My 15 favorite books I read in 2011

I started out this year determined to read 100 books, and to keep track of everything I read.  No rules, just reading.  Out of the 142 books I’ve read so far (only 4 more days left in the year), only 4 books are re-reads.  I’ve always been a big reader, but this year I’ve had a little more time to make trips to the library and read blogs and book excerpts to fill up my “To Be Read” list.  Making my favorites list was difficult, and I couldn’t narrow it down to 10, so 15 it is!

“Sing You Home” by Jodi Picoult – Jodi Picoult always deals with moral/ethical issues that make you reevaluate your side of the issue.  In all of her books I think I know which side of the issue I stand on, and then, after getting into the book, I find it’s harder to make a definitive stand on either side, you begin to understand that each issue is full of shades of gray.

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett – By now I’m pretty sure most of you have either read the book or seen the movie (or both).  I love the range of emotions this book brings out – I laughed, I cried and I got really angry.  When discussing this book with my daughter she was appalled at the way people are treated based on inconsequential things like race and social status, so not only was this a solid good read, it was also a golden teaching opportunity.

“The Story of Beautiful Girl” by Rachel Simon – This is the only book of Ms. Simon’s that I have read, and I loved it!  This is a story of a forbidden love, a baby, and a woman who walks away from the life she knows to take care of a baby she knows nothing about.

“Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosney – This novel is based on the historical Vel d’Hiv round up which took place in Paris in 1942.  Julia Jarmond is an American journalist who married into a French family.  As she researches her article she uncovers a link to her husband’s family who acquired an apartment after the Jewish family who lived there was deported 60 years before.  She discovers that their daughter, Sarah, who was 10 at the time her family was dispossessed, was the only surviving family member.  Julia tries to track Sarah down, and in the process, finds herself.

“Clara and Mr. Tiffany” by Susan Vreeland – Written with a foundation in the actual letters Clara Driscoll wrote about her time with Tiffany Glass Company, this novel is historical, romantic and a great drama.  You find yourself immersed in the details of the glass making, the windows, the colors and the beauty.  You find yourself impassioned with the birth of women’s rights.  And you feel emotionally involved in the life of the many rich characters in Susan Vreeland’s book.  This is a book I couldn’t wait to keep reading, but one I didn’t want to end.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs – This book was so interesting – not just the story, but the presentation of the story – it is complete with photos of the characters which makes you feel as if you were sitting in the story teller’s living room, flipping through an old photo album while listening to their stories.  This is a book I will re-read and share.

“When She Woke” by Hillary Jordan – .  The book starts with a woman waking up in a prison cell with deep red skin.  In the future, criminals, called Chromes, are branded by color, based on their level of crime.  Red is for murderers.  Hannah Payne has been convicted of murder after having an abortion.  The father of the baby is a well-known preacher and political figure with a family of his own.  She can’t bear the thought of shaming him and his ministry, so instead bears the brunt of the judicial system and her parent’s disappointment.  In prison Hannah’s  cell is equipped with cameras that broadcast her every move to the general public.  Upon she is taken to a half-way house run by a preacher and his sadistic wife whose goal is to bring the Chromes to repentance and put them back on the “straight and narrow”.  Chromes in this future do not serve much prison time, they are chromed and released into the general public to survive as best they can.

“The Walk” by Richard Paul Evans – “The Walk” is so emotionally real that at first I didn’t realize I was reading a fiction book.  Alan Christofferson is a successful young businessman with his childhood sweetheart wife, a dream house and a growing business.  When his wife, McKale is injured and quickly dies, Alan finds that his business partner has stolen their clients and employees and he is left with nothing.  In short order his home and vehicles are repossessed, and feeling like a man with nothing to live for, he contemplates suicide.  Alan chooses instead to leave it all behind, and he walks out his front door, and keeps going.  He decides to walk until he runs out of land.  Starting in Bellvue, WA, the furthest point from him is the Florida coast.  With little more than a tent and backpack, he sets off on his journey.  This book is the first of three, and documents the first 12 days of Alan’s journey across the country on foot.

“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” by Laurie R. King – The first book in a series of 12 (so far), Laurie King writes about Sherlock Holmes and his companion Mary Russell.  “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” details their first meeting, and the beginning of their long relationship.  Mary starts as Holmes’ neighbor and intern.  As she gets older and goes to college, her growing intellect is stimulated by assisting Holmes in his many adventures.

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – this is a book for people who love books!  In January, 1946, writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, a group of townsfolk who live on the island of Guernsey during the German occupation.  Forbidden to continue with their daily lives they find ways to share food, companionship and books.  The letter intrigues Juliet, and she writes to and receives letters from more and more members of this literary group.  When she is invited to visit Guernsey and attend a meeting, she jumps at the chance to meet the people she has formed a bond with through their letters, and her life is enriched more than she could have imagined.

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin – This book is about zombie/vampire creatures, the aftermath of a world wide virus that reads like an apocalypse.  You are shuttled between a little six-year old girl named Amy, wanted by the government, and a group of survivors taken by train to walled colony to repopulate the earth after the virus infects of kills a large percentage of earth’s humans.  While you find yourself jumping from page to page, anxious for the next climatic event, you also dread the shortened number of pages you have left in the book.  This is reported to be the first in a trilogy, the second book due out in August, 2012.

“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes – Both uplifting and sad, this book details the journey of Algernon, a brilliant lab mouse, and Charlie, a mentally disabled man.  Algernon is treated with an experimental brain surgery to increase his IQ, and after it’s success, Charlie eagerly volunteers to be the first human subject of this experimental treatment.  Charlie’s IQ grows by leaps and bounds until he becomes smarter than the doctors who performed this surgery, and he begins to accomplish more than anyone ever imagined.  When Algernon inexplicable begins to deteriorate – Charlie grows fearful of sharing his fate.  This book makes you wonder if it is better to have never had something, or to experience something wonderful, then live with the pain of losing it.

“Jane Slayre” by Sherri Browning Erwin – This was one of those fun books that I like to call “brain candy”.  It’s a fun book, obviously based on “Jane Eyre” with a twist.  With the popularity of supernatural creatures, zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc., “Jane Slayre” covers them all.  Jane is an orphan, raised by vampire ken whom she detests.  After boarding school she takes a job as a governess at a secluded estate in the country, where she finds herself growing more and more attracted to her master, Mr. Rochester.  Of course love is never easy, and she finds out that Mr. Rochester is hiding a werewolf in his attic – the werewolf that was his first wife.

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak – Set in Germany in World War II, Liesel Meminger is a nine-year old foster child staying with a couple in Molching, Germany.  As hard times get harder and necessities are more and more scarce, Liesel begins to steal to supplement their household.  When she steals a book it brings her as much enjoyment as the scarce fresh fruit she steals.  This book follows Liesel’s life and those she comes in contact with.  Told from the point of view of Death, the story is both engaging and heartbreaking.

“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” by Nina Sankovitch – Another book for book lovers!  This book journals Nina Sankovitch’s yearly goal of reading one book a day for a year.  When Nina’s oldest sister dies, Nina turns to books for comfort and solitude.  She dedicates a year of reading to help her grieve, and come to terms with her loss.  The book details this year long journey of her reading and her favorite purple chair.



Filed under reading

2 responses to “My 15 favorite books I read in 2011

  1. We have such similar taste – I haven’t read “…Peculiar Children…” yet but I just got it for Christmas and this short review made me even more excited to read it.

  2. My top five of 2011

    1. The Memory of Running
    2. The Fates Will FInd Their Way
    3. The Tipping Point
    4. Crime and Punishment
    5. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud

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