Monday, January 2, 2012

Between the Covers

Well, it's a new year. Technically. However, I refuse to accept 2012 until everyone is healthy and happy around here. Abby's been sick since 12/31/11 so we're just going to pretend the new year hasn't begun because I am determined to start off on the right foot.

Since it's not yet 2012 I can still fit in my final entertainment review for 2011. You've read my thoughts on fall's new television programs* and Hollywood's slim pickins'. Now it's time for the Year in Books. Please note that these titles were not necessarily published in 2011, I just happened to read them in this calendar year.

It was a pretty good book year for me. At the beginning of 2011, Goodreads, the book lover website, asked its members to challenge themselves to read a specific number of books for the year. I aimed for 25 and amazingly hit 24! And if Abby doesn't feel better soon, there's a good chance I'll get #25 in, too. I'm reading Hoot aloud to her.

Without further ado, here is my top 10 list of books read in 2011:
  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. How is it I never read this beautiful book before? Francie Nolan may be one of the most inspiring female characters ever. I was consistently moved by her ability to acknowledge reality but find the beauty and hope in everything around her and everything that was to come. Loved it!
  2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. A heartrenching reminder of those left behind on 9/11/01 and those who have survived history's other tragedies. The movie opens soon.
  3. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. Not a crowd favorite, but something about this book really appealed to me. I think it was the ironic and sarcastic nature of some of the characters. I could relate. I liked it so much I dedicated an entire post to it!
  4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. You've undoubtedly heard enough about this terrific book. I think what I appreciated most was the glimpse into this incredibly ugly period in very recent American history. I still can't believe how cruely human beings are capable of treating each other.
  5. The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This novel about Japanese Americans during World War II also served as a painful history lesson. Ditto what I said above about my disbelief that humans can be so cruel.
  6. Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron. Though considered to be a "Christian book," without hesitation I would recommend it to the heathens among us anyone. The author's honesty, humor, and grace made this book one of the most special I have read in a long time.
  7. The Likeness by Tana French. I became a big Tana French fan with her first book, In the Woods. Psychological thrillers are not usually my thing, but I really enjoy her. Or I did until her book Faithful Place disappointed me.
  8. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. A brilliant and captivating story with fully developed and engaging characters. Just plain old fun reading. Can't wait for the movie!
  9. House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I'll be honest. I thought I was too good for Jodi Picoult. I thought she was a little too "light" for an advanced reader book snob like me. But lo and behold, I enjoyed House Rules. A compelling and obviously well-researched story involving a boy with autism.
  10. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. A good, easy read supposedly based on the life of Laura Bush. The only thing that bothered me was that I kept wondering which parts were really based on her life experiences and which were total fiction.
There were a few recently popular books that I just didn't enjoy as much as the rest of reading America. These included:
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
  • Maine by Courtney Sullivan
  • The Priviliges by Jonathan Dee
  • Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
For a complete look at my 2011 (and earlier) reads, join me on Goodreads. It's a great site for keeping in touch with fellow book lovers, reading their reviews, and establishing your own book lists. My "to-read" list is at 152. I set my goal for 2012 at 30, so I'll barely be putting a dent into that ever-growing list of mine.

Can't wait to hear what you've read in the past year, and what you thought of those you've read on my list!

*Missing from my new fall programming television list was "The New Girl" with Zooey D. I didn't plan on watching it because Zooey annoys me. Didn't like her in "500 Days of Summer," didn't figure I'd like her on television either. Turns out, "The New Girl" is probably my favorite television show. Very funny. Check it out!

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