After connecting with many book bloggers via Twitter and Goodreads last year and being part of a book group and always, always discussing books I enjoy (Hunger Games!) I figured I should join in and note some of my fave books that I read in 2011. I made a goal to read 50 books in 2011 and read 54, which was somewhat disappointing but hey I surpassed my goal. *Please note that not all of these books came out in 2011 and that I may have read ARCs or galleys of said titles that I got from Book Expo.
These are in no specific order of awesomeness. But overall I really enjoyed and would highly recommend them.
- When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (Fall 2011) - This was a phenomenal tale about a woman coming into her own after being betrayed by her beliefs and society in a dystopian setting where the highly religious and conservative rule with a heavy hand. It's a sci-fi take on The Scarlett Letter in which the main character is branded by the color red, and those that commit crimes are branded by colors also. It starts and ends with "when she woke" and you get chills reading some of the things the protagonist has to go through.
- Erasure by Percival Everett (re-released 2011) - One of Everett's earlier works and a great one. It mocks the literary elite and what is considered the 'Black Experience' by others. What happens when a very educated man writes what can be considered ghetto or urban lit and it is widely lauded by those who have no idea what it's like to be African American? Well, the way things go is intriguing and you don't quite get a final answer which makes you wonder where things are going in the literary world and outside of it where money talks and sometimes the subjectivity of art is questioned.
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Fall 2011) - I feel like Laini is one of the most literary and illustrative authors, not just YA authors, around. She brings you into her world and keeps you there and frankly you don't want to leave it. The worst part of a Laini Taylor book is finishing it. But she strikes gold again with the tale of a young girl raised by demons who are at war with angels and how deep things go when starcrossed lovers suffer a great betrayal.
- Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (2011) - A debut from Norman and a really good one. Usually I get kind of urked by writers writing about writers but this delved into the reality of being a struggling, emerging writer trying to find your voice amidst real life responsibilities and day-to-day disappointments. As someone who works and writes and works I felt like Norman really captured the life of someone toggling between what they want to be and what they are. While a job shouldn't define you, it often does.
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2010) - This was a book club pick and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the details and textures within this piece though it was kind of heartbreaking in the end. We had a good discussion about the characters and that's what stood out for me most throughout.
- Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction (2007) - I am a fan of anthologies. Last year I read the Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Fiction also edited by Michael Martone when I saw him again at the Postgraduate Writers Conference. What I love about anthologies is that they can introduce you to a slew of writers you weren't aware of in snippets. There are hits and misses with any collection but I always enjoy the range of stories and reading various genres.
- Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr (2009) - I'd heard a lot about Karr's latest memoir. She's considered one of the best at the genre. After Lit I was hooked and am eager to read her two previous memoirs. She has a way of delving into things with a clear head looking back and capturing people, facial expressions, times as though they were a snapshot.
- The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (2008) - My first read of Lehane's. I've seen films based on his books but had yet to actually delve into one of his novels. I was invested from the first pages. He has a few too many POVs I felt but the core story between the White Boston cop and the Black man on the run and the friendship formed as America came apart and got back together again all the while having snippets of Babe Ruth (not as lovely as you may like to think) weaved in was amazing. And the fact that for me he didn't lose me at any part after more than 600 pages is a feat in itself.
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010) - Another book club pick but also something I had been wanting to read for awhile. I was glad when I finally got to read it and discuss with others. It's funny that when I was reading it a woman came up to me and said "You wanna read a book that will REALLY make you hate White people? Read Medical Apartheid." Henrietta Lacks is a tome that does make you ashamed of how medical professionals treated patients, or color and in general. People were not people but test subjects and to some still are. It was eye opening really and heartbreaking to read of the Lacks family tragedies that went on for years with their mother in the ground and them in the dark about her cells contributions to science and the advancement of medicine.
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Spring 2011) - A friend is the publicist for Libba Bray and highly recommended her book. After hearing her, Meg Cabot, and Maggie Stiefvater speak at a This is Teen event sponsored by their publisher Scholastic and hearing how funny and endearing Libba was I was happy to snag a copy. This woman is hilarious and really captures the voices of her characters. You have to go with the world she creates but her characters are not caricatures. They're endearing as much as the author is and so you go with it and kind of fall in love with each of them.
- Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey (2011) - Amy Garvey is one of the coolest authors I've had the honor of tweeting with and sending baked goods! I snagged a galley of Cold Kiss at Book Expo and boy was I glad I did. This is a well written character driven, literary young adult novel with fantastical elements. Some may say not a lot goes on action-wise but a lot goes on emotionally and I love the scenes she drew out of true love.
Other books I enjoyed this past year were The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson, and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.