My Best Books of 2011

Recently Wii asked me for a YA book recommendation. I’ve been reading some YA lately, I think because it tends to be an eager, optimistic, cut-the-bullshit genre and I’m definitely in need of some eagerness, optimist and bullshit-cutting. She said, “What’s the best YA book you’ve read?”

Me: blink. blink. “uhhhh….”

Actually I said, “The Book Thief. No, The Hunger Games. Wait, no, Before I Fall. Actually, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time which was originally marketed as a YA novel. What the foonf, I CANNOT POSSIBLY ANSWER THIS QUESTION!!!!”

Seriously, that’s just too much pressure for me! ONE great book?– you must be kidding. I have to go genre by genre, and probably sub-genre by sub-genre.

My advisor at the University of Michigan once told me that a great story — or book — is like a great round of golf: No matter how anyone else plays, it’s still great. (By the way, I just searched on Facebook for my advisor and found him and sent him a friend request.) He told me this once when I took a very small writing seminar and each student had to read another student’s work, and I felt like an idiot compared to the other writers in the class. No matter what the other writers write, it doesn’t detract from my story.

Another issue I search for in writing is CREATIVITY. Someone — Anna Quindlin, I think? — once said that every great story has already been told. (Wii vehemently disagrees.)

“Every story has already been told. Once you’ve read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had.” 

I was told by a Russian literature professor in college that Anna Karenina was the basis of most fiction.

So, with those as my parameters (genre and creativity), here is a short list of the best books I read in 2011 (Some came out in 2010)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Room by Emma Donoghue

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson

Long Drive Home by Will Allison

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

This is not an exhaustive list, because I tend to forget books after I read them. I’m looking for some kind of app to put on this page that lists what I’ve read/what I’m reading.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for this list. I like to read but I don’t have the time to research books and figure out what to read. I just took your list and reserved these books at the library. 🙂

    I read Long Drive Home in one evening, great story although it was so believable it’s still haunting me.

    Today I finished The Good Daughters. This book was a wonderful read for me since I had pretty much been to every place mentioned in the book. It kept freaking me out when another thing relating to my life would crop up. I had lived in Boston and southern New Hampshire for almost 20 years, before we moved to NC. My best friend’s bridal shower was at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum and my husband and I lived in Eliot, Maine for about a year before we decided it was too far from our friends. My family has taken a road trip to Wyoming and Yellowstone. When I thought the book couldn’t get more relatable to me, that character comes down with ALS, the disease I watched my grandfather succumb too. I could have written this book if I had known more about farming! Just had to share these coincidences with someone that has read the book.

    Thank you for all these wonderful recommendations!

    • You’re welcome! I agree about Long Drive Home — totally captivating because of it’s real-ness. Really scary stuff. You see how one bad decision and one lie could ruin your life. I love Joyce Maynard, I think her writing is so unique with the lack-of quotations.

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