Here's a list of the books I read and remembered to document in 2011.
My favorites that I'd want to read again in the future were:
Room by Emma Donoghue
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks discussed here
The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
The Night Circus is a transporting book. From the beginning, you enter a world of the senses: visual and aural. Both scent and taste are sated. Even in black and white, with a touch of red. The creations of the dueling wizards include a forest of love poetry, a "pool of tears" where you can leave your sorrows, and an ice garden.
Tom Perrota's Leftovers gets an honorable mention for the way he imagines how citizens of a suburban town continue their lives after a Rapture-type event. For some, they slowly return to normal, others are changed forever because family members have disappeared or perhaps because they themselves didn't. The characters are well developed. The situations are varied, interesting and present many ethical quandaries. The book overall is highly readable. I also liked the ending. Sometimes I enjoy a book, but an unsatisfying ending can taint my overall impression.
Here's a favorite quote from Leftovers:
"Laurie herself was more focused on the years when her kids were little, when she had felt so necessary and purposeful. a battery all charged up with love. Every day she used it up, and every night it got miraculously replenished. Nothing had ever been as good as that."
The opposite happened for me in Jeffrey Eugenides, Marriage Plot, a book that was on most critics' top 10 lists. I thought it was well written, but too long. The characters were well defined, but far from people I'd want to befriend or travel with. The book describes in excruciating detail, the education and relationships of the main characters lives from age 18 to 25. Perhaps, it would be highly interesting for those in that age group, but I feel like I've moved beyond that. The ending turned out better than I had expected. It reminded me of one of my favorite children's picture books, Shirley Hughes' Ella's Big Change, an unexpected retelling of Cinderella set in England in the 1920's (imagine a ball full of awesome flapper dresses!) But overall the story was depressing and sometimes too violent or threatening. There's too much abuse of women throughout the world in real life. I really don't want to read more about it, especially in a graphic way.
That brings us to Room, mentioned above as one of my favorites. While it does document the aftermath of a child abduction, it's written so sensitively and beautifully, it is an exception to my abuse rule. That such a tender, positive story could come out of a dismal theme is a testament to the writing and imagination of Emma Donaghue.
1. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
2. Big Girls Don’t Cry by Rebecca Traister
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. Cries of the Spirit (poetry anthology) by Marilyn Sewell
5. Henry Knox : visionary general of the American Revolution by Mark Puls
6. The Water Giver by Joan Ryan
7. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
8. Room by Emma Donoghue
9. Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
10. The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins
11. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jaime Ford
12. A handmade life : in search of simplicity / Wm. Coperthwaite
13. Tomorrow’s Garden by Stephen Orr
14. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
15. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
16. The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
17. EcoMind by Frances Moore Lappe
18. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
19. The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing
20. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
21. The Leftovers by Tom Perrota
22. Earth Then and Now by Fred Pearce