This is the time of year everyone is doing their year-end lists (well, maybe I’m a little late but whatever). I was looking back on my 2011 and realized that with all the change in my life last year, one thing that stayed constant was my love of reading. For me, there are great movies and great TV shows, but none of those can hold a candle to a great book.
So here are the 30 books I read in 2011. I know this because I use Goodreads and gave myself a 30-book goal for 2011. Just barely made it, too, finishing ‘Ender’s Game’ on Dec. 30.
I can’t say enough good things about this book, one of the best I’ve read in years. It’s the story of a company in the jungles of Vietnam during the war, written by combat veteran Karl Marlantes, and after reading it I feel like I understand that war so much more than I did before. What really sets the audiobook apart is the narrator, Bronson Pinchot (yes, from ‘Perfect Strangers’). He brings every character to life, to a point that it’s easy to forget it’s just one man. I rarely lose myself listening to a book the way I did with this one. Click here to buy
Stealing the General
Another audiobook narrated by Bronson Pinchot, this is the account of the Andrews Raid that happened just a few miles from my house. I’m sorry to say I didn’t know much about this bit of Civil War history before listening to this book. All I knew was that some Yankees stole a Confederate train and unsuccessfully tried to drive it north. But there’s so much more to the story. Your heart breaks for the doomed raiders, but there are no villains in this book. Just men on each side doing what they thought was right for their country. Click here to buy
The most fun I had reading a book all year. A sharp satire of beauty-obsessed culture, it follows the adventures of a group of teen beauty pageant contestants whose plane crashes on what appears to be a deserted island and are presumed dead. Meanwhile, “The Corporation” — which owns the pageant and pretty much every other company — tries to find a way to profit from the crash. Author Libba Bray makes great use of footnotes and interstitials to add to the absurdity of the story. Click here to buy
The last book I read in 2011 was also one of my favorites. Orson Scott Card’s futuristic classic about a young boy who is plucked from his home to save the world was almost like a sci-fi Harry Potter. It’s set in a dystopian future Earth, so of course I was bound to love it. The ages of the kids threw me a bit — I kept imagining my 6-year-old nephew being taken into space to learn to be a soldier — so I had to keep reminding myself that these kids were chosen because they were not typical kids. Apparently this is the first in a series of Ender stories, and I’ll definitely be reading more. Click here to buy
A Prayer for Owen Meany
I’m not sure why I originally picked this up, but man was it good. Owen Meany is a tiny boy with a squeaky voice who accidentally kills his best friend’s mother and believes he is an instrument of God. So to say Owen is odd is an understatement. The book follows his adventures through childhood and into the Vietnam War. John Irving tells a captivating story about faith, friendship and destiny with humor and sadness. Owen was a character who stuck with me and for days after finishing the book, I found myself thinking about it. Click here to buy
And the rest
The other 25 books I read this year unexpectedly delighted me (“Packing For Mars”), wrapped up a favorite series (“Mockingjay”), made me laugh (“Reaper Man”), made me cry (“One Day”), shocked me (“A Game of Thrones”) and totally disappointed me (“Swamplandia!”). Plus, for the first time I ever, I read a celebrity memoir — three actually, and all by funny women. Here they all are, in the order I read them: