One final list this year for you, and one that has relatively surprising results, in my opinion. As I’ve mentioned before, I am an avid reader and a lover of literary fiction in particular, which is why it surprised me that only 11 of the books on this list, the 19 books I read in 2011, fall into the literary fiction category. Two are nonfiction, 4 are Young Adult novels, one is historical fiction and finally, one paranormal/fantasy novel. (Note: Some of these, I’ve already reviewed and have linked those reviews for your convenience.)
Emma by Jane Austen – I have now read every one of Austen’s novels and, while Pride and Prejudice is, by far, my favorite, they are all excellent and well worth your time. Emma is a light-hearted, jovial romantic comedy simultaneously satirical and heartwarming.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Bossypants by Tina Fey – I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked this up. Is it a memoir? An autobiography? Essays on Fey’s personal opinions about comedy, the entertainment industry, life in general? Upon reading it, I found it fits all of those descriptions. Fey mostly sticks to the events in her life that concern her career in comedy and her quirky sense of humor fills every line. I suggest everyone who has an interest in Fey, the world of comedy or show business read it, men in particular. My husband read it (and enjoyed it) and remarked that it enlightened him a bit to the differences of a female perspective. Fey’s prose doesn’t push any feminist agenda, but does showcase the female point of view (how could it not? she is a woman, after all). Plus, it’ll make you laugh. Out loud. Repeatedly.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Story by Robert McKee – An exceptional tool for anyone attempting to write works of fiction. Even if you’re a beginner, if you have no formal education, if you’re just tinkering with the idea of writing, it will benefit you to read it.
The Postmortal by Drew Magary
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – This is the one fantasy/paranormal novel I read this year. While interested in the overall theme – the inevitable fact that “old world” traditions last maybe a generation or two after immigration to America before getting replaced by the gods America worships (radio, television, money, etc.) – I found the narrative hard to follow as it jumped around quite a bit and the extremely heavy use of symbolism sometimes lost me.
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
Requiem For A Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr. – I love drug stories and this is one not easily forgotten. It tells the story of a young man caught up in the world of heroin, initially as a dealer, seduced by the easy money, then as an addict as he succumbs to temptation, and his retired mother who develops an addiction herself to uppers in an effort to lose weight. Ultimately, it’s about obsession and the complete destruction it causes.
Solar by Ian McEwan – McEwan is a genius, a true artist with words and imagery and I recommend any fan of fiction read Atonement. Solar, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment (in my opinion). Though his prose left nothing wanting, the story never quite hooked me. It follows a British scientist determined to find the answer to climate change by bringing solar energy to the masses while chronicling his many failed attempts at personal relationships. It certainly wasn’t a waste of my time, just not my cup of tea, as they say.
Behind The Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy – Annie recommended this YA novel to me and I recommend it to everyone, especially pre-teen girls. It is much darker than your average YA book – gothic and mysterious, and utterly charming.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (see above link for Sense & Sensibility)
Baby (and other stories) by Paula Bomer – This collection of short stories focuses entirely on couples with young children and the effects child-rearing has on parents, marriages, familial relationships, work and daily life. Eye-opening in its honest, realistic telling and worth reading, despite the occasional typo.
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin – A work of historical fiction about the life of Alice, the real-life girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice In Wonderland. Though you may feel differently, I didn’t enjoy it and don’t particularly recommend it. It felt disjointed and awkward at times, forced at others. And I found it far less interesting than its description sounded.
The Pleasure Of My Company by Steve Martin – Though I love Steve Martin, I did not enjoy this book. It was an unrealistic portrayal of an agoraphobic twenty-something and much too fairy-tale in the way he wrapped it all up. I know others who liked it, though, so take my opinion for what it’s worth.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – A classic that I’ve heard hailed as an early feminist novel. I don’t know so much about its feminist views (at least as intended by the author) but it is a beautifully told, tragically sad tale of the lengths one woman is willing to go to in an effort to free herself of the matrimonial chains that suffocate her.
Currently reading: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. (More on this later.)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!