Best Books of 2011

2011 was an incredible reading journey. My daily commute gave me ample time to read and I have spent every possible minute with my head in a book. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to read so many amazing books and I’ve tried to take away something useful from each and every one of them, even the ones I didn’t like that much. Writing reviews has helped me keep track of them and also to realize what genres I’m most attracted to. This year I managed to read 60 books, two of them not reviewed (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King – this last one I’ve read in 2010 and the next year I just browsed through it so I don’t consider it as “read in 2011”).

Here’s a list of my favorites:

The most beautiful love story: The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson
Favorite classic: The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
A book that made me cry: Little Bee – Chris Cleave
The best opening line and also the best book of the year: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The best book that is part of a series: Farundell – L.R. Fredericks (review & author interview) (I can’t wait for the next one, it comes out this year!)
The best story: Drood – Dan Simmons Part I and Part II
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver Part I and Part II
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
Sorry, I couldn’t pick just one.

Best short story collection: Haunts – Reliquaries of the Dead, edited by Stephen Jones
The shortest book: The Woman in Black – Susan Hill (160 pages)
The longest books: Drood, by Dan Simmons (976 pages) and The Passage – Justin Cronin (963 pages)

Other books that left a lasting impression:

Under The Dome – Stephen King
Burmese Days – George Orwell
Man and Wife – Tony Parsons
The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales
The Kill – Émile Zola
The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
Letters from Thailand – Botan (Supa Sirisingh)

I’m definitely a fan of Gothic stories, contemporary or classic. Ghosts, haunted houses, mysteries, noises in the dark, if a book has at least one of these, I want to read it. Chick lit books are not really my type. I’ve read a couple of them last year – they’re ok but not something I’d feel compelled to read. YA books don’t really appeal to me but I won’t say no if one comes my way. It’s just not something that I would buy.
Drood gave me an appetite for more of Charles Dickens’s stories and also Dan Simmons’. The Woman in White made me curious to try more books by Wilkie Collins. Vampire books are also high on my list and I won’t say no to love stories either.

The first book I bought in 2012 was Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris. I’ve wanted to read at least one of her books, ever since I watched the movie Chocolat. Burmese Days, by George Orwell and Secret Histories – Finding Geroge Orwell in a Burmese Teashop, by Emma Larkin, made me add Burma to the list of countries I want to visit.
Letters from Thailand resonated with me because I’ve been living in Bangkok for quite a few years and I could identify with the main character in many aspects. A good book for anyone who likes immigrant stories and is interested in Thai/Chinese culture.

I look forward to a new year of reading – if it’s at least as good as 2011 that would be great!
Have you read any of the books mentioned here? What was your favorite book of 2011?

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24 Responses to Best Books of 2011

  1. Caroline says:

    This is amazing. I have either read or bought most of the books on your list. Apart from The Woman in Black I haven’t read any of them though. I like Gothic fiction and ghost stories a lot that’s why I always sign up for Carl’s challenges, they are great. Did you participate?
    I have never heard of Farundell before.

    • Delia says:

      Hey, that’s great Caroline, we like the same books!
      Did you know the Woman in Black has been made into a movie starring none other than Harry Potter all grown up? 🙂 I can’t wait to watch it.
      Carl’s challenges? Doesn’t ring a bell…I’d love to have a look, can you post a link?
      I haven’t heard of Farundell either, until I saw the book in a bookstore. It’s an interesting story about a house inhabited by some unusual people – the first book was good and the second promises to be even better. There’s a certain quality to the writing, a smoothness and also an abruptness that’s almost shocking and still, they go very well together.

  2. Graham says:

    I love The Woman in White, and I’m keen to try The Poisonwood Bible.

    • Delia says:

      I’m glad to hear that, Graham. ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ is an incredible story – I’d like to read your review if you decide to write one. I also got ‘Pigs in Heaven’ (which I’ll have to read this month because I have to return it) and ‘Prodigal Summer’ by the same author.

  3. Vishy says:

    Wonderful post, Delia! It was nice to know about your favourite reads in 2011. I remember reading your review of ‘Little Bee’ and liking it very much. Nice to know that you liked Dan Simmons’ ‘Drood’. He seems to be quite a versatile writer. I have a book of his called ‘Ilium’ which is about what happens when ‘The Iliad’ get played out among aliens in Mars. I have read only ‘The Woman in White’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Shantaram’ from your favourites list. Congratulations on a wonderful reading year! Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2012 too and discover some wonderful writers and books!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      I want to try more books by Dan Simmons but I wasn’t sure which one to choose next. Aliens are not really high on the list of my favorite characters….
      Apparently the story in ‘Shantaram’ is to be continued, though I don’t know when that book will come out.
      Thanks, I hope the same.

  4. M-----l says:

    I haven’t read The Woman in White, but I read and enjoyed The Moonstone last month.

    I bought a copy of Drood a couple years ago, but never got around to reading it. I read The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Dickens instead. I really liked that one even though the author never finished it. Despite the fact that I liked it, it sort of killed my interest in the Dan Simmons book. I’m not sure why.

    What did you think of The Passage? (Oh wait, there’s a link. I’ll go read that to find out.) I was very disappointed with that book. I considered it one of my duds of 2010.

    Ooh, I see you’re currently reading the new Stephen King. So am I. I’m on page 102.

    • Delia says:

      That’s good to know because I’d like to read ‘The Moonstone’ this year.
      I can understand why you lost interest in ‘Drood’ after reading Dickens’ story. I don’t know how similar they are but maybe you feel like the novelty has been spoiled. Maybe you’ll pick it up some day. It’s definitely worth reading.

      I thought ‘The Passage’ was quite good, until I got close to the end and I realized it’s not actually the end. Then I was disappointed. I read an interview with the author in which he was saying that the second book will pick up the story of another group of people dealing with the same challenges at the same time the action in the first book was taking place. Bah, I wasn’t interested in THAT, I wanted to see what happened NEXT!

      Yes, I’ve wanted to read King’s book ever since it came out – I like it so far, I have to admit the details about American culture are difficult to keep track of but interesting nevertheless. I’m a bit disappointed that there is no horror element in this one, but maybe he’ll make it up for it with the next book. One can only hope. 🙂

  5. Jenners says:

    Great wrap-up! Being able to read is a blessing to make your commute seem shorter, I’m sure!

    • Delia says:

      Thanks, Jen!
      Yes, I try not to complain too much about it, I’ve discovered so many good books this year! And nearly missed my stop a couple of times because of that. 🙂

  6. Lan Chan says:

    Our tastes in books could not be more different Delia! I would run a mile at the mention of a ghost. 60 books is a fantastic effort. I don’t think I read nearly that many. I get driven to work so it’s hard (and rude!) to read on the commute. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has been on my list of books to read for a long time now but I just keep putting it off for some reason. I’ll need to read it before the movie comes out though. Good luck your our reading goals for 2012.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Lan,
      Between the pages of a book, that’s how I like my ghosts. 🙂
      It’s very likely that I wouldn’t have read that many books if I didn’t spend so much time on the road.
      I’m curious to see if the movie is as disturbing as the book. Better hurry and read the book.
      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  7. I’m enjoying the types of categories bloggers are coming up with nearly as much as the actual books they choose! Love your categories … particularly “best opening line”. I loved Poisonwood Bible. And I love Orwell, as I think we’ve discussed before. Anyhow, all the best for 2012 … see you round the traps.

    Oh, and I envy you your commute … I need some forced time for reading like that. When my kids were growing up it used to be during their music lessons … instead of dropping them off, going home and then picking them up, I’d stay and read. (After all, all that driving is bad for the environment, isn’t it?)

    • Delia says:

      I just couldn’t pass up on ‘Fahrenheit 451’ – that first sentence was love at first word. I still think it’s the best opening line I’ve come across so far, because if you don’t know what the book is about it can be interpreted in more than one way.
      Barbara Kingsolver and George Orwell are two authors I plan to read more of this year.

      Carrying a book around can be a blessing, especially when you have to wait somewhere. You definitely have an eco-friendly attitude. 🙂

  8. Kathleen says:

    Sounds like you had a great reading year in 2011. I wish I could take the train to work instead of having to drive my car. I would love to have the time to read during my commute. I’ve tried audiobooks but I just don’t seem to like them very much! I love Fahrenheit 451 also and am glad to hear you are also a fan. Thanks again for visiting me at my blog.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Kathleen,
      I wish I could do that too, instead of changing several means of transportation.
      I’ve never tried an audiobook, but the paper version is just fine. 🙂
      It’s good to see other people love Fahrenheit 451, too!
      Thanks for dropping by.

  9. Hotly Spiced says:

    Awesome Delia. Congrats on reading 60 books. Great achievement.

  10. Carl V. says:

    I am a fan of gothic fiction as well and I have a really close friend who has been bugging me to read Drood for a few years now. I see that the challenge I host (R.I.P.) was mentioned. It takes place every Sept-Oct and is a celebration of gothic and other types of scary fiction, film and television. It would be wonderful if you joined in with us this year. Now that I see the page count on The Woman in Black I am kicking myself that I didn’t go ahead and try to get it read this past year. It was on my short list. Looking forward to the film adaptation, looks sufficiently creepy.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Carl,
      You should definitely read Drood, it’s an amazing book. I cannot praise it highly enough.
      I look forward to joining the Gothic challenge in September.
      The Woman in Black is one scary book, I’m very curious to see how the movie came out and if it follows the book down to the very (creepy) end. You still have time to read it. 🙂

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