingway. What else do you need to know? Read this, and then watch another medium’s interpretation of that place and time in Midnight in Paris. A great, nerdy combo.
7. Sarah’s Key — Tatiana de Rosnay
A heart-breaking work of historical fiction centred around the Vélodrome d’Hiver roundups. I hadn’t really read anything about the Nazi presence in Paris during World War II, so this book was very illuminating for me. A definite page turner until the book’s central mystery is solved — it should’ve been wrapped up a bit sooner after that.
The Leftovers — Tom Perrotta: Not as strong as some of his previous work, but certainly well-written and interesting.
Zone One — Coulson Whitehead: I found the main character (and narrator) a bit dull, but the ending is realistic and spectacular.
Cutting for Stone — Abraham Verghese: To be blunt, this book is way too long. Almost 700 pages! I mean, come on. However, the final 300 pages were worth the initial read.
The Uncoupling — Meg Wolitzer: Like Tom Perrotta, Wolitzer is one of my favourite authors, and I found that The Uncoupling just didn’t measure up to previous work.
Anything by Jennifer Haigh: Besides Ann Packer, one of my favourite new-to-me author discoveries!
For a complete list of the books I read in 2011, see Books I’ve Read 2011!