Monday, February 06, 2012

Reading Recap: 2011

I've finally gotten around to finishing my Top 10 Reads of 2011.  This is my fourth annual recap and it's always one my favorite posts to write.  I love looking back on my favorite novels from the past year, although it's a painful (and oh-so-scientific process) to deciding which books make the cut.

I had a pretty productive reading year in 2011 - I finished 92 books.  Just a disclaimer - I know it sounds like a lot, but I read a TON of mysteries and young adult books that are pretty short.  So I'm not reading War and Peace style novels by any stretch of the imagination.

Still, I read some amazing books this year and I'm excited to share them with you.  There's something for everyone - fantasy, young adult, chick lit, comedy, a serious book, a mystery...good times will be had by all.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book got lots of hype this past year - and it was worth every bit of it!  It absolutely mesmerized me. The writing was like a beautiful, lyrical, wondrous dream. I was enchanted by the characters and fell in love with each of them in turn. In fact, once I was done reading it, I didn't pick up another book for over a week because I was still lost in the dream.

2.  Divergent by Veronica Roth

This was another heavily hyped book this past year - and I completely agree with the ounce of hype.  In fact, I still think about chapters of this book from time-to-time and I read it six months ago.  The heroine, Tris, lives in a world where people are separated into factions, which are based on their personalities.  There is Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Amity (peaceful) and Erudite (intelligent).  When children turn 16, they have to choose their faction. and this book is about Tris' choice.  I liked the author's writing a lot - very clear, expressive.  The story was like  a roller coaster ride, day at the beach, and first kiss all at once. Occasionally, I would remember the author is only 22, which made me feel slightly depressed.

3.  Delirium by Lauren Oliver

This book made me bawl.  The author's writing is exquisite - it's the kind of writing you want to read out loud so you can savor the phrases.  In this world,
love is considered a fatal disease and people get their brains snipped at age 18 to remove any capacity for love, feelings, passion and creativity. Individuals are assigned careers and spouses. Our heroine, Lena, falls in love just days before she's supposed to be snipped. Favorite quote: "And now I know why they invented words for love, why they had to: It's the only thing that can come close to describing what I feel in that moment, the baffling mixture of pain and pleasure and fear and joy, all running sharply through me at once."

4. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

This was an absolutely adorable story. Alice is 29, pregnant for the first time, desperately in love with her husband and fixing up a run-down house. She faints and awakens to find herself a 39-year-old mother of three in the middle of a divorce.  The author writes the kind of sparkling, witty dialogue that you imagine is spoken at the most fabulous cocktail parties. Alice probably never sits around eating fritos and velveeta dip, watching a 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians' marathon. The story is a little predictable, but the writing is friendly, clever and very entertaining.

5.  Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

This was a beautifully written book and a story that stayed with me.  James Witherson is a bigamist. This is the story of his two families -- his public family and his secret one.  He has two wives and two teenage daughters around the same age.  One daughter gets everything she asks for and the other makes due with the scraps.  Eventually they meet and build a relationship, although only one knows that they're sisters. And secrets have a way of unraveling.

6.  Sister by Rosamund Lupton

This is kind of a quirky story, so I don't want to give too much away.  It's a tale of two sisters.  One is the older, more sensible sister with a high-powered career in New York.  The other is the flighty, more outrageous, younger sister studying art in Italy.  The younger sister is found dead and it's a suspected suicide. The older sister tries tries to prove that it was actually a murder. It's written as a one-sided conversation, so the structure is really interesting and the ending completely surprised me.  

7.  Matched by Ally Condie

For starters, the cover is absolutely gorgeous.  And this book made my cry.  But a good cry.  It was the kind of cry you get when you are truly caught up in the characters and their story. The heroine, Cassia, lives in a world where the government makes every decision for you - what you do for a career, what you eat every day, what poetry you can read, who you marry and even when you die.
At first Cassia doesn't mind, and then she wants more -- more freedom, more choices and at that point her world became too small.  She's in love with two boys.  One is her official "match" and one is someone off-limits to her.  That causes all kinds of trouble.

8.  Bossypants by Tina Fey

What can I say?  I almost peed my pants reading this book.  I absolutely love Tina Fey. She can do no wrong in my mind and this book was no exception. I had such a good time reading it. I often found myself in a room alone, snorting and giggling. I would then be forced to run to a neighboring room so I could share the entertainment with my husband. If he wasn't around, I read aloud to my cats.  They liked it too!

9.  Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

This is one of those books that stuck with me.  I couldn't put it down until I finished it and I found myself thinking about the main character and the story long after I finished it.  Gaia was my kind of heroine - intelligent and brave.  Plus, she had a facial scar, so she wasn't fascinated with her own beauty (although she was very beautiful).  I like a story where the girl learns her own self-worth plus manages to save herself and everyone else around her.  This book had that combination in spades!

10. Bright Young Things by Anna Godberson

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book - mainly because of this sentence in the introduction: "They were all marching toward their own secret fates, and long before the next decade rolled around, each would escape in her own way -- one would be famous, one would be married and one would be dead."   Every time something happened in the book, I'd think, "Does this mean she's the one who's going to die? Oh no...she she going to be famous instead?" It was a fun read - very glamorous with plenty of bootleggers, cigarette girls, flappers and bobbed hair.

Curious about my previous recaps?  Check them out.


Christina In Seattle said...

Thank you for posting this! I've been struggling to find good books to read now that I am done with school and have time to read for fun again. I put a bunch of these on hold at the library - can't wait to start reading!

Eljabo said...

Oh good! You'll have to let me know how you like them!