This is far and away my favorite post of the year to write. It gives me the opportunity to look back on some of the great books I read during the past year. I have a tough time selecting the 10 but it is fun to look through the list and remember how much I enjoyed these books. I try to limit my choices to books published in 2011 (or at least in late 2010). These are very much personal choices, I've rejected some of the usual suspects from other lists (The Marriage Plot, The Art of Fielding, The Tiger's Wife) in favor of these - what's the fun of having a blog if you can't make your own choices! Here ya go in alphabetical order:
22 Brittiania Road historical fiction - this WWII survivor story was heartbreaking and at times almost too sad to bear but in the end though it tells of the triumph of human spirit over adversity.
Before I Go to Sleep fiction - A really great psychological thriller, great pacing, great story, had me on the hook until the very end!
Bossy Pants - The Tina Fey story, you have to listen not read this one, her memoir is part comedy, part life advice, part assessment of social mores and all fun.
Buddha in the Attic historical fiction - this story of Japanese mail order brides is a haunting piece of historical fiction told in a unique way.
Catherine the Great biography - This 600 page biography of one of the most powerful rulers of Russia flew by for me. If you want history that reads like fiction read this!
Destiny of the Republic history - In this gripping account of the murder of James Garfield, 20th President of the US, Candice Millard uses the assassination as a means to examine the culture and politics of America in the 1880s. A great read!
Rules of Civility historical fiction - Pre WWII high society NYC has never seemed as alive as in this story. If you want to visit another time, another place that is both romantic and sophiscated read this book.
Faith fiction - The Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal with a different twist, the author gets the characters pitch perfect and gives a different view of this sad story.
The Report historical fiction - a fictionalized account of a true story this is a small gem of a book that raises issues that are very contemporary in a way that is both thought provoking and moving.
A Visit From the Goon Squad fiction - These characters walk off the page into your mind if not exactly your heart. The effects of the passage of time on the characters, their values and relationships is the overarching theme in this unconventional but amazing novel.
I need to mention two other books I read last year even though they weren't 2011 books. Matterhorn (2010), a fictional account of the Vietnam war was one of the best war stories I've ever read. Karl Malantes captures it all - the horror, the courage, the cowardice, the camaraderie, the confusion, the exhilaration and the sorrow of war. Even if you don't read war stories read this one. Zeitoun (2009) is a true story of one family's experience during and after Hurricane Katrina. David Eggers hits a home run with this book, I loved it.