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I saw this End of Year Book Survey over at The Avid Reader’s Musings and thought it was a terrific way to summarize my year in reading rather than trying to come up with a “Best of 2011″ list. Keep in mind this survey deals just with books that I personally read in 2011; not all the books listed below were published in 2011.
1. Best book you read In 2011?
I haven’t written my review for it yet, but my clear choice is Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. I listened to it on audio (23 hours and 36 minutes) and was just engrossed in it. A perfect combination of funny, touching, sad and philosophical, the book would have been amazing in any form but, on audio, performed by a wide cast of Irish actors and actresses, this book came to life in a way I’ve never experienced before. I didn’t want it to end and found myself listening during every spare moment. My only 5 star book of the year!
2. Most disappointing book you wish you loved more than you did?
I was so hoping to fall in love with Marisa de los Santo’s Falling Together like I did with her previous books but was really disappointed. Although it wasn’t the worst book I read all year (that would be a tie between Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi and The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard), it was the one that disappointed me the most.
3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?
For sheer surprise and unexpectedness, I’d have to go with Gabe Rotter’s The Human Bobby. I loved being surprised by a book, and this one had one doozy of a surprise waiting for me at the end. Loved it!
4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?
I kept trying to force Ready Player One by Ernest Cline on everyone (including Mr. Jenners). Also, Tina Fey’s Bossypants was a pretty standard “Oh you should listen to it on audio” recommendation. I also told quite a few people to read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.
5. Best series you discovered in 2011?
This would be a tie between Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy (a rare series that got better with each book) and Jennifer Donnelly’s The Rose Trilogy (compelling and sprawling historical fiction).
Just to be fair, I wish I’d never laid eyes on the Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner. Not only did it get steadily worse with each book, but I found out a little detail after finishing the third book that makes me furious. I’ll write about it when I post my review.
6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?
Josh Kilmer-Purcell is my new go to memoirist (I read both of his books this year and enjoyed them immensely). I also discovered why Sarah Vowell is so beloved.
7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
I resisted The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot for a long time—thinking (mistakenly) that a long book about cell research and a woman who died in the 1950s would not be interesting. I was so wrong about that.
Also, who would think I’d find a book about why Pluto is no longer a planet such a fascinating and compelling read? Yet How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown definitely makes my top reads of the year list.
8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?
A tie between Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Under The Dome by Stephen King, and Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. All three had me reading long past my bedtime and itching to find out what happened.
9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?
There was no one book that I was salivating over but I was really excited to read Between A Rock and A Hard Place by Aron Ralston after falling in love with the movie 127 Hours.
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?
11. Most memorable character in 2011?
Definitely Ruprecht Van Doren from Skippy Dies. Actually, almost all of the characters from Skippy Dies could make the list. They just came alive for me.
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?
I found beautiful passages throughout Meghan O’Rourke’s memoir, The Long Goodbye, about dealing with her mother’s death.
13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?
Well, Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw inspired me to roast a chicken—one of the most direct impacts on my daily life. I also felt weirdly inspired by Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It isn’t just a book about running; it is a book about aging, writing and living life. There is a lot of food for thought in there that has stuck with me.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?
Why I waited so long to try Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation is beyond me.
15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2011?
The moment when I flash upon my mother’s smile and face and realize she is dead, I experience the same lurch, the same confusion, the same sense of impossibility. A year ago collapses into yesterday in these moments. Periodically for the rest of my life, my mother’s death will seem like it took place yesterday.
– From The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke
“…Father liked word games. He was fourteen times world Scrabble champion. When he died, we buried him at Queenzieburn to make use of the triple word score. He spent the greater part of his life campaigning to have respelt those words that look as though they are spelt wrongly but arent.”
“Oh, skiing, vacuum, freest, eczema, gnu, diarrhea, that sort of thing. He also thought that ‘abbreviation’ was too long for its meaning, that ‘monosyllable’ should have one syllable, ‘dyslexic’ should be renamed ‘O’ and ‘unspeakable’ should be respelt ‘unsfzpxkable.’”
–From The Big Overeasy by Jasper Fforde
16. Book that you read In 2011 that would be most likely to reread in 2012?
I HATE rereading books but I’m definitely going to be revisiting Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from The Goon Squad in 2012 so I can fully appreciate the book. I wasn’t prepared the first time!
17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
Have you read The Human Bobby by Gabe Rotter? If you did, you know why I listed it. If you haven’t read it, aren’t you curious about why I listed it? Go find out!
1. One book you didn’t get to In 2011 but will be your number 1 priority in 2012?
Since Mr. Jenners is taking FOREVER to read Walter Issacson’s Steve Jobs, I will have to put this off until 2012 but I’m not going to wait until 2013! (So get reading, Mr. Jenners,)
2. Book you are most anticipating for 2012?
I’ve heard that Tana French will have another book out in 2012 (called Broken Harbor) and I must have that ASAP! I read her novel, Faithful Place, this year and found it as involving and wonderful as her previous two books.
3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2012?
I hope to tackle one of Haruki Marakami’s fiction books and read The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, which I successfully avoided again this year.
My Top 10 Reads of 2011
And just for the record, if I had to have a Top 10 reads of the year, it might look something like this. (If I didn’t mention the book above, I included a few comments on it below.)
- Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Heyward (completely hilarious)
- The Widow’s Season by Laura Brodie (haunting and surprising)
- The Human Bobby by Gabe Rotter
- Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer (filled me with anger and compassion)
- The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (reminded me why I love this author)
- How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown
- Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
- This Is A Book by Demetri Martin by Demetri Martin (goofy smartness at its best)