2011 was a year of changes in many ways, but one thing that stayed the same was that I read a few books. There have been some absolutely terrific reads among them, some middle of the road and some that I wasn’t even able to finish, which is unlike me in the extreme. I am confident there are more that I have forgotten, but here are those that I remember reading. Let’s start with the ones I liked.
The Ape House by Sara Gruen
I seem to be one of the few people alive who didn’t love Water for Elephants. I don’t know if I read it in the wrong state of mind, but when my father presented me with this gift and told me excitedly that it was by the same author I had to fake a little enthusiasm. Now that I’ve read The Ape House I may go back and give the pachyderms another try.
I loved this book. It immediately drew you in to the characters, human and animal alike, and really made you care what happened to them. It didn’t fall victim to the easy cliches on the relationship front either. I frequently send books I love to a friend of mine, but I couldn’t bear to part with this one.
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
We were holidaying in Thailand for a friend’s 40th birthday (the things you do for your mates, right?) and I was coming to the end of the book I had brought with me when a fellow reveller offered me the one he had just finished reading. We barely knew each other before the trip, but we’d had a few interesting conversations while trying to avoid the company of some pretty high maintenance others, so based on his recommendation I was pretty confident I was going to like this book.
A Song of Ice and Fire - Books 1-5 - George RR Martin
These books made 2011 a joyous reading year. Apart from a brief interlude with Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood, it has been a long time since I read something so dense and engaging. These are books that make you think, and imagine, and feel, while spinning a wildly entertaining set of tales.
These books and the TV series have had enough rave reviews that I don’t feel the need to go on. If you’ve read them, you know what I’m talking about, if you haven’t, well there’s no saving you.
The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset - Suzanne Collins
Marketed in the YA genre I wondered what these would be like. I have a deep affection for everything I read when I was growing up and thoroughly enjoyed the style and subject matter. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. As with Game of Thrones I’m probably preaching to the converted.
Veracity- Laura Bynum
Set in a world where the people are controlled through language and censorship, in retrospect this book reminds me a bit of reverse Blind Faith by Ben Elton. I love a bit of speculative fiction and this was a nice read.
Blink- Malcolm Gladwell
I haven’t listed all the no-fiction I read this year. Next year I will try to do so. This one is a bit of a cheat as I actually re-read it in 2011 while participating in NANOWRIMO. 2012 will include a reading of The Outliers now that I have heard of the 10,000 hour rule.
The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
I bought this book on the way back from Thailand. (As an aside I love airport bookshops, somehow they seem to have a better selection that anywhere else). I had heard something about it on Radio National at some point so decided to give it a go on the flight back.
I have to say I found it disturbing. There wasn’t a character in the book I actually liked. No one seemed to be able to see anything from anyone else’s point of view, and while I accept that many people are like that, not everyone is. In most groups there are a number of peacemakers, people able to bridge the gaps. It may be that I didn’t fully relate to some of the cultural groups, and I know it was written to be controversial, but I don’t know that my life would have been less rich had I never read this…
The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises- Adam Campbell
I have to be honest; I am WELL into my thirties these days and the low maintenance routine I practiced throughout my twenties just wasn’t cutting it. At the start of 2011 I ordered a home gym on-line from a company called Fitquip. Two days later it was delivered to my home ready to be assembled. To make sure I’d be doing things right I sent off to the Book Depository for a copy of this and I LOVE it.
For me the greatest dangers in exercise are breaks in routine and boredom. No book can help me with the first, but this book has the second one covered.
11.22.63- Stephen King
It has been years since I last read a Stephen King book. I have to say that although the book itself was entertaining, I found some of the catch phrases a little over done. “Life turns on a dime” - ok, I got that the first 10 times already. I shoudl say that I read quite fast. Which means that maybe I don’t need to be reminded of what happened two chapters before quite as often as some other readers might.
But I enjoyed the book more than I expected to. I was going through a hard time and needed distraction and so picked this up as a digestible read, and it fitted the bill nicely.
The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
One of those classics off the BBC top 100 I hadn’t read before.
Amber Dawn - Rebbecca Campbell
This book was a reminder to be discerning in all things. I am well aware that not everything you read on the Internet is true. That isn’t fair. I’m sure the rave reviews I read on the Book Depository UK were true for the people who wrote them. People who like this kind of thing. It was not to my taste, but had I researched the author before my purchase I would have figured out this was a romance.
The danger for me is that once I have started a book it is rare for meant to finish it. Although the ebook cost me about $3, the investment in time I will never recoup. I should also note that this was the first book I read on my new Kindle, which meant that I may have judged it more harshly for the appalling editing. ‘Snake’ instead of ‘Snack’ ‘Their’ instead of ‘they’re’ and so on. I have since to been advised that is not uncommon for ebooks - something that had I known in advance might have made me think twice about making the digital transition.
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
I have forgotten the names of many of the fine books I have read by Indian authors. I wish now I had taken down their names more carefully.
What the Body Remembers: A Novel. Baldwin, Shauna Singh
Almost every time I read a book by an Indian author I wonder why I don’t read more of it. It is rich, dense, complex, sensual. These are never easy to read, but impossible to put down. There is something that gets to heart of what we are as people, the ways in which we are fallible, yet lovable all at the same time. No one is perfect or predictable. The politics and culture that swirl around the characters is delectable.
In the Name of Honour- Richard North Patterson
It’s here because I read it, but there is nothing exceptional to report. War and violence against women both bad. The scenario a bit predictable. Easy reading for when you’re feeling like leaving the brain by the side of the bed next to the water glass.
The Wee Free Men Pratchett, Terry,
Standard Pratchett fare, what you would expect, nothing more and nothing less.
Blind Faith. Elton, Ben
Set in future where nothing is private Elton has turned his gaze on social media and the growing trend of the over-share. Of course he takes all of this to the extreme in his usual way. Nothing especially new here for me, and it lacked something beyond the normal social commentary.
The also rans;
Four Fires Courtenay, Bryce
The Very Thought of You. Alison, Rosie.
A Pale Horse Todd, Charles
Drood Simmons, Dan
I seem to have read a lot of fantasy this year. I think perhaps it is because it’s a big part of our local library and you are more likely to come away with something satisfying without having to think about it too hard. Looking back I seem to have covere Juliet Marillier's back catalogue. It's nice to be reading someone local.
The Serpent Bride. Douglass, Sara
The Well of Shades. Marillier, Juliet
The Dark Mirror Marillier, Juliet
Blade of Fortriu. Marillier, Juliet
Son of the Shadows. Marillier, Juliet
Child of the Prophecy [Sevenwaters trilogy ; 3]. Marillier, Juliet
Heir to Sevenwaters Marillier, Juliet
Heart's Blood Marillier, Juliet