Another reading year has come and gone! I had a goal to read 40 books last year and I didn’t quite make it, clocking at at 33 books read at the end of the year, though I am halfway through would could have been book 34. However, the year before that I only read 32 books so I suppose this is still an improvement?
And really, the truth is that I am perfectly content with the number of books I read. I found a few new favorites and kept myself busy reading throughout the year with very little time spent thinking, “Geeze I should really read more!” I tend to do most of my reading at night before bed and there were very few nights I didn’t spend reading in 2011 so that’s good enough for now. Being home with a two year old and having other hobbies I enjoy, I don’t anticipate finding much more reading time anytime soon without giving up photography, beading, eating, sleeping and Project Runway. :OP
Anyway, before I get on to the big giant list of books I read and the few books I attempted to read but abandoned, I thought I’d give a quick little list of some favorites and least favorites – the cliffs notes version of my list for anyone who doesn’t want to read through the whole thing.
5 Favorite Books:
- Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery and all the other Anne books I read, with the exception of Windy Poplars which was unusually boring and tedious. Feel free to skip that one.
- Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was probably my favorite book club pick from 2011. I loved the language and the wit and the mystery – it was just a Full Package kind of book for me that I highly recommend.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett is probably the BEST book I read in 2011. You’ve probably already heard a lot of hype about this one and I can say, it’s all well deserved. If you haven’t read it yet, please DO. The movie is also very good, but please read the book first if you can.
- A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth was one of the few memoirs that I read in 2011 and one of the most enjoyable reads for me. Kristin’s life is just fascinating and she is terrifically funny. A really fun book to read – I loved it.
- Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster was SOOOOOOOOOOO good and one of those books that I feel like I read at exactly the right time. I love Jen Lancaster’s writing and humor and this book was a little too easy to relate to! I can’t wait to read some of her other books.
4 Least Favorite Books:
- Saltwater Taffy by Eric Delabarre I found kind of boring, but it is possible I’m simply not the target audience for this one. It might appeal to the tween boys in your life.
- The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman was probably my least favorite book club pick (that I finished). It was very depressing and disjointed and hard to get into. And the ending was just awful.
- Sweet Valley Confidential: 10 Years Later by Francine Pascal was probably the worst written book I read in 2011. It was really just awful from beginning to end.
- The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall actually might tie with The Imperfectionist for worst book club pick that I read in 2011. It was way too long and uncomfortably awkward and in my opinion, told from the wrong P.O.V. with another really disappointing ending.
Books Read In 2011:
- The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard (January Book Club Pick) – Finished January 5, 2011 – I thought this book had a lot of really high points but a couple of low points. I thought the mystery around this story was very well written, using varying points of view to gradually unlayer the truth of the story. I liked being able to see how differently each of the characters looked at what was going on and I have to admit, I didn’t guess the outcome of the book until the author wanted me to, though I think I came close a few times. On the other hand, I thought some of the descriptions in this book were far too graphic for my liking and it made me uncomfortable enough that a few times I almost wanted to stop reading. It was thanks to the otherwise well written story that I kept coming back for more and I have to admit I’m glad I did. – full review –
- Anne of Avonlea (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery (Classics Challenge & L.M. Montgomery Challenge) – Finished January 17, 2010 – I still can’t believe I waited so long to read this series which is such a well known classic. I really loved this second book in Montgomery’s Anne series. I am by now smitten with her descriptive prose and loved all of the stories of Anne’s two years spent teaching in Avonlea. I liked all of the various love stories that Anne becomes privy to and how they all sort of shape her knowledge of what love really looks like and what it doesn’t look like and the entire theme of preconceptions that runs throughout the book. – full review –
- Anne of the Island (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery(Classics Challenge & L.M. Montgomery Challenge) – Finished January 23, 2010 – After a comment from bloggy pal Jean that the 2nd Anne of Green Gables movie combines books 2 and 3, I had to put off Deep Down True by Juliette Fay just long enough to plow through the third book – and I really did plow through it in less than a week. Rather than reading my normal 5-10% a night, I was reading about 20% a night, could not put it down. It helped that Anne of the Island is a bit shorter than Anne of Avonlea of course, but really this book was so deliciously addictive, that I would have read it at this pace regardless. Now I can watch the 2nd movie with no spoilers. Anne of the Island deals with Anne’s years at Redmond as a college girl and I really loved that timeless look at college life and readjusting to life at home in between – very true to life and told in a very classic Anne kind of way. And of course anybody who loves the Love Story of Anne, will love book 3 I think as it finally really comes to a head in this book – with lots of heart ache and twists and turns of course. – full review –
- Deep Down True by Juliette Fay – Finished January 31, 2011 – I really enjoyed this book. Despite a lot of content that I can’t personally relate to, the characters and plot were so well written and realistic that I found I could relate to them anyway. I really liked the idea of Dana, the main character learning to be LESS nice. I know a few doormats like myself, who could sometimes stand to learn that lesson. This is a book that will make you laugh and cry and root for a happy ending. – full review –
- Saltwater Taffy by Eric Delabarre – Finished February 7, 2011 – I have mixed feelings on this book and cannot decide if the problem lies with the book or with the fact that I’m not exactly it’s target audience. Told from the POV of a 13 year old boy in the 70’s who embarks on a treasure hunt with 5 of his friends, this book is littered with life lessons and a whole lot of baseball! Having never been a 13 year old boy and having no interest in baseball, it was often hard to relate to and I found the characters more annoying than likable – but again this could have more to do with my demographic than the book.
- Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (February Book Club Pick) – Finished February 16, 2011 – I enjoyed reading this imaginative interpretation of Cinderella. Maguire’s writing style is gritty, descriptive without being flowery. His story is somewhat dark in some regards, but humorous and enjoyable to read. I did not love this book. The writing style is unique but verges on tedious. The story was interesting though and overall I liked it. – full review –
- Friendship Bread by Darien Gee – Finished March 1, 2011 – I liked this book a lot, especially considering that I almost put it down after reading a few really sad chapters. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get through some of the heavy subject matter, but after deciding to stick with it, I’m really glad I did. Gee’s characters are so realistic and well written, the story is full of everything that makes a story good. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it, with caution, to anyone. – full review –
- Anthem (kindle) by Ayn Rand (Classics Challenge) – Finished March 3, 2011 – If you’re looking for a classic book that is also a quick read, Anthem is a great choice, I blew threw it in two sittings. I’m not sure that I’d say I enjoyed this book, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it either. It’s an interesting concept, with an interesting writing style – but that writing style borders on tedious and dystopian novels at this point are almost a dime a dozen. Still, I’m glad to finally be able to say I’ve read this book.
- Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen – Finished March 9, 2011 – Godbersen’s new series has all the same intrigue, luxury and perfect story telling that made her Luxe series so incredible. The characters are each unique, fully realized and endearing despite any faults and Godbersen creates a suspense that lingers throughout the entire book which ends with her signature cliff hangers that have you begging for book two. Loved it. – full review –
- Shadow of the Wind (kindle) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (March Book Club Pick) – Finished March 24, 2011 – This was one of the better written books that I’ve read in awhile – beautiful descriptions without feeling tedious, a fascinating story that gets more complex with each chapter, but brilliantly. I really enjoyed this book which seemed to offer a little bit of everything. – full review –
- Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward – Finished April 2, 2011 – I am a huge fan of Lisa Lutz so I was beyond eager to read this book which she wrote with her ex, David Hayward. This book was hysterical and a really cool peek into the writing process – I’d recommend it to any writers or mystery buffs. – full review –
- Much Ado About Anne (Mother Daughter Book Club, Book Two) by Heather Vogel Frederick – finished April 10, 2011 – I think these books send a really positive message to teens and tweens while still being fun and an enjoyable read. I loved reading about reading about Anne of Green Gables, one of my favorite classic books / series. Definitely looking forward to reading future books in this series.
- The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (April Book Club Pick) – finished April 24, 2011 – I found this book interesting but not necessarily enjoyable. It reads like a series of short stories about various employees of a small European newspaper. As you read, the stories begin to feel somewhat interconnected, but at the same time not really. I felt the format made it difficult to get attached to any of the “characters” and the depressing nature of the book didn’t help matters. I think this was exactly what the author was going for though.
- The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa de la Cruz – finished May 12, 2011 – This series gets more and more interesting with each book. If you are into the whole “vampire genre” I think you will find this a very refreshing, unique take on the genre. Eagerly looking forward to reading the next book!
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Classics Challenge) – Finished May 16, 2011 – I have a hard time reading books when I’ve already seen movie adaptations and this book was not much different. It kept me entertained just enough to keep reading with a few differences from the movie and interesting quotes, etc. but on the whole I was a bit bored.
- Sweet Valley Confidential: 10 Years Later by Francine Pascal – Finished May 23, 2011 – This book had a lot of potential, with an interesting plot that picks up 10 years later when the Twins are 27 years old, eight months after a shocking betrayal! Unfortunately I really found this book poorly written, a bit too crass and awfully depressing. Jessica’s Valley Girl accent was just too much and none of the characters felt authentic. It felt very teenish except too vulgar for teens. I don’t know… I didn’t love it. – full review –
- Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m. by Sam Wasson – finished May 27, 2011 – I really enjoyed this book. It had so much information on the making of both the book and the movie, giving a lot of perspectives on both projects and filling in on what the time period was like and how hard it was to get a movie like that made back then. And of course I am such a big Audrey fan, that just getting to learn more about her life was awesome. Wonderfully written, very interesting.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett – finished June 8, 2011 – This was definitely the best book I’ve read so far this year. It’s a book that will touch your heart and move you – make you think even when you don’t want to think. I learned a lot from this book about things I hadn’t expected to be learning, along with the things you would expect. I’d recommend it to anyone. – full review –
- The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (June book club pick) – Finished June 22, 2011 – I’m a bit on the fence with this one. There were aspects of the book that I liked and thought were well done, but other things which irritated me. I found the overall plot interesting but often the telling of the story left me unsatisfied as the author / narrator moved from one bit to the next, I often felt like I was given too much info in some areas and not enough in others.
- Second Wind by Cami Ostman – finished July 15, 2011 – I found this book very inspiring. Cami’s story is really very amazing and yet she is also very easy to relate to. Reading this book had me itching to start exercising more (never a bad thing) and I frequently found myself googling vacation spots around the world, daydreaming about all things travel. Her story sucks you in so that by the time I finished the last page, I kind of felt like I’d finished a journey of my own!
- The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (July Book Club Pick) – finished July 27, 2011 – While there was something about this story that inevitably kept me reading, I have to say, I really didn’t enjoy this one. It wasn’t because of the whole polygamy thing, I just couldn’t sympathize with most of the characters and by the end of the book, the few characters I did find myself rooting for all seemed to get gypped in one way or another. Sad beginning, sad middle, sad end. Not a big hit for me.
- Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne – Finished July 27, 2011 – I’ve just finished reading this aloud to my five year old, a chapter at a time before nap times & bedtimes. While I’m not sure he understood the whole book as there are a lot of big words, he still really enjoyed it, especially since he knew all the characters for the tv show and movies. It was nice to share this with him and fun to watch the movies and see the adaptations of all the stories within the book.
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman – Finished August 11, 2011 – I really enjoyed this book. It’s not often that I can read a book when I’ve already seen the movie based off of it, but this one had just enough tricks up it’s sleeve to keep me interested. I have to say, the whole story within a story within a story aspect of this story just barely works. It threw me off in the beginning and I know some people really didn’t enjoy this aspect or Goldman as the narrator continually butting in to talk about his opinions on the story – but it kind of worked for me. It made me think about how you view a story you are reading versus writing and what things I like in a story and what things I don’t like – and it made me laugh when Goldman would complain about a literary technique of “Morgenstern’s” while using the same technique. It was clever.
- The Hour That Matters Most by Leslie Parrott – Finished September 2, 2011 – This was one of those books that had me constantly quoting passages to my husband and trying ideas out with the kids as I read it. I definitely recommend it to anyone struggling to eat together as a family or even just looking for tips on how to improve that hour you are already eating together.
- The Entitlement Trap by Richard Eyre – Finished in September 2011 – While I found some aspects of this book interesting and useful, I do feel like they could have gotten their point across in a faster, less repetitive way. This is a book with good ideas, especially for parents of school-aged children, to help your kids become less entitled and to take ownership of their things, their lives, etc. but the actual process of reading the book did become a bit tedious.
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (August Book Club Pick) – Finished September 20, 2011 – I really enjoyed this story. Although there is a LOT of medical jargon, it still manages to be a fascinating tale. I loved the many layers of this story and how everything seems to connect at the end. I loved the comparison of Ethiopia to America through both medicine and life and how many stories and thoughts and ideas are presented in one book. Really good.
- Finding Aster by Dina McQueen – Finished September 26, 2011 – I enjoyed this book which describes Dina’s experience adopting a little girl from Ethiopia – from the series of events that brought her to the decision to adopt, through to the actual process of international adoption. Though the story is filled with personal details, it reads a bit more like practical information that would be good to know if you were planning to adopt yourself. And though I have no plans for adoption, I still enjoyed this book and found it interesting.
- A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth – Finished October 8, 2011 – I’ve always been a fan of Kristin Chenoweth’s acting skills but knew basically nothing about her aside from what I’ve seen on screen. This memoir certainly took care of that! I loved this book and getting to know Kristin and her life and what led her from growing up in Oklahoma to gracing the sets of Glee and Pushing Daisies or the stages of Wicked which I’ve never seen but want to SO badly some day. This book is funny and thoughtful and entertaining and wonderful. Loved it.
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (October Book Club Pick) – finished October 22, 2011 – There were some things that I really liked about this book – the author’s descriptions of life at Hailsham and how he only reveals just so much information at a time, keeping you out of the dark about things until just the right moment. In some ways I’d say this book was remarkably well done and most of my minor complaints with the book are the type that can be commented away with, “but the author probably did it that way intentionally,” for better or for worse.
- The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent – finished November 14, 2011 – This book, though often slow going, was a truly fascinating story that I am sure will stay with me for a very long time. A perfect fall read, I’d recommend this to any lovers of historical fiction or those with interest in the Salem Witch Trials. Very good.
- Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster – Finished November 29, 2011 – I just loooooved this book and I’m so glad I finally read it. I adore Jen Lancaster’s writing style and humor and could relate to this humorous memoir on dieting a little too well! It was one of those books that I feel I read at exactly the right time and I’m now feeling extra motivated to start eating better and exercising! I highly recommend this one.
- Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin – Finished December 10, 2011 – I thought the premise of this story was unique and interesting and I was impressed with how the characters were easy to relate to and root for, especially the main character, Rachel. Although at times I got irritated with her decisions and for awhile hoped for a different outcome altogether, I was happy in the end with the story and enjoyed reading it. Chick lit at it’s best.
- Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner – finished December 24, 2011 – Writing a followup to such a successful book is no easy task – and reading the sequel to one of my favorite books is perhaps harder. It’s been years since reading Good in Bed and it took me awhile to fall back into sync with the characters of the book, especially as they had all changed and aged. I did like reading this story of Candace Shapiro and her now 12 year old daughter Joy – now that I am a parent also, I think the plot was especially interesting. There were things I didn’t love about it, particularly the ending which came completely out of left field for me – but I do think it will be a story that stays with me.
- Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery – Abandoned May 1, 2011 – I just could not get into this 4th book in a series. It didn’t help that I pretty much knew the whole plot thanks to the last Anne movie I watched which included several books (loosely) in one movie, but I’ve heard others say this was the worst book and several I know did not finish it so I don’t feel too bad about it. I’ll definitely continue on with the series later.
- Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson (November Book Club Pick) – I feel kind of guilty abandoning this one but my heart just isn’t it, I can’t stand the main character and frankly I just want to read something else instead.
- Little Bee by Chris Cleave – I might try this one again at some point, but the subject matter for now was just too heavy. Two chapters in and I couldn’t sleep at night and was afraid to read any more.