TSS: Favorite Books of 2011

sunsalon1Happy New Year! Better late than never, I suppose, with my favorites of 2011. Nothing really knocked my socks off this year, something I am sure had more to do with me than with the books I read. I think I abandoned almost as many books this year as I actually read, not because they were bad but because they just didn’t click. I kept notes on some things and not others, so for a few of the books listed below, I’ll have to trust my memory, which is weak. Of course, the standard “favorite books” disclaimer applies: the list contains my favorite books among all the books I read this year–not a prescriptive list of “best” books.

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes. I don’t want to say too much about this one, because I plan to write a full post in the next week, but I greatly enjoyed this rumination on life and friendship. I’d not read Barnes before this, but I hope to pick up another one of his books this year–after I’ve attacked the TBR pile, of course. Any recommendations are welcome.

The Paris Wife, Paula McClain. I bought this on a whim–I think the Kindle version was on discount–and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. This seemed to be the year of Paris and Hemingway, between this book and Midnight in Paris. Generally I shy away from novelizations of real people’s lives, especially one that’s well-documented, even if tangentially. I think reading this and A Moveable Feast would be great fun for a book club.

The Nobodies Album, Carolyn Parkhurst. Author Octavia Frost, estranged from her rock star son, learns that he has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. She travels to San Francisco to see how she can help and try to determine what happened. The book goes back and forth between Octavia in the first person point of view and excerpts of her novels–she is working on a project to rewrite all the endings of her published books. The book sounds a bit far-fetched, but Octavia is completely engaging, even when you aren’t sure if you like her or not. She tells such a good story, the book just flies by.

Look at Me, Jennifer Egan. I thought this book was riveting. Unfortunately, my notes are mostly plot summary–and a note to myself to read the book again. Model Charlotte Swenson is severely injured in a car crash outside her hometown in Illinois. Her face is completely reconstructed, and people no longer recognize her. The mystery of the crash–of which she has no memory–and the mysterious stranger who was with her in the car and seems to have disappeared take up much of the plot, but there’s much more to it than that. Egan, at least in this book, follows the same new journalism style of Tom Wolfe (without the sound effects). It’s a stunning book, which makes me want to go back and read A Visit from the Goon Squad again–and perhaps even finish it.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, E. Lockhart. I loved this book about a precocious teenage girl at a boarding school who works hard to subvert old hierarchies and traditions while struggling to fit in. The world needs more Frankies and fewer Bellas, in my opinion. Thank goodness I know I am not alone on this one.

Just Kids, Patti Smith. I picked this up in Barnes and Noble and could not put it down. From every aspect–a story about becoming an artist; a story about life in 1960s and 70s New York where everything was happening; a story of first love; a story of friendship; a voyage of discovery–this book is beautifully told. This was hands-down my favorite of the favorites.

Honorable mentions:

The China Study, T. Colin Campbell

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

So Much Pretty, Cara Hoffmann

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, A.S. King

The Collector, John Fowles

Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachmann

Tomorrow I hope to get things lined up for the TBR Double Dare. I’ll also share my current library stack and what I got for Christmas. Happy 2012!

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4 comments

  1. I love the sound of The Paris Wife, and reading it alongside A Moveable Feast is indeed a great idea. Happy New Year, Priscilla!

  2. It is lovely to see The Nobodies Album on your list – more people should read Parkhurst. John Fowles is an author I’ve been wanting to try for ages. Hopefully I’ll get to The Collector this year. Have a wonderful 2012!

  3. Jackie, that was the first Parkhurst novel I’ve read. I need to seek out her other work. As far as Fowles is concerned, I’ve only read The Magus and The Collector, and of the two enjoyed The Magus more. I am hoping to get to The French Lieutenant’s Woman…someday!

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