The Best Books of 2011

The last couple of years I hadn’t been reading very much.  Here and there I’d start a new book, but it would take me forever to read it and I usually just watched movies instead.  For 2011 I was determined to read more.  I vowed to read 2 books a month, and I ended up reading 28.  I enjoyed all of them, but here are the creme de la creme of books I read this past year.

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Based on the historical legend that a woman disguised herself as a man and became one of the most influential popes of the Vatican’s history.  Pope Joan is both a historical drama, suspense novel, and romance.  As a young girl, Joan learned to read and write, an education forbidden to women in 800 AD.  The author definitely did her research finding the few facts we know about Pope Joan.  Of course, the Vatican denies her existence, but because of this, the story of Pope Joan is all the more intriguing.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This book was a complete surprise for how raw and open the author was in this memoir of growing up.  The book begins with her in a cab watching her own mother pick through a dumpster.  Now that’s a scene that will evoke emotion in a reader.  The Glass Castle is really about a family, their ups and downs, the realities and the truest form of magic that exists in Walls’ phenomenal storytelling.  A must read for any author considering writing a memoir.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This might have been my favorite book of 2011.  I am both immensely impressed with the amount of research this author did on early circuses and her story in general.  She was haled by critics for her ability to write an elderly character’s voice and her characters created for the traveling circus were priceless.  Water for Elephants is a romance and a tale of finding oneself.  It sets you in a world of mystery and hard work.  It inspired a road trip to the Circus World Museum, a place where Gruen began some of her research!  This was a book I could not put down!

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I read this book in my book club and we had such a fun time discussing the themes of spirits, witches, and magic.  The synopsis of this book, which was inspired by the author’s doctorate research, is a graduate student who discovers an ancestor’s physick book, or medicine book, or book of magic.  As Connie uncovers more about her own family, she’ll learn more than she wants to about the powers within it, but she has to do so before her professor takes matters into his own hands.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I guess I like books with stories behind the stories.  I love looking into how the author’s do their research, and for Stockett, she began this book after September 11th.  She needed to hear a voice that was comforting again, and the voice she thought of was the maid that raised her when she was young.  Thinking about what life must have been like for her is the premise for the story of The Help.  Set early in the civil rights movement, The Help takes on a variety of voices, from the soft spoken and ethical Aibileen, to the no holds barred Minny, and the idealistic, coming of age Skeeter.  Everyone I know who’s read this book has loved it.  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Um.  Ok, The Hunger Games.  They ruled.  What more do you want me to say?  The movie comes out in March and I’ll be there.  I’m Team Gale.  I do not condone the growing trend of naming your kids Bella or Katniss.  But I Love These Books.

The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund

I had read Jody’s blog before, but not her books.  I won this title in a contest and I couldn’t put it down!  I would’ve never pegged myself as a christian historical romance reader, but I was swooning by page three over Eli Ernest, the rough rider doctor who sets foot towards the new west crossing the Oregon Trail.  And Priscilla White is no weakling, prairie marm.  She may have lots to learn, but she will prove herself to be a tough and strong-willed companion.  I can’t wait to read to Jody’s first book, The Preacher’s Bride this year!

There you have it!  My favorite reads from 2011.  What books were your favorite?  What’s next on your “to read” list?

By the way, the winner of my Life List Club blog post and receiver of an I-Tunes Gift Card and chance to guest post or interview here is Marcy Kennedy!   Congratulations, Marcy, be contacting you soon!

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12 responses

  1. Oh wow–you know I was obsessed with Hunger Games. Seems we all were this year. GLASS CASTLE and HELP–love! Can you believe I haven’t read WATER FOR ELEPHANTS!?

    1. WHAT?! I know you have an infant in your house, but you need to read Water for Elephants already, Nina!

  2. The Help is on my to-read list!

    1. Did you see the film yet? One of the best adaptations ever, probably cause the author worked very closely with a friend of hers on this project. You’ll love the book!

  3. So many great books that I need to check out! Out of this list, I think Hunger Games is on top….don’t hit me; I haven’t read it yet!

    1. You are going to find them fabooolous! But remember you can’t name any of your future children Katniss, or Elena, or Cassie for that matter. Or Damon or Stefan. LOL

  4. What great reviews! You are excellent at writing reviews. I have to say the because writing reviews is harder than it seems, I think.
    My favorite books of the year were probably 1000 Gifts (non-fiction) and Watchmen (graphic novel).

    1. Was Watchmen made into a movie? If it’s the one I’m thinking of, I hated it. I bet the graphic novel was WAY better! I want to check out 1000 Gifts, what kind of book is it?

      1. 1000 books is a memoir of sort about thankfulness. It really helped me change the way I saw my life. Highly recommended.

  5. I’ll choose one Fiction and one Nonfiction: my favorites were A Reliable Wife (Robert Goolrick) and The Lost City Of Z (David Grann). Looking forward to lots more good reads in 2012, and of course, your recommendations!

    1. Well YOUR book is on the list for 2012! Looking forward to reading it!

  6. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes | Reply

    I will check some of these out because I’m having that problem where I’ve read too many amazing books in a row and everything seems lackluster now. Although I just started The Preacher’s Bride and I think it’s going to be good!

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