End of Year Book Survey

Although I have at least two books waiting to be reviewed, I thought I’d steal this survey from Matt, who stole it from Dolce Bellezza, who stole it from The Literary Stew, who…well, you get the idea. Here goes:

1. Best book you read in 2011?

I am going to cheat and list three:

Just Kids, Patti Smith

Look at Me, Jennifer Egan

The Paris Wife, Paula McClain

2. What was the most disappointing book you read this year?

Although I did enjoy it, I did not love The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides as much as I expected, and that was disappointing. I also expected to enjoy The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard, because it had been very favorably compared to The Virgin Suicides…it didn’t even come close for me.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

I was most surprised by Just Kids, not because I had heard anything bad about it or had low expectations, but simply because it really grabbed me and would not let me go. I was standing around Barnes and Noble waiting for my husband, and I picked it up off the shelf and started to read somewhere in the middle. I could not put it down.  (No, I didn’t steal it.)

4. Books you recommended to people most in 2011?

The Paris Wife and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.

5. The best series you discovered in 2011?

Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series. I’ve read most of her stand-alone novels, and I enjoy the way she writes, so I read the first three of this series this summer. Fun, easy reading for the pool or vacation.

6. Favorite new author(s) you discovered in 2011?

I just finished The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, and I can definitely confirm that I’ll be seeking out more of his work.

7. The most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

In all honesty, The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell. I was shocked at all of the quite solid scientific proof that animal products are behind so many diseases that plague affluent, Western countries. I read the book on vacation in Las Vegas. I couldn’t put it down, and I couldn’t stop reading parts to my husband. By the time we were on the flight home, we had agreed to adopt a vegan lifestyle almost exclusively–and we weren’t even vegetarians. I won’t preach, but if you are at all concerned about cancer, heart disease, or any other major diseases, I suggest you read it with an open mind. You could also watch Forks over Knives.

8. Book you most anticipated in 2011?

The Marriage Plot. I bought it on my Kindle the day it was released.

9. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?

I’ll go with Just Kids. The picture of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe on the cover drew me in.

10. Most memorable character in 2011?

Hadley Hemingway, in The Paris Wife. Of course, she was a real person, but Paula McCalin really brought her to life for me. And Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. All real people!

11. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?

Obviously, The China Study. As far as fiction, though, Jennifer Egan’s Look at Me really knocked me out.

12. Book you can’t believe you waited until 2011 to finally read?

Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan. I read The Invisible Circus back in 1996, and some of her short stories. She was a writer I enjoyed, but she kept falling off my radar. I also read A Visit to the Goon Squad, and while I loved the first 2/3 of it, the power point thing got on my nerves. I still plan to read it again, though.

13. Favorite passage or quote from a book you read in 2011?

“I was both scattered and stymied, surrounded by unfinished songs and abandoned poems. I would go as far as I could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations. And then I met a fellow who gave me his secret, and it was pretty simple. When you hit a wall, just kick it in.”

That quote is not the most memorable or poetic line in Patti Smith’s Just Kids, but it resonates with me in so many ways about life in general. The fellow, by the way, was Sam Shepard.

12. Book that you read in 2011 that you would most likely reread in 2012?

Just Kids and Look at Me.

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4 comments

  1. Sorry to hear the Eugenides didn’t live up to your expectations! I feel lucky to have really loved it, as I know what a let down that is. Also, I really ought to read Just Kids. And hooray for recommending Frankie 🙂

  2. Ana, the great thing about the Eugenides is that even if it didn’t live up to my expectations, it was still one of the best things I read this year. He’s such a terrific writer, and I plan to read it again. And the Frankie–that’s all your doing! I had that on my list to read because you had recommended it so highly!

  3. You have some very amazing and inspiring reads. I’ve got Look at Me by Jennifer Egan and The Paris Wife by Paula McClain in the pile. The latter I intended to read while I was in Paris but I ended up reading less. LOL After finishing A Moveable feast, which is my first Ernest Hemingway, I decided to explore more of his works as well as his own life. Paris Wife is therefore a must-read. I have brought it to the top of my pile and will get to it.

    I had high expectation of The Marriage after enjoying both MIddlesex and The Virgin Suicides, but the book just didn’t move along and I cast it aside during the holidays. I’ll return to it but I doubt I’ll like it very much.

  4. Matt, I am glad to hear I am not the only one who was disappointed with The Marriage Plot. I liked the latter part of the book better than the first part, which felt to me like it was trying too hard to be clever. I will be interested to see what you think of The Paris Wife. The Old Man and the Sea and A Moveable Feast (and a few short stories) are all the Hemingway I’ve read, so I am not sure how knowing more about “Papa” would have affected my reading.

    I’ve got The Postmistress queued up next to read, thanks to your review. 🙂

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