Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ten best books of 2011 (& two fav writing reads!)

It's a funny business choosing my favorite reads for a year. Much like the Oscars, I find myself skewing towards books I read in the second half of the year. January of 2011 seems like a distant memory. But perhaps that's just as well. The books I read earlier in the year have had longer to percolate, to establish themselves in my head. And the ones that keep returning to mind, which I keep mulling over, questioning, and recommending to friends? They've stood the test of time (at least, the test of months).

Anyway, without further waffling, here they are, in the order I read them, the Critically Yours Best Books of 2011:

1. Deaf Sentence by David Lodge (my thoughts here)
2. Regeneration by Pat Barker (my brief thoughts here)
3. The Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr (my brief thoughts here, again here)
4. Samurai Shortstop by Alan M. Gratz (no previous blog posts, because this book totally crept up on me and now I can't get it out of my head!)
5. The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen (my thoughts here)
6. Red Glove by Holly Black (my brief thoughts here)
7. The Tenth Power by Kate Constable (book 3 of the trilogy The Singer of All Songs--no thoughts because this trilogy was kind of a cumulative reading experience of awesomeness as I got deeper and deeper into it).
8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (audiobook) (my Goodreads review)
9. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (my thoughts and apology to Hemingway here)
10. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (I'm a little embarrassed I haven't blogged about discovering Sarah Addison Allen yet, but will need to get on that...)

While compiling this list, two books kept jumping out at me. I kept scratching them off because they weren't fiction, they weren't even narratives, and their inclusion felt incongruous. However, in their own way, each of these books were an inspiration to me and my writing this year. So, in a new category for Critically Yours, here are my Two Favorite Writing Books of 2011:

The Forest for the Trees: An editor's advice to writers by Betsy Lerner (my thoughts here)
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby (reviewed here)

And because I do love my book stats, here's a few for my top ten list:

5 Adult books
5 Young Adult (though I could argue Samurai Shortstop is Middle Grade)
20% British authors (Lodge & Barker)
3 Historical fiction (Regeneration, Samurai Shortstop, The Help)
3 with fantasy elements (Red Glove, Tenth Power, and Sugar Queen, though Tenth Power is the only traditional otherworld fantasy among them)
5 Male narrators (Deaf Sentence, Regeneration, Samurai Shortstop, Red Glove, Bell Tolls)
1 1/2 Light, funny women-centric stories--who knew I liked that sort of thing?! (Sugar Queen, sort of The Help)
1 classic (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
1 bestseller (The Help)
2 movies that I know of (The Help, Bell Tolls, though Hollywood, if you're listening, I would watch a movie of Holly Black's Curse Worker's series in a SECOND!)

In February I posted about reading widely, trying to branch out in my reading habits and find new things. It turns out it's been very much a year for doing that, and I think my top ten list reflects that (50% adult books, 1 classic, 1 bestseller, 1 sports book in Shortstop Samurai). For more of 2011's reading stats, seeing Tuesday's post.

Okay, enough talk from me! What are some of your favorite reads of 2011?

Oh, and happy holidays and happy New Year to all of you. I've so appreciated your reading, commenting, support and friendship over this past year. This is the last post on Critically Yours for 2011, but I'll be back mid-January 2012!, eager to continue the conversation.


  1. I've just discovered Jasper Fforde and I'm totally in love with his books. Also, I was lucky enough to win a free copy of Jacqueline Houtman's MG book 'The Reinvention of Edison Thomas' -- a great book that I highly recommend.

    There are many other books that I read and enjoyed too, but those particularly spring to mind.

  2. Nice list, Anne! With the exception of The Help and Hemingway, I don't think I've read or heard of these books. Nice new titles and authors to explore!

    Enjoy your break and a happy New Year to you!

  3. I'm going to check out these links since I haven't read all of these books.

    The books that stand out for me are Imaginary Girls, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Divergent.

    Happy New Year!

  4. Mary: Ohhh, thanks for the recommendations! I haven't even heard of Jacqueline Houtman, but I'll definitely check her out.

    Bridgette: Happy to help! ;) Happy New Year to you, as well!

    Medeia: It wasn't quite top ten for me, but I really enjoyed Imaginary Girls as well, and am so glad I read it. It's certainly stuck in my mind, which I think is one of the signs of a great book... Happy New Year to you, too!


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