Best of Reading for 2011

Posted 20 December, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook / 34 Comments


Best of Reading for 2011
I offered a tongue in cheek version of this survey on Sunday. Below are my more “adult” answers.

Jamie, the Perpetual Page Turner, provided us with a whole slew of questions about our 2011 bookish endeavors. I’m only answering the book questions below–not sure if I’ll use her blogging questions for a separate post or not. Definitely have a lot of blogging thoughts to reflect on, but…  :)

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

I’m sad to say that 2011 was not a year of bests—I was much too distracted to focus on reading and when I do have some time here and there to pick up a book, I usually fall asleep within five minutes. Ha!

That said, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is one that has stuck with me. It was a tough read, but it was beautiful, snuck up on me, and hit me hard.

Looking for Alaska by John Green is a close second. I also really loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett—both the paper and audio versions.

2. Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. After all the raving, I wanted to love this one but just didn’t.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (audio). I had seen this one around a lot but didn’t have much interest in the story. I listened to it while my brother was reading for school and was immediately absorbed.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I think I’m running out of fingers to count the amount of people I’ve convinced to read this book. Some have loved, some didn’t. That’s OK. Second would be The Help. Though I was recommending this one before I even read it!

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?


6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

Jon Krakauer (Into the Wild on audio and Into Thin Air), Bill Bryson (At Home on audio), and W. Somerset Maugham (The Painted Veil).

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (audio) was definitely not something I’d normally pick up, but it kept my interest and was a lot of fun to listen to.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson(audio). I have a friend who read the book and had qualms with the writing, but the audio was certainly unputdownable!

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?


10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?

Yes, it’s a children’s book but It’s Time to Sleep, My Love by Nancy Tillman. GORGEOUS illustrations. I could read this book a million times just for the drawings.

11. Most memorable character in 2011?

Minnie Jackson from The Help. Especially as narrated by Octavia Spencer on the audio version.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

The Painted Veil, The History of Love, The Namesake, Looking for Alaska. All beautifully written in very different ways.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?

Not done with it yet, but What Mothers Do by Naomi Stadlen is one I’m currently reading and wish I could underline every sentence.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Guess I’m good at waiting until some of the hype dies down.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?

“I lit a cigarette and spit into the creek. ‘You can’t just make me different and then leave,’ I said out loud to her. ‘Beause I was fine before, Alaska. I was fine with just me and last words and school friends, and you can’t just make me different and then leave.’ For she had embodied the Great Perhaps–she had proved to me that it was worth it to leave behind my minor life for grander maybes, and now she was gone and with her my faith in perhaps” (Looking for Alaska 172).

And the final tally of books read and listened to in 2011. There is a small chance that I’ll finish one of the two books that I’m halfway through, but…

Books Read in 2011 (links to my thoughts)

1. True Grit – Charles Portis
2. The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
3. Looking for Alaska – John Green
4. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
5. Notes from the Underbelly – Risa Green
6. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List – David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
7. The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance – Elna Baker
8. The Painted Veil – W. Somerset Maugham
9. The History of Love – Nicole Krauss
10. The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag – Alan Bradley
11. The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri
12. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
13. Maman’s Homesick Pie – Donia Bijan

Books Listened to in 2011 (links to my thoughts)

1. Good to Great – Jim Collins
2. Friday Night Knitting Club – Kate Jacobs
3. Alice I Have Been – Melanie Benjamin
4. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
5. Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
6. Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
7. Bedwetter – Sarah Silverman
8. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
9. At Home – Bill Bryson
10. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
11. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
12. Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief – Rick Riordan
13. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan
14. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
15. Before I go to Sleep – S. J. Watson
16. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

This year is the first year that I’ve counted audiobooks–I don’t think that I’ve ever listened to more than just a couple each year. I’ve really come to enjoy the medium and missed my listening time when I was on maternity leave. I still have a tough time with some audiobooks, but I have an easier time abandoning books if I’m not enjoying them. I look forward to continuing to discover the world of audiobooks in 2012.

Overall 2011 wasn’t a truly terrible year for reading. I wish that some of the books I’d read had been more Spectacular, but for the most part I enjoyed what I picked to read.  I don’t think that 2012 will be an improvement on this year, but I do want to continue to pick my books with purpose.

How was your 2011 reading year? Any favorites? Anything you’re dying to read in 2012?

34 Responses to “Best of Reading for 2011”

  1. I only read The Help this year, too. I was waiting for the hype to die down, I guess, and then the movie came out and I wanted to read it first.

    I listen to very few audiobooks. I am wondering if I should branch out with that a bit more because my reading has been really suffering lately.

    I do really want to read (listen to) Ready Player One. I have heard really good things, but mostly about the audio…

  2. Les

    I’m sad to say that 2011 was not a year of bests—I was much too distracted to focus on reading and when I do have some time here and there to pick up a book, I usually fall asleep within five minutes. Ha!


    I also agree with you about The Help, but not so much The History of Love. I gave up after reading over 100 pages.

    You sure read a lot of audio books. I think my numbers are up on this, too. I can’t wait to read/listen to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks!

    I doubt I’ll finish any books before the 31st, so I should probably get cracking on my 2011 list. Hmmm, maybe I should write my final reviews first…

  3. I enjoyed The Painted Veil when I read it a few years ago. I’m still trying to narrow down my best reads of the year; I read a lot of great historical fiction. The Help is on my list of must reads for 2012.

  4. I felt the same way about Ready Player One – it was outside of my comfort zone, but I loved it. I’ve got Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on my nightstand.

  5. Meg

    I remember seeing your review of Into the Wild and immediately reading up on the backstory — added to my wishlist, and hope I can get an audio copy soon!

    I’ve definitely gotten into audiobooks this year and feel sort of “naked” if I’m driving without one. Even though I don’t usually feel as though I’m in the car that much, I still manage to devour audios pretty quickly with just my work commute and errands-running.

  6. For having a limited reading year, you fit in some great books! I love both The History of Love and Looking for Alaska. I also thought Into the Wild was just fascinating. I just finished The Knife of Never Letting Go and felt a bit disappointed too. I actually think the other books in the trilogy are better, but I didn’t love it.

  7. What a great list! I have been meaning to read The Painted Veil for some time–thanks for reminding me. I’ll definitely get to it in 2012.

    We have the same mugs, btw. KINDRED SPIRITS for sure. :)

  8. The number of books you read is pretty amazing considering all the other things you had going on this year;-)

    So glad you’ve embraced the world of audiobooks! The History of Love is one of my all-time favorites, so when you’re in the mood for a reread that might be the way to go.

    I loved all of the other books you listed for most beautifully written, so should probably investigate Looking for Alaska.

  9. HI Trish,
    Thanks for visiting and entering my crocheted doiughnut contest.

    This was a banner year for audio books for me. I listened to about 24 and have another going now. They are so darned convenient.

  10. *Kailana – Sometimes audio doesn’t work for me but I’m learning. Has been a blessing this year when picking up a book is at the bottom of my list.

    *Les – The History of Love is one of those that could go either way and it wasn’t until the end that I fell in love. Hope you enjoy Henrietta Lacks. I found it fascinating!

    *Diane – Yes, pick up the Tillman book! So beautiful.

    *Amanda – Yup, look forward to more Maugham!

    *Anna – I hope you enjoy The Help! I really loved it but would be interested in hearing what you thought reading it after hearing the controversy.

    *Rhapsody – Bah!! Series = Bah.

    *Bermuda – I hope you like Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Seems people go either way.

    *Meg – Yes!! Definitely need to listen to Into the Wild!! And I know what you mean about naked without audiobooks, though sometimes I do miss just listening to the radio.

    *Melissa – Did you read the whole Walking Chaos trilogy back to back? I haven’t continued on yet…

    *Cath – Whatever you do, don’t take Painted Veil into the tub with you! ;)

    *Andi – Go–go now and read The Help!

    *JoAnn – And EL&IC still isn’t doing it for you, huh? I found it to be really similar to The History of Love in style. Looking for Alaska deals with a lot of teen themes but I really enjoyed it.

    *Heather – 24 audiobooks is fantastic! I hope to listen to more next year as well. :)

  11. Oh Trish. This: “It was a tough read, but it was beautiful, snuck up on me, and hit me hard.” Wow, how you’ve made me want to give this one a try.

    I haven’t made a favorites list or anything, but the two books that pop immediately to mind are A Monster Calls and Two Weeks With the Queen. I know you weren’t thrilled with The Knife of Never Letting Go, but Trish, you should give A Monster Calls a try sometime. It’s very different from the Chaos Walking books. Such a beautiful little book.

  12. Real nice to see your overview, Trish! And I can imagine it’s hard to focus on fiction when life itself is being so wonderful!

    It’s good to hear Nicole Krauss’es book gets a positive ‘review’ ’cause it’s on my wishlist. I read The Help too this year, and liked it, so I’m throwing Looking For Alaska (which I hadn’t heard of yet) with the others on the Future Reads Pile.

    Must admit I’m a bit curious about the Jon Krakauer book as well. But I already saw the movie and although I know Sean Penn changed the story a lot, there’s so much on Mt TBR already that I’ll pass on this one. Thankfully I already read Extremely Loud, so I won’t need to add that one either! :)

    I’m also thrilled to hear that Bryson is a new fav author as I have Walking in the Woods (paper) and something Thunderbolt Kid (audio) waiting for me.

    Now I must sayI’m rather surprised so many people put Before I go To Sleep on their Most Unputdownable list.. I liked it, but not *that* much (rated 3/5 stars).

    Well, I’m sorry to take up so much comment space — eeks! :-o I won’t be compiling a 2011 list until the year is over but I hope you’ll feel free to critisize my list once it’s up. ;)

    Wishing you a great time for the holidays — the first with your little princess!

  13. The History of Love is sooo beautiful! It’s hard to read but incredibly rewarding indeed.

    And What mothers do is a gift for every mother-to-be: it really helps to cope with that difficult time of the first few weeks after the birth when suddenly we’re almost abandoned and emotions fly around like a tornado.

  14. I feel bad that I haven’t read any of these books. I find it very difficult to do best-of lists. Yours looks great though.

  15. *Natalie – I LOVE that your husband listened to the last portion of The Help with you. I tried and tried to get mine to listen but he wouldn’t have it. ;)

    *Trisha – I think you could go either way with The Help, but I hope you like it.

    *Debi – Does that mean that A Monster Calls isn’t part of the trilogy? Ok, I’ll give it a try. I haven’t heard of Two Weeks With the Queen!! Eeep!

    *Gnoegnoe – Ha! Don’t apologize for the comment–I LOVE long rambling comments. :) I really hope you like The History of Love–it feels very similar in style to Extermely Loud. I think I have Walk in the Woods by Bryson as well. And in terms of Before I Go to Sleep–I listened. My friend read it and said she thought it was poorly written but the audio was great. Hmmm…. Merry Christmas to you, dear.

    *Larissa – Absolutely agree about What Mothers Do. Now if I can only find time to finish it! ;) Even months after my daughter’s birth I’m finding it helpful.

    *Violet – I think you’d like some of these books! Particularly The Namesake and The Painted Veil. Both beautiful literary fiction books.

  16. I enjoyed reading your post, Trish! I need to do a wrap up post about the books I read this year soon… Sad to say, I haven’t been reading many books this year, but I’m thinking as long as we haven’t given up on reading, then all is good! :P

  17. I am glad you have been converted to audio books. One of my favorites this year was Catch me if you Can. The reader was great.

  18. You may not read a ton of books but all of them this year were BIG ones! I loved History of Love this year, too.

  19. First of all the pictures you have taken of your books are so great. So pretty to look at.

    I would have to say that 2011 was my year for classics. I think I read 4. Which is a lot for me. Some I really loved, others not so much.

    It looks like we read a couple of the same books this last year. :)

  20. *Melody – With all the changes you’ve had this year, it’s OK not to read as much. Soemtimes a little break is good?

    *Laura H – Yes, audiobooks have been a huge godsend this year! Sometimes I enjoy them more than actually reading! (shhhhh…don’t tell). I read Catch me if you Can a few years ago–bet it would be great on audio!!

    *Care – History of Love was great, wasn’t it? So glad that I read it this year!

    *Teresa – I’m not sure if this Nancy Tillman is new or not but the illustrations are just gorgeous!

    *Michelle – I know you read Jane Eyre this year…which other classics did you read? I’d like to read more classics but read too slowly these days. Maybe on audio!

    *Stacybuckeye – Maybe once a little time passes after seeing The Help you can read the book. It was really great!

    *Marce – The characters in The Help really are fantastic. I enjoyed the movie, too. Thanks for visiting!

  21. ok, been saving this forever! I finally have answered all these and am posing it tomorrow. It’s not so lovely as yours with all the pictures tho.

  22. Every time I see a commercial for EL&IC, I think of you! I hope the movie doesn’t disappoint you. I have my husband reading Ready Player One – he’s been smirking a lot. Hmmm

    And, yay! You included your audio listens on this post! :) I remember telling you that it takes quite some time to “learn-to-listen” but well worth the effort. I’m so glad you are enjoying them so much now! They have been my saving grace for exposing myself to books. Without them (especially this year), I would have missed out on so many books!

  23. Trish, I read Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, and A Christmas Carol. I found that I really enjoyed Dickens and plan to read A Tale of Two Cities this year. I am not sure that I really have much desire to read many more from Jane Austen. Not sure why, perhaps time limitations. But, never say never!!

  24. *Lisa – Wait–need to go back to Google Reader as apparently I missed your answers!

    *Lu – Yes, I’m still curious about your beef with Krakauer. ;) Wish I liked Knife of Never Letting Go. Too much hype I guess?

    *Joy – Honestly I’m not sure if I’ll see the EL&IC movie–can’t imagine how it will translate to the big screen. Just need to experience them as two separate things, I guess. And yes, I’m so grateful for the audiobooks. I still have struggles and still have moments when I come to terms with missing a chunk of the story because I’ve accidentally tuned out, but it’s getting better!

    *Michelle – Jane Austen isn’t one of my favorites. I enjoy her books but am never in a big hurry to get to them.