Each Year End list I write will have a slightly different format. I rarely read newly released books, so feast your eyes on my five favorite books I read in 2011. My reading list this year wasn’t nearly as grand as last years, thanks to the Dark Tower series, which took up the majority of 2011 for me, and I refuse to flush out a full top ten because most of them would end up coming from that series and no one wants to read about the same thing over and over. Without further ado…
5. EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev
The first in a trilogy of YA novels and centered around a theater in which all of drama’s characters reside, Mantchev managed to zero in on the major theater nerd in me. Ariel is sexy and kind of mean! What happens when the words in The Book are changed! What if faeries were my best buds! I haven’t read the other two books yet, but will our protagonist end up with magical, cruel Ariel or supersweet Nate the pirate? Because of course there is a love triangle. Who are all these teenage girls getting involved in love triangles? No such thing ever happened to me. I was lucky if one kind of awful dude liked me at a time.
4. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lionel Shriver
I read this in prep for the film, which STILL has no release date here. What everyone says is true: the plot is frustrating in that no one is sympathetic, but that’s what I appreciated about it. Eva is self-involved and cloying, but it’s rare to see such a distinct portrait painted of a woman who never really loved her child, especially when it turns out that child is the monster she always knew him to be. I’ve read tons of books and studies on school shootings, and there’s always someone you sympathize with. We Need to Talk About Kevin makes you question which character is worse: the sadistic teen with a violent streak, or the distant, unfeeling mother that raised him.
3. THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen
Finally got around to reading this. Is there any insight I could have into this Great American Novel that hasn’t been said before?
2. A TERRIBLE SPLENDOR by Marshall Jon Fisher
You don’t have to be a tennis fan to enjoy this book, although a basic knowledge of the scoring would be helpful. It chronicles the 1937 Davis Cup match between the United States and Germany. Think about what I just said, and if the historical context doesn’t fascinate you, nothing about this book will. It wasn’t JUST a tennis match, it was a symbol of a “world poised for war”, it meant life or death for the German player, Gottfried von Cramm (he was gay), and it was played on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon. It’s not only a portrait of the major players, but an in depth look at Berlin as Hitler took charge, and a story about the power of sport.
1. MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins
I saved the third book of The Hunger Games trilogy to be the first book I read in 2011 and it didn’t disappoint. Like Rowling before her, Collins isn’t afraid to hurt you, depress you, kill off people you love, and reduce the most sympathetic, heroic character of the bunch into a crazed near-martyr for a cause. For anyone who feared the YA label or any rumors of a love story, I urge you to look past those things and delve into this dystopian world of kids killing kids for entertainment value. This isn’t Twilight, folks, and Katniss is no Bella Swan. She’s a hard-edged, thoughtful, strong, responsible and fully realized character that other girls should be urged to look up to.
FOOL by Christopher Moore
REPLAY by Ken Grimwood
RECONSTRUCTING BRIGID by Lee Nichols
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald (reread)
THE GUNSLINGER by Stephen King
THE DRAWING OF THE THREE by Stephen King
WASTELANDS by Stephen King
WIZARD AND GLASS by Stephen King
THE WOLVES OF THE CALLA by Stephen King
SONG OF SUSANNAH by Stephen King
THE DARK TOWER by Stephen King
COSMOPOLIS by Don DeLillo
HOTEL WORLD by Ali Smith
CURRENTLY: doing a reread of EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer
IN 2012: Finishing up Mantchev’s trilogy, 11/22/63 by Stephen King