Thursday, December 29, 2011

Books 2011: Favorites and others

As promised, here are my ten favorite books of 2011. To make the list, I had to have read the book for the first time in 2011 - otherwise the list would be crowded with old favorites I re-read. Links are to my Goodreads reviews. Sorry for the huge spacing. I have no idea why it came out that way. Just pretend it increases the drama.

ColumbineColumbine by Dave Cullen

The best kind of books make you feel like they were written personally for you. Columbine is one of those, and I think it has special worth to anyone who was a high schooler in 1999.

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve ItThe Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

This is another book that was just my style. I could hardly stand the suspense, even though I already knew the eventual ending. The journey was just so dang fun. Warning: you WILL find yourself on YouTube after reading this book, looking up all the races.

Crossing to SafetyCrossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Yet another deeply personal book. If you have spent more than a few years in grad school, or are married to someone who has, then this book might be worth a read. If you are looking for grand, dramatic plots...not so much.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

This was probably my favorite (first-time) YA read of the year. The good news is, I hear there's a second book coming out in 2012.

Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in ArabiaBaghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz

Jolly, endearing, and informative. There's nothing not to like.

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

It's about time I joined the rest of the human race and read this book. Even though I had heard so much hype about it, it lived up to all the praise.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright

A flawless account of, well, Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11. Even if you've already read the 9/11 Commission Report, this book has more to say and does it better.

What to EatWhat to Eat by Marion Nestle

Who knew a book about food and nutrition could be so riveting and easy to read?

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

I hesitated including this one because it was really hard to read at times. But it really was an amazing story, well told.

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

No one is more surprised than me that I liked this book. I stand by my original review: "Hush doesn't take itself seriously. It knows exactly what it is. It is very self-aware and hits all its marks. It reminded me so much of those Hardy Boys books where the mystery is kind of cheesy and obvious and the bad guys are always bursting into monologue before killing anyone and the hero/ine makes foolish, unrealistic decisions in order to advance the plot, but it's done in kind of a "wink, wink" way so all is forgiven."

Now for some other distinctions.

Most unexpectedly good book: Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick. See above.

Most unexpectedly bad book: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, by Wendy McClure. So promising. SO AWFUL.

Longest book: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1276 pages).

Shortest book: Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way by Jon Krakauer (77 pages).

Most-read book: 2011 marked my third reading of The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas), A Pair of Blue Eyes (Thomas Hardy), and Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte).

Best bad book: Probably The Luxe (Anna Godbersen) or Shadow Hills (Anastasia Hopcus). Because I enjoyed them even as I mocked them.

Worst good book: By the formula established above, Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand; see above) has to be the worst good book I read all year. It was brilliant, and yet exhausting to read.

Worst book I didn't finish: The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett). Unfortunately in this case, "didn't finish" still means "I read 200 pages." Ugh.

Worst book I did finish: To avoid mentioning The Wilder Life twice, I'll give Life: An Exploded Diagram (Mal Peet) the honors here.

Worst cover: If by "worst" I mean "most embarrassing," then it's Abandon (Meg Cabot), a hundred times over. But I actually think the Hush, Hush and Crescendo covers are the most visually unappealing.

Best covers: Columbine and Spoiled (Heather Cocks). Aaaaand that's probably the only time ever that those two books will be placed next to each other in any kind of space.


Suzanne Bubnash said...

The Looming Tower and Columbine are tops. I also liked Baghdad Sans Map and The Perfect Mile. I'll get my list up today.

Shannan said...

Columbine has been on my to-read list forever. Now you've pushed it towards the top.hope my library has it :)

have you ever tried the freakanomics, tipping point, outliers books? Those are some of my favs.

Crys said...

Looks like I need to get myself to the library :) I was so excited to get my hands on Unbroken. There was so much hype about it, the story was amazing, and I LOVED Seabiscuit. I thought it was definitely worth the read but it just didn't flow right for me. I hate when too high expectations make a good book fall short for you.

Susanne said...

I put several of your books on my list throughout the year and may have to add more after seeing this! Thanks for always giving such great reviews and offering good books for us to read.

Liz Johnson said...

I hesitate to use all caps, but... I REALLY LOVE THESE POSTS!!!!!

Bridget said...

Susanne, I think you were the one who recommended Baghdad Without a Map, so thanks!


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