Favo(u)rite Books of 2011: Part One

I usually give myself my first cup of coffee to dick around on the internet, catch up on some news, and wake up before I start The Never Ending Reading.

Today’s dickery is about books.   I’ve read about 120 books this year, excluding all those journal articles and texts for courses.  These books have been all over the place, topic wise, just because I can.  Unemployment + Not having to read for school means I read whatever I’m remotely interested in, which turns out, is a lot of things. (architecture! biology! literature! history!)
The self education aspect of this reading is possibly my favorite thing about this past year.  Learning and educating not because I had to for a class, but simply because I was interested in the topic.  This is so much more difficult to do when you’re managing a full time job and a busy social life and is actually what my most recent tattoo represents – learning for the love of it.*

I’ve decided to compile my 10 Favo(u)rite Books of 2011 list because most of the people in my life are also readers and I’m all about spreading the word on good reads.
Most of these books were not published in 2011, but I read it in 2011 and thus they’re on this list.  They’re also not in a particular hierarchy beyond being on this list at all.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer (2001) for a reason. I picked this up in a thrift store in Falls Church, VA, which I went to with a friend after our classy three course lunch (that’s how we roll).  I was a bit skeptical when my friend recommended the book to me, but I ended up savoring it for a few weeks of my unemployment in the US and my trip to Canada. It is a very well written book with complex, sympathetic characters. If you’re looking for some “light” character driven reading that is still of high quality, I recommend this book. (amazon link)

Naamah’s Blessing is the third in the second trilogy set in Jacqueline Carey’s Terre d’Ange.  Carey releases a new book just about every year and if I were to do this list every year, her books would be on it every year.  If that doesn’t tell you how much I like her work, how about this: I preorder every one of her books and own all nine of the Terre d’Ange works in hardcover.  They’re alternative history epic fantasy, which is possibly my favorite genre.  Adventure, strong women, intelligent romance, beautifully written mythos, hot sex scenes… what more do you need? (amazon link)
This trilogy starts with Naamah’s Kiss and as Blessing is the third, you should start with Naamah’s Kiss instead of this one.

I picked up The Help by Kathryn Stockett in a hostel in Dharmasala, India and read it on the bus back to Delhi.  Whatever your criticism of the story, which really hit the fan when it was released as a movie this summer (I also liked the movie), it is a well written novel that totally surprised me because I thought it’d be one of those “junk chick lit” reads.  Is it a book written by a white woman with black protagonists?  Yes.  Is it historically accurate? No.  I’m not really going to go into  the race criticisms that blew up in the blogosphere when the movie came out, except to note this:  one of the critiques I came across is that this is all about the white woman’s heroism and that once again, a white person is needed to save the black people and thus the story is racist.  People who put this forth have read a different book than me, because while Skeeter is an interesting character, Aibilene and her story and her heroism more than stole the show.  Getting a book published like Skeeter seems like a far off accomplishment that I had a hard time relating to.  But the heroism that Aibilene showed, of doing what terrifies you because you know it is right?  That’s something everyone, regardless of their race, should take home from this.  (amazon link)

I acquired The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar through trade with a friend I made while in Dharmasala.  I actually read it back to back with The Help, which was an interesting contrast.  The Space Between Us takes place in Mumbai and follows the story of an upper class (and caste) Indian woman and her slum living servant.  It is beautifully written, heartbreaking yet somehow empowering, complex work and I acquired a new favorite author out of the deal.  Her work The Weight of Heaven is also a good read, though I thought the ending was a little forced (whereas this ending was pitch perfect despite being less tied up with a neat little bow). (amazon link)

I picked up The Victorians by A.N. Wilson in a Dublin hostel and I read it throughout Ireland (and all of our tours of Victorian manor houses and such).  It is such a great popular audience survey work on Victorian history and culture.  I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys that particular era or will spend any amount of time traipsing through Victorian manors.  It provided some great context for all the sites I’ve seen this year and I liked it enough to lug it home with me despite its thickness. (Don’t be intimidated by the thickness, it reads quickly.) (amazon link)

Alright.  My coffee is done and I need to get back to journal articles on such things as gendered geographies and post 9/11 legalities.  Which thankfully, I find interesting as well.  I’ll post the remaining five in my next procrastination endeavor.

* It has occurred to me that some of the family members who read my blog don’t know that I have several tattoos, but I’ve officially reached the point where unless I’m wearing business attire all the time, you’ll see one of them eventually.  The Ganesha is on my shoulder, and I have a back piece as well.

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One Response to Favo(u)rite Books of 2011: Part One

  1. Pingback: Favorite Books of 2012 | mis·trans·la·tion

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