My Favourite Books of 2011

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I’ve starting to feel Christmassy and am getting ready to head back to my parents’ house for a week or so. I’m looking forward to doing some baking, going for walks, reading, watching films and just relaxing. I like the cosiness of Christmas and the feeling of making a fresh start at New Year, writing my plans in a new diary and making resolutions.

But first, I want to look back at my year in reading. I think it was at the beginning of this year that I first discovered the world of book blogs, when I was looking on the internet for reviews of a book I’d just read. Since starting to follow several book blogs and then setting up my own, I’ve ended up reading far more than I did previously – well, since I finished my English degree anyway… However, it wasn’t particularly difficult to choose my ten favourite books of the year (and most of them I’ve already written about on the blog, which proves that I’m more inclined to review a book when I love it!).

So, in no particular order, here are the books I’ve enjoyed reading the most in 2011…

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: I’ve just finished reading this book for Erin’s readalong and I absolutely loved it. I’m sure I’ll need to re-read it fairly soon, for its atmosphere, beautiful writing, and fascinating setting in the austere and puritanical environment of the early American settlers. There is also so much mystery in its pages I certainly need a second reading to think about it all.
  • The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig: This was my first book by Stefan Zweig and I immediately felt a connection with his writing. This novel was very moving and compelling.
  • Time Will Darken It by William Maxwell: William Maxwell was another new author I discovered this year. So Long, See You Tomorrow and The Chateau were both excellent too.
  • The Easter Parade by Richard Yates: In January I became hooked on Richard Yates and couldn’t resist reading five of his books in the space of about a fortnight. I’m surprised I could do that and still appreciate him just as much at the end. The Easter Parade is my favourite of his novels, although one of the most melancholy. There could have been several more RY books in the top ten (especially Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and Young Hearts Crying) but I’ve decided to limit myself to one book per author!
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: The only new novel in my top 10! This is a book I’ve seen a lot of discussion about this year. I liked how modern it felt and the way I could easily relate to the characters.
  • Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir: This memoir took me to another time and place, as well as inside the mind of an interesting and inspiring writer.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins: This novel describes a marriage and love affair in a very witty and realistic manner and contains some memorable characters.
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers: Another new discovery who’s become one of my favourites. I liked her evocation of loneliness, the small-town setting, and the way in which four main characters with very different voices were brought together in the novel.
  • Paradoxical Undressing by Kristin Hersh: This is easily the funniest book in my top 10 and also made me think a lot about creativity, performing and mental illness.
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom: I chose this just because it’s a very moving collection of short stories about relationships.

What is your favourite of all the books you’ve read this year?

  1. Nymeth said:

    As you know, I’m completely with you on The Marriage Plot! I haven’t read many of the others, but The Tortoise and the Hare sounds particularly good.

    • Sarah said:

      Yes, The Tortoise and the Hare is great, and I’ve found out that Elizabeth Jenkins wrote several other novels so I’d like to give them a try. I’m now reading Westwood because of your post and am liking it – I’m only a few chapters in but there are already some amusing characters! Oh and happy new year! Hope you’re having a good 2012 so far.

  2. How that I miss your list?
    I have a few very high up on my pile. The Marriage Plot and I want to read Richard Yates soon.
    I had another William Maxwell on my End Year List, So Long, See You Tomorrow.
    Paradoxical Undressing sounds interesting.

    • Sarah said:

      I really like William Maxwell and I need to find more of his books. I still have three of his novels left to read, which is nice! I’ve heard that They Came Like Swallows is good. Hope you enjoy The Marriage Plot and Richard Yates.

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