GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2011

I read 113 books in 2011 which is higher than my 85-book average for the past 6 years (see more stats here) but pretty much par for the course. Also I don’t usually include textbooks and articles on my reading lists but this year I did include all the children’s and YA fiction I read for a class I took this fall because, after all, it was fiction! 🙂 It wasn’t a class that counted toward my degree, just an elective I had been wanting to take. Only crazy people take an extra class during student teaching though; I can’t say I really recommend it!
I read more non-fiction than usual (a lot of memoirs!) but no short stories at all. What? (I did start 2012 off with some though!)
It’s always hard to pin these things down, but…
My top six very favorite books read during 2011 were (not in any order) “Wonderstruck” by Brian Selznick, Love Is the Higher Law, by David Levithan, “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett, “36 Arguments for the Existence of God”, by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (that’s fiction, despite its non-fiction-like sounding title), “Mother’s Milk” by Edward St. Aubyn and “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin.
I also really really loved two of the last books I read in December: “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness (not at all Twilight for adults, as I keep seeing it called–the quirks of the publishing industry’s advertising could really drive one to madness, couldn’t they?) and “Falling Together” by Marisa de los Santos.
I do read a ton of both adult and YA fantasy/sci fi, as you might know heh, and my favorites in 2011 were “Divergent” by Veronica Roth, “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss, “Aftertime” by Sophie Littlefield, “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis and “Hunger” by Jackie Morse Kessler.
Other YA, but not fantasy, or not really, books I loved were “Ninth Ward” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and both “Okay for Now” and “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt. And I particularly loved a novel in verse “Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai.
I enjoyed Rosanne Cash and Keith Richards‘ memoirs, I loved both the fiction and non-fiction I read by David H. Hackworth, widely known as one of America’s most decorated soldiers (now deceased), I would recommend absolutely any and everything (romance and memoir) written by my good friend Rachael Herron and if you want to revisit my favorite fantasy books of all time as I did this year I recommend The Tornor Chronicles by Elizabeth A. Lynn (book 1 is “Watchtower”) and The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (book 1 is “The Book of Three”).
I read a LOT of stuff I loved this year, a lot of stuff that was good and fun and only a very few things I wish I hadn’t wasted time on and most of those woudn’t wind up appearing on the read list anyway! 🙂 I grew out of that whole “I HAVE to finish every book I start!” baloney in my late 30s. There just isn’t time for bad books. And there are SO many good ones out there!!

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2008

So I only read 79 books in 2008 which is definitely on the low end for me. Then I checked the numbers and found that I have read fewer books each year since 2004. What’s up with that? 2004 = 114, 2005 = 96, 2006 =87, 2007 = 85 and now 2008 = 79. This is NOT a trend I want to see continuing…but since I’ve already read more than 20 books in 2009 so far…I *think* it may be under control.
As with other lists, this is not necessarily books published in 2008, it’s books I read in 2008, regardless of when published.
My Favorite Ten Books of 2008 Were:
(in chronological order of my reading, with links to my Snip reviews)


Runners-Up Were:

Breaking things down in the manner of Ex Libris, of the 79 books I read:

  • 10 were short-story collections, either by one author or by various authors. Part of that was by design (Dad and I read short stories every other month for our 2008 challenge). And part because Elizabeth Crane got me all excited about short stories a couple years ago and I read them much more now than I did in the past.
  • Eight were non-fiction, but since five of those were BStarG nonfiction…well, that’s more a TV thing than a “me reading non-fiction” thing. So it’s more like three were non-fiction.
  • And two were poetry. But I don’t always put the poetry on the list, particularly if it’s a re-read, so that may not be totally accurate.
  • Not counting the BStarG non-fiction, there were eight authors I read more than one book by: five with two reads (Nick Hornby, David Malouf, Dick Francis, Rita Mae Brown, Lee Child); one with three (Paul Park), and two tied for most repeats with six reads, those authors being Harlan Coben and Patricia Briggs. Coben writes the Myron Bolitar mysteries, which I do enjoy, although I find I enjoy them less as the series has gone on (see the last one I read). Patricia Briggs writes truly fantastic sci fi and fantasy, some set in that indefinable middle ages/medieval seeming world so typical of fantasy (try this or this), and some (the Mercy Thompson books) set in the modern day. Everything I’ve read by her I have loved and I would recommend all of it.

You can read reviews of other books I read in 2008 not discussed here if you search for their names on Snip or you can just click on “reading” in the categories list to read any/all comments I’ve taken the time to post. I’m always happy to talk books so feel free to email me (link in right column) if you want more details on one or another or if you want to recommend something you think I’d like!
Now back to the book I started today…

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2007

I read 85 books (full list here) in 2007, that’s probably about average for me, sometimes closer to 100, rarely below 50. Books may or may not have come out this year, it’s that I read them this year that counts.
My Favorite Six Books of 2007 were:

  • “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell (fiction)
  • “Love Is a Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield (memoir/music)
  • “The Used World” by Haven Kimmel (fiction)
  • “Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work” by Jason Brown (short stories)
  • “Remainder” by Tom McCarthy (fiction)
  • “Freddy and Fredericka” by Mark Helprin (fiction / really, really funny)

(Very very close) Runners Up Were:

  • “Run” by Ann Patchett
  • “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith” by Jon Krakauer (wow, could NOT put it down. he’s a great researcher/writer)
  • “Simplify” by Todd Goldberg
  • “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett (sooo funny)
  • “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon

Favorite New (to me) Discoveries:

  • Scarlett Thomas (“The End of Mr. Y” – philosophical fiction)
  • Margo Lanagan (“Black Juice” and “Red Spikes” – thanks Marrije!! – fantasy short stories)
  • Tana French (“In the Woods” – best mystery I read this year!!)
  • Chris Cleave (“Incendiary” – fiction)

I Read a Bunch of Good Books by Authors I Already Loved:
The aforementioned books from Haven Kimmel (and “She Got Up Off the Couch…” too), Ann Patchett (and “Taft” too) and Michael Chabon (and “Gentlemen of the Road” too). As well as:

  • “The Rain Before It Falls” by Jonathan Coe
  • “Day” by A.L.Kennedy
  • “Death of a Writer” by Michael Collins
  • “The Quarry” by Damon Galgut (won the Booker for his previous book “The Good Doctor”)
  • “Killing Pablo” by Mark Bowden (can he write a bad book?)
  • “12 Edmondstone Street” by David Malouf
  • “Black Cat” by Martyn Bedford
  • “An Invisible Sign of My Own” by Aimee Bender
  • “Ludmilla’s Broken English” by DBC Pierre (another former Booker winner)

I read some more “Looks like Chick Lit but Isn’t (It’s Better!)” (Leah Stewart, Marisa de los Santos, Nina Solomon). I continued to work on Proust (three down, three to go?). I read mysteries from Jake Arnott, Lee Child, Dick Francis, and Harlan Coben. I read bits of different sci fi/fantasy series (James Morrow, a true god of writing; Terry Goodkind’s Chainfire & Sword of Truth series; George R.R. Martin). I read books about vampires and werewolves and the like (Tanya Huff, Patricia Briggs, Stephenie Meyers, Amber Benson & Christopher Golden among others) and that’s not even counting all the Buffy Season 8 comics!
It was a good year.

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2006

[originally posted on Snip]
[Limiting myself MOSTLY to books published and read this year, as opposed to all the books I read this year.]
The best NON fiction books I read this year were “Guests of the Ayatollah” by Mark Bowden and “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion.
The best novels I read were “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell, “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn and “Towing Jehovah” by James Morrow [that one was not pub this year].
The best short stories I read were “In Persuasian Nation” by George Saunders and “When the Messenger Is Hot” by Elizabeth Crane (not from this year either).
The best poetry was “Strong Is Your Hold” by Galway Kinnell.
You can view the entire list of what I read here and reviews of most items are up on Snip (search by author or select category “readin”).

Duff Says “READ!!” And, sometimes, watch a movie too.

Always Recommending Almost Anything By

  • Phillip Roth
  • Pat Barker
  • David Lodge
  • Haven Kimmel
  • Jonathan Coe
  • A.L. Kennedy
  • Graham Swift
  • Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Marilynne Robinson
  • Elizabeth A. Lynn

Moving into Greatness
  • David Mitchell, particularly “Black Swan Green”
  • Michael Cunningham, particularly “The Hours” and “Specimen Days”

Fun and Foibles in Academia
  • Michael Malone “Foolscap”
  • Richard Russo “Straight Man”
  • Michael Chabon “Wonder Boys”
  • Michael Frayne “Headlong” (not exactly academia, but feels like it)
  • David Lodge (pretty much all his books)
  • William Boyd (the novels are not IN academia but his characters could easily go there)

Good Things Come in Pairs
  • Ann Patchett “Bel Canto” and Niall Williams “As It Is in Heaven”
  • Nick Hornby “High Fidelity” and Tom Perrotta “The Wishbones”
  • Joan Didion “The Year of Magical Thinking” and Philip Roth “Everyman”

Favored Among Others
  • “King Hereafter” Dorothy Dunnett
  • “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” Michael Chabon
  • “In This House of Brede” Rumer Godden
  • “Lonesome Dove” Larry McMurtry (and the three that go with it)
  • “The Shellseekers” Rosamunde Pilcher
  • “The History of Love” Nicole Krauss
  • “Gone to Soldiers” Marge Piercy
  • “Birdsong” Sebastian Faulks
  • “The Lords of Discipline” by Pat Conroy (get over the fact that he wrote Prince of Tides and read this anyway)

My Top 7 Books on March 5, 1997
  • “Kim” Rudyard Kipling
  • “Possession” A.S. Byatt
  • “The Engima of Arrival” V.S. Naipaul
  • “As I Lay Dying” Faulkner
  • “The Baron in the Trees” Italo Calvino
  • “Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha” by Roddy Doyle
  • “Speak, Memory” Nabokov

Academically Dense
  • A.S. Byatt
  • Anne Carson
  • Jasper Fforde, the Tuesday Next series (you can read these and just MISS most of the literary references, and they’re still fun, but you can tell when stuff is flying over your head…)

Serious Sci Fi
  • Neal Stephenson “Cryptonomicon” is a great, great book.
  • Maureen McHugh “Mothers and Other Monsters”
  • Mary Doria Russell “The Sparrow” and “Children of God”

Time Travel
  • Audrey Niffenegger “The Time Traveler’s Wife”
  • Diana Gabaldon the Outlander series (I really love the first three, after that it falls off a bit)
  • Connie Willis “Doomsday Book” and “To Say Nothing of the Dog”

Read This Book AND See This Movie
  • Michael Ondaatje “The English Patient”
  • Milan Kundera “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”
  • Nick Hornby “About a Boy”
  • Mark Bowden “Black Hawk Down”
  • Read Stuart O’Nan “Wish You Were Here” and watch “A Walk on the Moon”
  • Read Philip Caputo “Acts of Faith” and watch “The Constant Gardener”

Read This Book BUT do NOT See This Movie
  • Michael Connelley “Blood Work”
  • Cathleen Schine “The Love Letter”
  • Nick Hornby “High Fidelity”

Looks Like Chick Lit But Isn’t (It’s Better!!)
  • Darcy Cosper “Wedding Season”
  • Rebecca Wells “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and “Little Altars Everywhere”
  • Elisabeth Robinson “The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters”

Yes and No
  • Ian McEwan. YES: “Atonement” NO: “Saturday”
  • Zadie Smith. YES: “White Teeth” and “The Autograph Man” NO: “On Beauty”
  • Nick Hornby. YES: “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy” NO: “How to Be Good” and “A Long Way Down”
  • Alice Hoffman. YES: “Here on Earth” NO: “Turtle Magic”
  • Michael Connelly. YES: “Bloodwork” “The Poet” and the first five or six in the Harry Bosch series. NO: Everything written since then.
  • Dennis Lehane. YES: The (4 or 5?) Kenzie/Gennaro books. NO: The stand-alones.

One-Offs
  • Patrick Susskind “Perfume”
  • Martyn Bedford “The Houdini Girl”

Small-Town Blues
  • Haven Kimmel “A Girl Named Zippy”
  • Nicole Lea Helget “The Summer of Ordinary Ways”

Take Me to Another Place
  • Hilary Lifton & Kate Montgomery “Dear Exile”
  • anything by Bill Holm, but particularly “Coming Home Crazy”
  • anything by Sara Wheeler, particularly her Antarctica books
  • Anthony Bourdain “A Cook’s Tour”
  • Bill Bryson
  • Jenny Diski
  • Jeannette Wells “The Glass House”
  • Deborah Copaken Kogan “Shutterbabe”
  • Alexandra Fuller “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight”
  • Bruce Chatwin
  • Bruce Feiler

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2005

My Top 5 books of 2005 were (in this order):

  • Paradise, by A.L. Kennedy
  • History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
  • Mothers & Other Monsters, by Maureen McHugh
  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Closed Circle, by Jonathan Coe

Yes, to those of you who saw that list before, I switched the order a little.
Runners Up were:
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell (does what Ghostwritten tried to do, but so much better)
  • An Unfinished Season, by Ward Just
  • Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham (can he write a bad book? Seriously?)
  • Old School, by Tobias Wolff

My favorite new discovery in 2005 was: A.L. Kennedy. Everything I read by her took my breath away. And there’s still a couple books waiting in the wings. Can’t wait!
Those were my top five, but I read sooooo many good books this year.
I read good OLD books:
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
  • The Way by Swann’s, by Marcel Proust

I read a truly shocking (for me) amount of non-fiction:
  • Sixpence House, by Paul Collins
  • A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
  • The Lives of the Muses, by Francine Prose
  • Wine & War, the French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure, by Don & Petie Kladstrup
  • Foreign Babes in Beijing, by Rachel DeWoskin
  • Travels with a Tangerine, by Tim MacKintosh-Smith
  • Why Are We at War?, by Norman Mailer
  • Silent Bob Speaks, the Collected Writings of Kevin Smith
  • The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, by K.C. Cole
  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson

I read historical fiction that only added more things to my ‘must’ lists:
  • Author, Author, by David Lodge (must go back and read some Henry James. Haven’t read any since undergrad!!)
  • Neighboring Lives, by Thomas Disch and Charles Naylor (need to read some pre-Raphaelites again. And look at their paintings. It’s been ages…)

GirlReaction Reads: Best of 2004

Best Novel read in 2004: The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth.
Runners-Up: The Houdini Girl, by Martyn Bedford and The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard.
Favorite New Discoveries: Jonathan Coe (“The Rotters Club” and “The Winshaw Legacy”), William Boyd (“Any Human Heart”, “The New Confessions” and “Stars and Bars”), Alison McGhee (“Rainlight” and “Shadow Baby”) and Haven Kimmel (“Something Rising (Light and Swift)” and “The Solace of Leaving Early”).