Friday, January 6, 2012

Top Ten Reads of 2011

Are you looking for something to read? I always have suggestions over at my SmallWorld Reads blog. Every year, like most book bloggers, I list my Top 10 books and then the rest of the books I read and reviewed during the year. You can check out my Best of the Years page for lists beginning in 2008.

In 2011 I read and reviewed 42 books and probably read a total of 10 others (juvenile fiction read aloud to my kids and/or books re-read for British Lit). This is down a few from my previous years. I have no excuses, other than that I fall asleep more easily than I used to. And so without further adieu, here is my year in books.

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Top 10 Books Read in 2011

Bloodroot by Amy Greene. From my review: "I didn't want Bloodroot to end. I miss it."

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. From my review: "I wish I had another book guaranteed this good to anticipate!"

March by Geraldine Brooks. Based on the character of Mr. March from Little Women. From my review: "Who is the real Mr. March? A devout minister, a coward, an adulterer, a doting father? Ultimately he is not the man his wife or daughters think he is, but he's also not the man he thinks he is."

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. From my review: "Oh my goodness. I laughed sooo hard while reading this book. I was actually guffawing."

My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira. From my review: "This novel set during the Civil War was so fabulous, so compelling that I mourned when I had finished it"

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. From my review: "This is definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoy reading around the outskirts of WW2—those unknown stories, the little snippets of lives changed forever."

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Re-read. From my review: "I love re-reading a novel and having it seem completely new."

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. From my review: "Adichie is a phenomenal storyteller and a lyrical writer—my absolute favorite combination."

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. From my review: Focuses on an English butler "whose sole job it is to serve others, even when it means sacrificing—or not being allowed to have—a life of one’s own."

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. From my review: "This is one of those books in which I wanted to keep underlining passages and turning down page corners. Such moments of profundity! Such perfectly poetic descriptions!"

* This is the place where I am supposed to pick out my absolute favorite of the year, but I don't think I can. I can only narrow it down to two. Interestingly, these are both debut novels: Bloodroot by Amy Greene and My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira.

* As always, most of the books I read in 2011 were fiction; however, I do love nonfiction, particularly memoirs, and read a few:

* I added 42 book to my Ever-Growing TBR list, and I marked off 24. (Weirdly, those numbers are exactly the same as last year's.) My TBR list continues to grow faster than I can conquer it. But that's OK. I learned about books from posts on The Sunday Salon, Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books, the Book Review Carnival, from various internet sources, and especially from other book bloggers.

* Below is the total list of books read, minus the juvenile fiction. Each link leads to a review. My star-ranking system is as follows: 5 stars--must read; 4 stars--highly recommended; 3 stars--enjoyable; 2 stars--ick; 1 star--no, no, no.


  1. I wrote a blog post, too, that contained a list of books that I have read, or have had read to me. I looked through your list. We don't have any matches, although I saw a few books in your list that I might enjoy reading.

  2. Thanks for the list. I heard of the Mary Sutter book, but had forgotten about it...thanks for reminding me!

  3. THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom is not a new story. Most readers of historical fiction have read "the concept" before. The true reality of storytelling is that it's all been done before. What matters is execution and Ms. Grissom, it appears, is quite an expert in that venue. She has taken a story of an indentured poor Irish immigrant girl living among her adopted black family on a Virginia plantation and delivered the little twists and insights that make you realize you're in the hands of someone who really knows what they're doing when it comes to storytelling. Granted there are a couple of missed dramatic opportunities in the story and the Lavinia character was, in some instances, a little too naïve (one might even say vacuous) and oblivious to things that should have been obvious. That said, it's also a proven fact that much of a readers entertainment is provided not by what the author is divulging, but by what is known by the reader but being hidden from the characters in the narrative. Anticipation of the "Big Reveal" is always tantalizing. As for the characters, I loved them all....even the dastardly Rankin and his "villain in training" Marshall. Each and every one of Ms. Grissom's creations has a personality that is wonderfully developed with each one adding a different seasoning to the tale that subtly enhances its flavor to create a wonderful feast for the reader.


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