5 Books I’ve Read plus 5 Books I’m gonna Read.

Hold on a second.  I absolutely cannot relax in unnatural fibres.  Hold on.

long pauseeeeeeeeeeeeee

O.K.  I just changed my sweater.  Holy crap, I haven’t worn acrylic since 1982.  I think it’s quite possible the sun is made entirely out of acrylic.  If I’m hot I can’t relax, and if I can’t relax I can’t write.  Writing’s not unlike pooping.  Any little thing can throw you right off.   And today, I’m writing about reading, so if I were hot I might get irritated and confused and read about writing which would leave you folks with a blank post.  Although after rereading my first few sentences here, reading a couple of chapters on how to write might not do me any harm.

My mother tells me I could read by the age of 4.   I’ve been reading everything that’s got in my way ever since.  (except chicken banning by-laws)  There are very few things in life that give me as much pleasure as a night table filled with a stack of books waiting to be read.  Conversely, nothing gets me more anxious and agitated than nearing the end of a book with no remaining stack in sight.  (except maybe an acrylic sweater)

The way some of you are always in a fit over what to have for dinner, I’m always in a fit over what to read.  So … I figured you too might be in need of some book inspiration.  So I have for you today a list of my 5 favourite books from the past year and 5 books I’m looking forward to reading this year.

I’ve included synopses from either the Chapters or Amazon online site so you get a basic idea of what the book is about.  Plagiarism in a post about reading and writing, is my gift to you.

 

Last Year

 

Blood, Bones and Butter  (non-fiction)

The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef

 

 

Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a prickly marriage that nonetheless yields lasting dividends. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.
synopsis from chapters.ca

The Help

 

by Kathryn Stockett

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who”s always taken orders quietly, but lately she”s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She”s full of ambition, but without a husband, she”s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town…

synopsis from chapters.ca

Boy’s Life

by Robert McCammon

 

Robert McCammon delivers “a tour de force of storytelling” (BookPage) in his award-winning masterpiece, a novel of Southern boyhood, growing up in the 1960s, that reaches far beyond that evocative landscape to touch readers universally.

Boy’s Life is a richly imagined, spellbinding portrait of the magical worldview of the young — and of innocence lost.

Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson — a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake — and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a terrible, haunting vision of death. As Cory struggles to understand his father’s pain, his eyes are slowly opened to the forces of good and evil that surround him. From an ancient mystic who can hear the dead and bewitch the living, to a violent clan of moonshiners, Cory must confront the secrets that hide in the shadows of his hometown — for his father’s sanity and his own life hang in the balance….

synopsis from amazon.com

The Lacuna

by Barbra Kingsolver

In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.

Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America’s hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach—the lacuna—between truth and public presumption.

With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist—and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.

 

New York

 

by Edward Rutherfurd

 

Edward Rutherfurd celebrates America’s greatest city in a rich, engrossing saga, weaving together tales of families rich and poor, native-born and immigrant—a cast of fictional and true characters whose fates rise and fall and rise again with the city’s fortunes. From this intimate perspective we see New York’s humble beginnings as a tiny Indian fishing village, the arrival of Dutch and British merchants, the Revolutionary War, the emergence of the city as a great trading and financial center, the convulsions of the Civil War, the excesses of the Gilded Age, the explosion of immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the trials of World War II, the near demise of New York in the 1970s and its roaring rebirth in the 1990s, and the attack on the World Trade Center. A stirring mix of battle, romance, family struggles, and personal triumphs, New York: The Novel gloriously captures the search for freedom and opportunity at the heart of our nation’s history.

Synopsis from amazon.com

 

 

 

This Year 

 

Steve Jobs Bio

by Walter Isaacson

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

synopsis by amazon.com

The Book Thief

 

by Marcus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

synopsis from amazon.com

Little House on the Prairie collection

 by … seriously?  Well O.k.  … if you really don’t know … Laura Ingalls Wilder

Set during the pioneer days of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books chronicle her life growing up on the Western frontier. For the first time in the history of the Little House books, these new editions feature Garth Williams’ interior art in vibrant, full color. Come along for the adventure with this collector’s set of the first fiveLittle House books.

synopsis from amazon.com

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

synopsis from amazon.com

The Night Circus

 by Erin Morgenstern

In this mesmerizing debut, a competition between two magicians becomes a star-crossed love story.

The circus arrives at night, without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within nocturnal black and white striped tents awaits a unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stand awestruck as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and gaze in wonderment at an illusionist performing impossible feats of magic.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is underway – a contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in “a game,” in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

synopsis from chapters.ca

 

 

If I’m being totally honest with you, 2011 wasn’t a good year for me and books.  I started a few I couldn’t finish.  Books I thought I’d love, but clearly didn’t.  Books by Ian McEwan, Jonathan Franzen, and old favourites like John Irving.  I’ll try them again later.  Except maybe the Jonathan Franzen.  I always give a book a second chance.   Except maybe Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.  Years ago, I tried to read Lonesome Dove.  A few times.   I hated that book.  I hated it the first 5 or 6 times I picked it up.  I always got to the same point in Chapter 1 and gave up.  This went on for years.  Then one day … I was in the right mood.  The right frame of mind for that particular book.  That book, that struggle of a book, became my favourite book of all time.

O.K. folks. Your turn. What’s your favourite book from last year?  You can lie to me if you want and just say  your favourite book in general ’cause there’s no way I’ll ever know that you didn’t read it last year.   If I ever find out though, I’ll forever think of you as a liar and banish you to the depths of hell.  Wrapped in acrylic. While reading Freedom by  Jonathan Franzen.

 

187 Comments

  1. Christine says:

    The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
    A Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
    American Gods – Neil Gaiman
    The Warded Man – Peter Brett
    The Desert Spear – Peter Brett
    Ender’s Game (whole series) – Orson Scott Card
    Black Dagger Brotherhood – J.R. Ward (whole series)

    ok I have a three book a week habit:) I read a lot!

  2. Marti says:

    I read the Stieg Larsson’s “Girl W/” series this past year. Twice. Thinking about reading it again. Just for the fun of it.

    Karen, did anyone offer you “Guernsey Island Potato Peel Literary Society” or something like that? I’ve had that on my table for weeks. I’ve read 30-40 pages of it. I just. Can’t. Get. It. yawn. Seen it/tried it/read it?

  3. Rebecca says:

    Loved The Help, but hated The Lacuna. Would like to read Boys Life and New York.

    That Book Thief book was a little piece of torture. Hated it.

    I’ve also had a bad year for books. Just finished Sunset Park by Paul Auster (one of my all-time fave authors) and it stunk. Also hated The Last Concubine.

    I liked Room for the first half or so.

    I’d have to say the two that stick out in my very porous mind are The Help and Sarah’s Key (a wonderful read. Also just read her other book which was pretty good-can’t remember the name and I’ve already lent it out)

    I also get stressed out when I’m nearing the end of a book and have nothing in my bedside stack. Right now I’m reading Half-Blood Blues and enjoying it. Up next are Home Safe and Infidel.

    Oh, I read The Girl with the Pearl Earring which is kinda old, but I really enjoyed it.

    Well, there’s my book report. I’m hoping for a few more can’t put it down kind of books for 2012!

    • Jane says:

      How could you possibly hate Lacuna? It was so interesting!

      • Patti says:

        Yes!

        I read Sarah’s Key and it was really well written – very gripping. By Tatiana de Rosnay, you can find it here:
        http://www.amazon.com/Sarahs-Key-Tatiana-Rosnay/dp/0312370830

        I have heard ALL this GREAT stuff about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and so, I started it. I finished it, but I’m not sold. I’ve started the second of the series, but I’m kind of going.. “is it really worth it?” Thoughts? Anyone?

        The Help is awesome. Really loved it. Waiting to see the movie with my girlfriends.Booyeah.

        Favourite book of all time – Glass Castle. Yup. Read it.

        • Kim Steinmetz says:

          I hope you kept going. I read the whole trio (Steig Larsson). I recommended them to my friend…she, too stalled on the second — I convinced her to keep going and she loved the rest and the third! I think you will too.

  4. Erin Q. says:

    I heartily recommend The Hunger Games and The Book Thief. I think I actually liked I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak even more than the Book Thief, so I’d recommend that.

    Read and Loved this Year:
    People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
    The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
    The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaeffer and Annie Barrows (re-read)
    The Help
    The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

  5. Renee says:

    Yes, read The Hunger Games first so you see it before the movie comes out. I have not yet met a woman that read it and didn’t love it, and I have met at least 10 women (whose normal book fare varied from Shakespeare to Sci Fi) that read it and then read the next in the series immediately!

  6. Ann says:

    Ms Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

    The Help

    Til I Find You by John Irving

    Poisenwood Bible-Barbara Kingsolver

    Sarah’s Key by Tatiana Rosenay-

    • Karen says:

      Ann – Sarah’s Key is on my Chapters wish list. ~ karen

      • Dotti says:

        I loved Sarah’s Key – tragic, yet so well written and compelling.

        I loved The Help and can’t believe I haven’t seen the movie yet.

        Thanks for sharing, some of these look awesome. The last two years I have been sucked into the “can’t put it down, takes me away from work, losing sleep at night” vortex of book series. Stieg Larson did it to me last year and George R.R. Martin did it to me this year (and I’ve never read fantasy before).

        Thanks for the inspiration

    • Gala VanEaton says:

      Ann–I’ve read 3 of your 5 and agree they’re good, so I’ll try your other 2.

  7. Renee says:

    Also, I agree with Christine about the Ender’s Game series. I got a Kindle for Christmas and have already read 4 of the 8 books (1 2 3 and 5), they are so good!

    Thanks for all of the ideas. My Kindle will be busy 🙂

    • sarah says:

      The Sisters Brothers by Patrick De Witt.

      Set in the gold rush of America with beautifully crafted characters. Quite brutal but with tenderness too, it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s
      all the pretty horses trio. I loved it.

  8. Erin McLeod says:

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (and the sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay). By far the only books I LOVED in 2011 though I tried many.

    I’ve gone through a phase of attempting to read the ones that have spawned TV shows (because I figure the book must be better – they were not). These include the Sookie Stackhouse novels (Sookie is too stupid for me to read about), The Vampire Diaries (BAD.), Kathy Reichs (which inspired Bones – too gruesome and depressing). Contemplating The Book Thief but currently immersed in “Land of the Painted Caves” by Jean Auel.

    • burbhappy says:

      Bones is nothing like the character in Reichs books – I much prefer the books. Sometimes they can be gruesome. Read The Hunger Games – just didn’t like it. I usually like apocalyptic fiction, but was disappointed that we never learn the premise for the apocalypse because the heroine didn’t pay attention during history class! My irritation was probably influenced by the fact that I work in a high school, where lots of kids pay no attention in class, and then wonder why they can’t pass.

  9. I can get peeved by a book very quickly now, so I can easily take five out of the library and finish only two. Much better luck with biography than fiction, but some of my favorite accessible English authors aren’t available here (Elizabeth Falconer!)

    Best book of all time? A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry. Bury me with it.

    • Karen says:

      Yup. Damn good book. Damn good. ~ karen

    • ET says:

      Absolutely enthralled by the characters in this book. Was in India many years ago, and so many of my impressions of the people there and their plight were made even more real by this book. Read it a few years ago, but may revisit and read again.

      Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible was also deeply moving to me. Had a lot of “religion” in my upbringing and although I experienced no abuse as happened in this book, felt a kinship with the protagonist and her attitude toward so much of the farcical nature of some of her father’s silly ideas.

      Life is hard for so many people.

  10. magali says:

    The Book Thief was good, but there are still very vivid unpleasant images that pop up in my head randomly every now and then.

    In all honesty, my favourite books are and will always be the Harry Potter series. I have a feeling I’ll be judged for this!

  11. Connie (GrandmaC) says:

    My guilty secret reading pleasure was the trashy historical fiction series by Diana Gabaldon called “Outlander”. I loved it because the first two books were set in an area in scotland with strong family connections. My husband first cousins own two castles in scotland and Beaufort castle features prominently in the second book of the series. About 10 years ago the threw a fabulous 60th anniversary for their parents and flew al the Canadian relatives over for 10 days of parties and tours and we saw all of the important sites in the books. Culloden moor, Beaulie, Crieff, Edinborough, Inverness and so many others. My husband is a descendant of Simon Fraser which is why his cousin wante to buy Beaufort

    • Jen H. says:

      Outlander was a great book- have the sequel, but haven’t been able to finish it yet- for whatever reason not as compelling to me as the first. A seriously good guilty pleasure

      • Shauna says:

        I agree. Loved Outlander as a good ‘trashy’ historical fiction (LOVE historical fiction in all ways) and actually made it to or through (can’t remember) the fourth book and then just thought, “why?” “why am I still reading these when there are so many better books out there right now”. So I gave up and moved on to The Help. And, now The Hunger Games. Both fantastic!

    • burbhappy says:

      love this series!

    • Amy says:

      I take great offense at the term “trashy” to describe the Outlander series. Diana Gabaldon is one of the best writers I have read and I have read a lot. She is diligent about her research and the historical facts are always accurate. If she chooses to take liberties she notes them at the end of her books. I have read all 7 of the Outlander books (more than once) plus the Lord John books and am anxiously waiting on book 8. Obviously I would recommend these books for your night stand.

  12. Connie (GrandmaC) says:

    I forgot to mention I am the same way with needing a stack of books-on-deck. One isnt enough- five makes good sense. I’ve had a first edition Kobo for a couple of years and just got the Kobo Vox from my kids for Cbristmas. Love both of them and read about 5 library books a week. Will add your titles to my library wish list . It’s a big plus to be able to borrow books from library over wifi and its so fast.
    .

  13. I’ve been into auto/biographies lately – Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Gonzo (about Hunter S. Thompson – great read!). I tend to read about 3 or 4 books at a time – if their plots are very different, I can keep the stories straight. (Not bragging. I think I have A.D.D. And it takes me forever to get through them). I decided this year to just relax and read one at a time. Currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
    I have never read the Little House series – I grew up watching the TV show, though. I’m thinking to read those this year. 🙂

  14. gloria says:

    Do you ever just stare at the cover of a book for a while not wanting to open it, because you want to keep the anticipation going a little bit longer? I do that with every book I read.
    The Help, loved it. But listened to it on audiobook because I knew that with the accents it would be great that way. I was right.
    Hunger Games, print edition, loved it.
    The Book Thief, audiobook, loved it.
    Have read all of Kingsolver’s but this one, so maybe that goes on my to-read list.
    Try one of Jonathan Foer-Safran’s books, Everything is Illuminated or Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud.
    But, I think one of the nicest surprises I found last year was Alan Bradley and his Flavia DeLuce series which started with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. How I love the girl is these stories.
    And yes, a 1000 times yes, Lonesome Dove. It ranks neck and neck with To Kill A Mockingbird for me.

    • debbieo says:

      I totally agree with you on the Flavia deLuce series. The audio versions are wonderful too. I could read/listen to these again and again.

  15. The Game of Thrones series is phenomenal! But be warned, each book is upwards of 700 pages and once you start you will be up all night reading until you are done – it’s that awesome (or dastardly if you actually have to work or something 🙂

  16. Jan says:

    The Book Thief is great!
    Also Anna Funder’s “Stasiland” and Mark Kurlansky’s “Salt”.

    But one my favourite books of all time? “Colour: journey’s through the paintbox, by Victoria Findley.

    • Jeannine says:

      Oooh, I so agree about “Colour” by Victoria Findley. It absolutly changes your view of the world. Fantastic stories about the sources of the color in our world, now and throughout history.

  17. Max Barry! Anything he writes is always entertaining. My favourite novelist from down unda!

    He’s written:
    Syrup
    Jennifer Government
    Company
    Machine Man

    They’re actually making a movie based on Syrup! Can’t wait!

  18. Lucy says:

    Aaaaaccccchhhhhhh!!! Keep The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on your list! It was one of the best books I read all year and it’s being passed around and around and around to friends and family. Stay with it. Loved The Help…and Lonesome Dove is one of my all-time favorite books. Against my usual practice of not making long-term commitments, I’ve watched the mini-series 3 or 4 times. Another favorite book was The Secret Life of Bees. My lists of have-read and hope-to-read are long. I’m never without a book. Seeing the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has made me want to read that series.

  19. Lucy says:

    PS: Thanks, all, for the recommendations. I’m bookmarking this post for ideas.

  20. Louise says:

    Ahhh! How did you like The Lacuna?? That was my pick for our book club, but others thought it was tooo long! hmp! The book thief is on my library wait list as well as the Night Circus! The hunger games was really good. And i remember reading the Laura Ingalls series as a kid. great list!!!

    • Karen says:

      Louise – I actually wasn’t in love with The Lacuna … I liked it … just didn’t go nuts over it. That’s how bad my book choices were last year! I had to include a book I only thought was O.K. on my top 5, LOL. I agree that it was a bit long. :/ ~ karen

  21. Aimee says:

    My favorite read of 2011 was the entire Song of Ice & Fire series by George R.R. Martin. (The series upon which the HBO series Game of Thrones is based.) It blew me away. Now in my top 3 favorites ever. (The others being The Count of Monte Cristo and the Harry Potter series.)

    Liked The Help a lot, and New York is actually the next book on my stack. I got Lacuna from the library & somehow didn’t manage to read it before returning it. I’ll check it out again. I love Kingsolver.

    The Book Thief is INCREDIBLE. One of my top 5 of the past two years. As is Hunger Games, although I liked the first book in trilogy much more than #2 & 3. I re-read the Little House books every year or so.

    Have you read The Count of Monte Cristo? It’s another annual read for me; my favorite book of all time. (The abridged version, because it’s Dumas, and I must have Dumas abridged.)

    I loved Guernsey Literary (etc.); give it a try!

    Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! My “To read” shelf on GoodReads is going to be beefed up tonight…

  22. Valerie says:

    Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

  23. Linda says:

    It’s virtually impossible for me to choose a favourite book, be it from last year or of all time. I’m such a complete bibliophile that books consume me. My favourite book is whichever one I’m reading at the moment. But I will tell you my most memorable book of 2011. I first read this book in 1994 when it was brand new and had just been published. I was only 13 at the time and it must have left a huge impression. The book was The Hidden Realms by Sharon Green. I’d spent years dreaming about this book and finally took the time to hunt it down again. I was lucky to find a copy but I’ve re-read it three times since November. Another title to add to the collection that will never leave my book shelves again.

  24. I had the same experience with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. The first few times I tried to read it I thought, ‘Who can spend this long picking flowers for a dinner party!’ and got really annoyed by the slow pace of it all. Once I learned to just enjoy the prose, and not look for a story, it too, became one of my all-time favorite books! You just have to be in the mood sometimes. I’m going to try Lonesome Dove next…

  25. Susan says:

    I loved, loved, loved the potato peel book! At first a bit slow but after a awhile I couldn’t put it down. When I read something like that the world disappears and I see nothing, do nothing, and say nothing but read, read, read!! I love it!! I too could read at an early age and have never stopped. I read everything…. When desperate I read the sides of cereal boxes!! Love the suggestions ladies…warming up the iPad as we speak. Although I much prefer the feel of the paper pages, turning an electronic device on and off doesn’t have the same smell or appeal as an old fashioned book. 🙂

  26. Gayla T says:

    I didn’t know Rutheford had a new book out. I fell for him with his “Ireland” and have read everything he’s written. Since Christmas I’ve read all of Patrick Taylor’s series of Irish Country Doctor books and loved them. He’s got another one due out about now. I just finished Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes which is not new but new to me. It rated off the chart on tear factor so don’t even start it w/o a big box of tissue. I’m going on ebay and get her second book tonight, yet. When I read an author that I like I try to read everything they have done up to now. Just a weird habit I’ve developed over the years. The Help was so sad because I married into that culture. This Yankee girl met Southern boy and the sparks flew. It just killed me that someone I loved so much could have such a huge character flaw as being racist but then I went to Alabama and met the family. Right off the bat advised not to speak to the coloreds as it just makes trouble for them. That from the rich uncle who ran the family and it only got worse. I’m happy to report that he did change over the years living in Kansas. Our children just watched the movie and were shocked that their dad came out of that. I took the best the south had to offer, my husband and their cookig. Can you imagine baking bread and never measuring a thing? My MIL and SIL could and were shocked that he married a woman who couldn’t. And still can’t. I weaned him off that stuff very quickly. He actually expected fresh hot biscuits at every meal. That is one time I liked the movie as well as the book. Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve almost run out of books to get me through the winter but I read one of the Miss Julia books and she has a long list of those books for me to run down. They are so funny the dog got out of bed. She couldn’t sleep because I was laughing so hard. The cat sleeps through every thing. It’s after 3 am so I’m going to bed and read myself to sleep.

  27. Robyn says:

    This has come at the perfect time. I walked out of the library with noting the other day simply because I had no clue what I wanted to read. Have already looked online to see which of these books are currently in. Going tmrw to pick some up!
    Thank You!

  28. Gina says:

    Hunger games are wonderful, I agree.
    I think you would also love Alan Bradley books:
    The Sweetness at the Botom of the Pie
    The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bow
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
    all starring a young female sleuth who loves POISON

    One of my favorites last year: Cutting for Stone by Vorhees

    I cannot LIVE without books. I always have a library stash, a bunch on the Kindle, credit at the used bookstore, and shipments from Bookswim(which is like Netflix for book whores). And yet, always wondering about the next book I’m going to read….It’s a sickness…..

  29. Emily says:

    I love that the Little House on the Prairie is on this list! I have vivid memories of my mother reading the series to us on cold winter nights growing up. I’d love to read it again!

    Just finished One Day and hated it, all 400 pages of it. But read all of the Stieg Larssen books and just wished he’d written more!

  30. Jen Heicklen says:

    Where to begin…(these are more than just last year, but remarkable enough to mention)…

    The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood
    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
    Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
    Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (and I am 0 religious)
    Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
    Sunday’s Child (The Pea Island Series) by Tom Lewis

  31. Amy says:

    The Night Circus is on my reading list too. I think you will love The Gum Thief and Hunger Games series. I read them both last year and thoroughly enjoyed them.

  32. Sharon says:

    Loved “The Help” (read it twice), especially the Chocolate pie! I read “Virgin Cures” and loved it as well! Currently reading “The Mistress of Nothing” and “Cold Hard Truth”, yes, I know but I love Kevin O’Leary. He must know something. He has more money than I do!! Patiently waiting is “The Cat’s Table”, “The Book of Negroes” and many others!

    • Karen says:

      Sharon – The Book of Negroes is utterly fantastic. Unbelievably good book. He lives around me and I went to see him speak last year or the year before at a local synagogue. Very interesting. ~ karen

  33. BTLover2 says:

    We have the same affliction: we get the DT’s if we don’t have a stack on the nightstand (or if there isn’t at least 1 book waiting to be read).

    I loved The Book Thief and I have The Night Circus sitting on the nightstand 🙂

    I also enjoyed Lady of the Butterflies, The Lost Wife, To Be Sung Underwater, The Sandalwood Tree and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb (just to name a few).

    Enjoy your next reading session in something soft and comfy!

  34. The Help was my favourite read from last year. But I also loved the Glass Castle. I just bought The Hunger Games, but haven’t started reading it yet. To be honest, was hoping to avoid the hype but my 11 year old son wants to read it and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for him. After that, Cutting for Stone is waiting for me on my bedside table as is the Steve Jobs book.

  35. Stefanie says:

    I’ve had “read 50 books in one year ” on a wish list for several years, I’ve come close, but never made it. Everyone is missing one of my absolute favorite books- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.

  36. Alexandra says:

    Karen! Are you on Goodreads?!? If not, you should be! I would totally follow you.

    Anyway, I’ve got a list of my faves this year:

    The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
    Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
    A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
    Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
    Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

    I’ve read the first two books of the Hunger Games already this year and they’re so awesome. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love them.

  37. Lindsay says:

    I had Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on my book shelf for a few years before I finally started reading it. I heard it was being turned into a movie and that always makes me hurry up and read a book. It was a heavy book but I’m glad I read it. This year I’m reading some classics, halfway through Pride and Prejudice.

  38. Melody Madden says:

    11/22/63 Stephen King
    The Book Thief Markus Zusak
    I Am The Messenger Markus Zsuak
    All of the Stieg Larsson books
    Into Thin Air Jon Krakauer
    Into The Wild Jon Krakauer

  39. Tris says:

    Dude! I was totally chomping at the bit for the last book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel…The Land of Painted Caves. I couldn’t get through it nor could my mother. 🙁 Ah well. My favorite recent read was The Other Queen by Pilippa Gregory. Anything by Jon Hassler or Maeve Binchy are always good destress reads for me. I’ll have to hit my Little House books again too.

  40. Gala VanEaton says:

    I read these two books in 2011 and they will be on my list of all-time favorites, which means they’re beyond good reads. Both are not read quickly but completely worthwhile.
    Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (and up for a Pulitzer)
    The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (found while I was in Chicago in November).
    Both are non-fiction and I’m surprised at myself for loving these “histories” so much. Please enjoy.

  41. LaineyDid says:

    ‘The Paris Wife’. It’s a fabulous read about Hemingway’s first wife and transports you to Paris in the twenties.
    It’s reminiscent of the charming film ‘Midnight in Paris’ when Owen Wilson goes back in time. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend renting it 🙂

  42. joanne says:

    Still Alice, by Lisa Genove
    Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
    Room, by Emma Donoghue
    Strangers at the Feast, by Jennifer Vanderbes
    The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton
    A Thousand White Women, by Jim Fergus

    I agree with recommendations of Sarah’s Key and The Help.

    But I can’t seem to get into either The Lacuna, or The Girl with The ___” series.
    Can’t get into the “Girl with the … ” series…
    Can’t get through Lacuna.. have been trying… and am ready to put it aside.

    Still Alice (a fictional 1st person account of a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early onset Altzheimers. funny, poignant, sad & memorable) — is the book I always recommend and haven’t found anyone who doesn’t like it.

  43. Joanne says:

    Like you, I get a little antsy when I realize that my book supply is getting low. I usually call everyone I know and tell them I’m in need…and they give me tons.
    Have you read anything by Lori Lansens? The Girls and Rush Home Road are both awesome reads.
    The Hunger Games \Trilogy was fantastic. Happy Reading.

  44. Jen A says:

    Have you read “Lamb” by Michael Moore. (not the doucmentary guy, he’s the author guy). If you have and a good sense of humour, it’s ridculously funny.

  45. Jan says:

    West With The Night. A female pilot who flew from Britain, aiming for New York, but landed in a Canadian bog. She was a contemporary of the Out of Africa group. Beautifully written, and must be read yearly.

  46. Amy says:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

  47. Jackie says:

    The Night Circus was my favorite book last year! Its fantastic and beautiful and magical. Highly recommend to everyone.

  48. Patricia says:

    The Hunger Games Trilogy was Ah-mazing!!!! So funndy that you chose this post today. I’ve been harrassing everyone in my office, home, public transit etc to read this book:

    Glass Boys, by Nicole Lundrigan.

    This is the first novel by the Newfoundland native. Very compelling and I warn you highly addictive. Your only regret from reading this book is all the duties and obligations you’ll most likely ignore as you wont be able to put the damn book down once you’ve picked it up!!!

    TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!

  49. jen says:

    I’ve tried to get through The Book Thief for years. I simply cannot do it. LOVED the Hunger Game series, though I have met a few people that just didn’t like it (they seem to be few & far between). I’ve also read The Night Circus and enjoyed it, though it wasn’t my favorite. I’m with you on Freedom. My husband bought me the book after hearing an interview with the author and I just couldn’t stand the writing or the characters or really anything about it.
    Last year I read lots of books that were wonderful – loved Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Into the Whirlwind (about Stalin’s reign of terror).

  50. Liz S. says:

    I’m reading Geek Love right now and just ordered the Night Circus. One of my favorites that I read last year was the Time Traveler.

  51. jane says:

    Last Night I finished Freedom, please give it another chance I think it will be worth your while.

    last year:
    Read the Little House Collection to my kids (8 Girl, 11 Boy and yes my son enjoyed it)

    Cutting for Stone-excellent

  52. Whitney says:

    Oh… The Book Thief. Truly it is my all time favorite book EVER! It sent me on an emotional roller coaster that was completely unimaginable. I cannot say enough good things about it. You will LOVE it. 🙂

  53. arlene says:

    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

  54. Erika says:

    Venetian Masque – Rafael Sabatini
    At Home: A short history of Private Life – Bill Bryson
    Cast In Ruins – Michelle Sagara
    Lover Unleashed – JR Ward
    Snuff – Terry Pratchett
    Ghost Ship – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

    • Erika says:

      At Home is the history of the how the structure of the home/house as we know it today developed from mud huts to current houses, due to societal and technologial changes. Very fascinating.

      Venetian Masque – set in Venice during the period Bonaparte is menacing the world, it is about a half-english half-french nobleman who assumes the identity of a representative of the French Republic and proceeds to run all over Venice posing as a French agent with two identities to the the French, and an English agent to the English and Venetians, all the while playing his own game trying to win the woman he loves from an arranged marriage with a bounder. To complicate matters, there is another French agent who pretends to be his widow, as he was believed guilletined three years prior. It was written in 1800-something, so a bit old fashioned, but if you like that kind of writing, it’s a fantastic book. Not quite threatening to my nomber one book of all time – The Phoenix Guards – but def. in the top five books to be stuck on a desert island with.

  55. Kim says:

    Since you loved Lonesome Dove so much, I wonder if you have read Terms of Endearment? ( surely you have ) After I did so many years ago, I found out that you really should start with Moving On, which was out of publication at the time and I had to check it out at a library. Then I read All My Friends are Going to be Strangers as these three books are part of a series. If you read Terms first, you have missed so much! I love Larry McMurtry.

  56. Karen in Seattle says:

    Karen
    Try these this year:
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
    Anything by Rohinton Mistry
    If you liked The Help, read The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar and discuss.
    The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
    The City of Theives by David Beniof
    The Kitchen House by Katherine Grissom

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all your followers suggestions! Stay warm and safe this winter.

    • Ann says:

      Loved Edgar Sawtelle til the very end. Wasn’t happy to find that no one got any justice at the end. Sad endings are one thing, but I just wanted a tad bit of justice.

      • Robin says:

        I was telling everyone to read Edgar Sawtelle …when I was about have finished with it. Well..when I finished…I felt like throwing it across the room! It was like someone other than the author wrote the ending. I know in real life some things don’t make sense, but this was TOO MUCH!!

        • Karen says:

          Robin – LOL. I forgot about how angry the end made me. Hated it. Loved the majority of the book then HATED the end. ~ karen

    • Liz says:

      Finally someone mentions City of Thieves! Absolutely amazing book.

  57. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Karen, I reread the Little house books last summer while swinging in my hammock. My Grandmother lived in a little sod hut in South Dakota when she was a child.

  58. Bobbi says:

    Cutting for Stone

    All of the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher…not at all like the TV Series of the same name

    Hunger Games trilogy

    Dragon Tattoo trilogy

    The Snowman

  59. Trish Gannon says:

    It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one with a reading addiction.

    Last year was not a good year for books… I’ve read most that have been listed, but prior to last year. (Though I have yet to get through the Book Thief.)

    Two of my most recent ‘great’ books (last five years are so) are not on the lists yet, however, so I’m excited to share them: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. They have it all. Great stories, compelling characters, and a richness of words you can happily drown in.

  60. Sherri says:

    I give any book 50 pages to hook me. If it doesn’t, I pass it on to a friend and let him/her give it a try. Best book ever, imho, is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I never get tired of that one and read it every few years. Close second for me is a book by Stephanie Kallos, BROKEN FOR YOU. It’s filled with quirky characters, wonderful humor and great plot twists. I read I’LL NEVER GET OUT OF THIS WORLD ALIVE by (singer/songwriter) Steve Earl last summer and loved it. I bought this fiction novel because of the cover art and my love for Earle’s music; this is one time when I could judge a book by its cover. I also loved the Hunger Games trilogy and Stieg Larsen’s Girl… series. If you liked reading Larsen, try out another Scandanavian author, Jo Nesbo. I read all of his books that I could get on Kindle, finishing up with his most recent, THE SNOWMAN. You’ll never feel quite the same about snowmen again if you read this one. Please read BOSSYPANTS, by Tina Fey. Each chapter is self-contained so it can be your bathroom book and will make you laugh as you poop. And finally, just discovered author, John Rector. I’ve read his book, COLD KISS and next book on my list is ALREADY GONE. He writes great mystery/suspense/thriller.

    • Karen says:

      Is it necessary to read the other books before The Snowman do you think? ~ karen

      • Sherri says:

        Not necessary, but I read as many of them as I could get on my Kindle (all but one were translated and available!). The only advantage to doing that is to become more familiar with the main character, Detective Harry Hole. I think THE SNOWMAN as a stand alone book does a good job of relating his dappled history so go ahead and start with it. If you like it, you can always go back and read the others. Happy reading!

  61. Another Karen says:

    Funny you would name Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. My ex-husband gave that to me for Christmas. I haven’t even picked it up and now, it seems, I don’t have to.

    What I am reading and I think you’d like *a lot* is Cool, Calm and Contentious by Merrill Markoe. Each chapter is a short story about her life written in a hilarious style. Makes me LOL.

  62. Kristin says:

    I got entirely, completely sucked into The Hunger Games trilogy, and had to read them all immediately. I’d finish one, then go directly to download the next one.

    Right now, I’m reading a completely different genre, “Beyond All Price” by Carolyn Poling Schriber, and loving that, too. It’s from the perspective of Civil War nurse Nellie Chase. Very good.

    My favorite from the past couple years is a classic which I somehow missed. Have you read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith?

    Just realizing that all three of these have strong female characters, and you like Little House, so they should be a good fit.

  63. Pat says:

    What a timely post! As I wrote down my latest read in my book journal, I was glancing back and thinking about my favourite books over the past few years. Actually, some of these I read years ago and they made a real impression. I have many that I really enjoyed but these stand out, not listed in any particular order.

    Cutting for Stone
    The Help
    Three Day Road
    The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
    Peony in Love
    The Book Thief
    The Jade Peony
    Stones From the River
    A Fine Balance

    • Karen says:

      Pat – I’ve read most of those! Great books. I really loved A Fine Balance and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Peony in Love was great too. I’m a sucker for a book with a good foot binding. So fascinating. ~ karen

  64. christine hilton says:

    I am trying to finish the BBC top 100 books this year.I did NOT enjoy Moby Dick.Every page was torture.But it did make me smrter. 🙂

  65. Courtney says:

    Some of my favourites from 2011:

    Divergent by Veronica Roth (if you liked The Hunger Games, you’ll like this)
    Louis Riel by Chester Brown (graphic novel)
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    Shade of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Will read anything he writes – such an imagination!!)

    So far this year I’ve loved Essex County by Jeff Lemire (graphic novel) and Clockwork Prince (book #2 in the Infernal Devices series) by Cassandra Clare.

    The Night Circus is on my nightstand waiting to be read but I’m currently taking a mindless reading break and diving into a new Clive Cussler book.

    Are you on Goodreads? Great way to track your reading and discover new titles.

  66. Octavia says:

    I read the entire hunger games series in less than a week. I couldn’t put them down. They were great. I think you should read them first.

  67. Susie says:

    I love all the Sweet Potato Queen books by Jill Conner Brown. She is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Funny. Have not found any man or woman who could read her books and not LOL a lot!!!! Her first book is The Sweet Potato Queen’s Book of Love, followed by her Big Ass Cookbook and Financial planner, then her Big Ass Novel, then Raising Children for Fun and Profit and others. Her Mississippi humor is great. Check out her website for info on her, books, costumes, parade, etc.

  68. Nicole2 says:

    I loved The Help and Sarah’s Key. Presently reading The Secret Daughter.

    My daughters read The Hunger Games series during the Holidays and loved it.

    Thank you for the recommendations, Karen, it’s always good to get someone else’s feedback before buying a book. Otherwise, you’re standing there at the book store scratching your head. (That’s how I bought Sarah’s Key. I was holding it at Costco and this lady told me it was a great book. That clenched it for me.)

  69. Marsh says:

    Read the Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian and thought it was hysterical. He has the woman’s voiced down perfect. It’s about two old people and their motorhome taking their last trip across American on Route 66. Get it! You’ll love it! I should know, I’m a librarian. 🙂

    • Marsh says:

      Jeez, talk about not proofreading before hitting send… should be woman’s voice and across America. I’m not awake yet, it’s only 10:00.

    • Karen says:

      Marsh – I must admit, that sounds exactly like something I’d love to read. I’m adding it to the Wish List right now! ~ karen

  70. Gina says:

    I still reflect on Those Who Saved Us even though I read it two years ago.
    Loved Sarah’s Key and The Help.
    I have a lot of required reading as I finish my BS for nursing, so I am picky about my recreational reads.

  71. Diane says:

    Hi Karen,
    Here are some titles I pulled from my book journal that I think you’d enjoy. My personal favorite is the Flavia deLuce series by Alan Bradley. The first title is Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia is the best. Also try:
    — Tallgrass (Sandra Dallas)
    — Skeletons at the Feast (Chris Bohjalian)
    — Lottery (Donna Wood)
    — People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)
    — Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (Alexander McCall Smith)… really anything by him is amazingly good!
    — Fair and Tender Ladies (Lee Smith)
    — Out Stealing Horses (Per Petterson)
    — Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Helen Simonson)
    — Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)
    — The Wilder Life (Wendy McClure)… goes along with your Little House theme!
    — Sun Storm (Asa Larsson)

    Sorry so long… and BTW, both the Book Thief and the Guernsey/Potato Peel book got three stars (my highest rating) in my book. Enjoy and thanks, everyone, for the suggestions!

  72. Maureen Miller says:

    I agree with several good reads mentioned. Here are a few others I have read and really loved enough to recommend. . .

    Peace Like a River – by Leif Enger
    Edgar Sawtelle – by David Wroblewski
    City of Thieves (I had the audio) – by David Benioff
    The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes – by Diane Chamberlain
    A Fortune Teller Told me – by Tiziano Terzani
    Daughter of Fortune – by Isabel Allende
    Beneath A Marble Sky – by John Shors
    Prodigal Summer – by Barbara Kingslover

  73. Caroline says:

    Hi Karen ~ these are some of the books I read last year:
    Hunger Games Series
    The Help
    Stieg Larsson Series
    The Traveler Series by John Twelve Hawks
    Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich (for comic relief)
    I am now attempting to read The Ice Princess ~ the first in the Patrik Hedstrom Series by a Danish author called Camilla Lackberg ~ the catch is that my aunt lent them to me and they are in French! Trying to make sense of scandanavian names and places while struggling with my french is a bit of a challenge but I am loving the first book so far!
    I also must always have a book on the go – I will reread anything rather than have nothing to read!

  74. Lynn says:

    Last year I randomly got turned onto the Inspector Gamache series of murder mystery novels by Louise Penny. They all take place in a little town in Quebec. A town which I’d move out of were there so many murders there for real, but is tremendous fun to read about as fiction.

    This year’s books are biographies (Coco Chanel), fiction, beekeeping (The Beekeepers Bible), food and wine pairing and definitely The Hunger Games. Once the boyfriend is done reading it.

  75. Gina says:

    Are most of you reading traditional books or a Nook or Kindle. For ereaders do you “lend” books ?
    Curious.

    • Karen says:

      Gina – I read “book” books. I got an iPad for Christmas and haven’t downloaded a book onto it yet, but I plan to do that with some of these recommendations. I like the feel of a book. And when I’m sleeping and it drops out of my hand and crashes to the floor, it doesn’t break. Plus, I was *stunned* at the price of ebooks. They’re almost as much as “real” books! I think that’s disgusting when you consider that a great deal of the price of the book is wrapped up in the actual book. The printing of it. ~ karen!

      • Nancy says:

        I agree Karen..I got an e-reader for Christmas and couldn’t believe the prices for e-books..I thought they would be much cheaper than actual books..I mostly wanted mine to get some of the magazines that I read so there wouldn’t be a pile of them sitting beside my bed..guess what..the e-magazine subscriptions cost more than the paper ones mailed to your home..I don’t get that at all!!

  76. Ann says:

    Water For Elephants…much better than the movie.

  77. Karen O. says:

    Last year I read The Hunger Games. It was an awesome series. Finished all three books in four days. I highly recommend it.

  78. Tay says:

    The 2011 game plan: “I’m going to read 12 books by the end of the year!” didn’t pan out.

    I did manage to read:

    The Road – Cormac McCarthy (this is one of the best books I have ever read)
    Geek Love – Katerine Dunn (thanks for the recommendation – LOVED IT!)
    Go Ask Alice – had never read it. Quite honestly, I thought it blew.
    Gone, Baby, Gone – Dennis Lehane (I’ve never seen the movie but the book was great)
    Rant – Chuck Palahniuk (twisted as always, love everything I’ve ever read by him).

  79. Nancy says:

    I didn’t see anyone but you Karen..recommend “Boy’s Life” by Robert McCammon..I totally love this book and highly recommend it..Great characters..great story..This year I want to read “The Girl With” series..”The Help”..also the book recommended by Marsh..”Leisure Seeker” by Michael Zadoorian..sounds like one I would love as that is a trip (Route 66) that I so wish I could take..Thanks to everyone for all of the great suggestions!!

    • Sherri says:

      Nancy,
      I bought the Kindle version of BOY’S LIFE based on Karen’s recommendation and a quick visit to Amazon to check out other reader reviews. It’s sort of down the list of books I’ve got on hand to read, so I may not get to it until spring, but I’m looking forward to it!

  80. Rebecca says:

    Karen,

    I loved “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” and Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen.”

  81. gloria says:

    Holy crow, I knew I couldn’t do this from memory. Had to look at my file of books read.
    Found these gems that Blew. Me. Away.
    Little Bee by Cleave
    Some Flower in My Heart (can’t remember author)
    Half-broke Horse by Wells
    Anything by Donald E. Westlake for lots of laughs.

  82. Dawn says:

    I too love reading, my stand out books of last year were:

    World War Z – tale of a zombie apocapalyse, written in the form of interviews with different survivors – excellent!

    Snuff – any Terry Pratchett book always makes me happy.

    Wuthering Heights – part of my ‘catch up on the classics’ series. I quite liked it despite expecting not to.

    Guilty pleasure 1: the Twilight series – I know, I know, it was like regressing into teenage angst, but they were great (and it’s all my best friends fault for buying me the first one and forcing me to read it ;D ).

    Guilty pleasure 2: the Southern Vampire series (1-11). Also said friends fault!

    I love the sound of Hunger Games, that’s going on my ‘want’ list.

    Meanwhile, the book I can never get through is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – it’s utter tripe. I’ll finish it one day though – I’m stubborn like that 😀

  83. Elle says:

    I love “The Help”! such a feel-good book! I bought copies of the book as gifts to my best friends last year.

    I’m currently reading about Scandinavians (mostly) getting murdered.
    Going through all of Jo Nesbo’d Harry Hole books and Henning Mankel’s Inspector Wallander series. In totall there are 18 books combined in both series of which I have already read 6.
    Today I ordered me some books from The Bookdepository.com (love that store!) including the latest Maisie Dobbs book by Winspear: “A lesson in secrtes”.

    (can you tell I mainly read detective stories?)

  84. gloria says:

    Best of all time for me, besides To Kill A Mockingbird and Lonesome Dove is the trilogy about Morris Bird III by Don Robertson: The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, The Sum and Total of Now, The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened.

  85. Liz says:

    Here are my favorites:
    City of Thieves – David Benioff
    East of Eden – John Steinbeck
    Devil in the White City – Erik Larson

  86. Shauna says:

    Ooh, many of these sound great. I also read The Help and loved it. Just started reading The Hunger Games with no idea going into it exactly what it was about (just recommended to me and I have to read a book before the movie comes out). Anyway, it’s a total page turner. Totally disturbing and weird and great all at the same time. You’ll love it!

  87. Laurie says:

    One of my favorites was Pillars of the Earth. World Without End, the sequal,came out years later and it’s great too.

  88. Whitney says:

    The Help was the last book I read last year. It took everything I had in me not to throw things at the TV when I watched the movie afterwards…

  89. Laura Bee says:

    Waiting on my bookcase are John Irving’s “A Widow for One Year” & “Last Night in Twisted River”. I just started “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards. Just finished “PUSH” by Sapphire & before that Roddy Doyle’s “The Van” (Brilliant & my hubby wants a chip truck too, so even better! Trying to get him to read it now) & “The Cure for Death by Lightning” by Gail Angerson-Dargatz (A Recipe for Bees is very good as well)
    I was on mat leave last year. In that year I read the last four Janet Evanovich’s, and a lot of Dr Seuss. Ok, I still love “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket” & I can’t wait to pull my “Little House” books out for her when she’s bigger, but I’m glad I’ve found the time to get back to my stack! During my pregnancy I read a half dozen Margaret Atwood’s that I tried to read in my 20’s. It’s always good to give a book another try 🙂

  90. Nancy says:

    Good for you!
    I just completed the Hunger Games trilogy – FANTASTIC!
    MY husband and two children have read them as well, so when the movie comes out in March, we’re all skipping school and work to check our the flick!

    Currently, I’m reading Pillars of the Earth and I can’t put it down!

  91. Aaaah! Books! I’m actually having a problem right now even writing a blog because I’m engrossed in “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin…it’s a series of 4 books that are from 700 to 1,000 pages each and I’m now on book 4. It’s one of the BEST books I’ve ever read, better than the Hunger Games, on a par with Diana Gabaldon’s series! I’m not kidding…think my hubby’s getting upset…he thought my blogging made me oblivious of him…hahaha…now I’m oblivious of my blogging! But, he’s reading it too on his kindle! Sorry, I know it was supposed to be a last year’s book…but I think you needed to know this! xo

  92. Kelly says:

    What a fabulous list for all us readers. You must put on Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. I think it is her best, and Half Broke Horses by Wallis. Of course The Help. It is great to reflect on the good ones, but frustrating that nothing has been meeting that lately. Hopefully this list will help.

  93. Pat says:

    Yes, I agree about your comment about the foot binding. Why is it something so horrific can be so fascinating. I think because it is so beyond our scope of experience. I just read a book called “The Binding Chair” that has a heart wrenching description of the initial binding experience. The rest of the book is okay, including descriptions of the purpose served by those feet (yikes)…. but not a high recommendation.

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is another great Lisa See book and not as sad as Peony In Love. I am not a short story lover but just read some wonderful short stories by Johanna Skibsrud, This Will Be Difficult to Explain. I think Diane Schomperlen’s forms of devotion, short stories would appeal to you because the stories are quite quirky and a bit bizarre…..right up your alley. My neighbour thought they were weird!

  94. Sandy says:

    I read a ton too, but two of my all-time favorites are “Stones From the River” by Urula Hege and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. Both are outstanding!!!

    Love, love, love your blog!!! I’m always calling my sister at work and reading your posts to her.

    • Karen says:

      Sandy – Thanks! Tell your sister to read the site herself for the love of God. And yup. Read both those books. Loved em. ~ karen

      • Sandy says:

        I DO tell her to read it herself, everytime I read it TO her. But she really is a Little House on the Prairie type. As in, she doesn’t “go on the internet” at home cuz she’s busy canning or gardening or making wine, etc.

        Also, forgot to say before. I trudged through “Freedom” and hated every minute of it. It’s the first book I’ve ever considered throwing in the trash!

        • Karen says:

          Sandy – Happy to know I’m not the only one! I have a feeling a lot more people hated it than us … they’re just too afraid to say so out loud, LOL. ~ karen

  95. Bev says:

    Am loving all these lists of great books! I have signed on for a number of book challenges for this year and looking forward to lots of reading this year.
    My favourites were:
    The Thirteenth Tale
    The Gamache series – I read “Bury Your Dead” first as it was the One Book One Community” book last year for Waterloo. So enjoyed it that I had to read her next one – “A Trick of the Light”. Loved it. Then found out she had 5 other books in the series! Now I am catching up.

    Still Alice
    Potato Peel/Literary Society – absolutely loved it!

    I’ve already read “Sarah’s Key” this year (stunning – couldn’t put it down)and another by her “Secret Kept” and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.
    I need to finish “The Help” and want to read Steve Jobs’ bio. next.

  96. Caroline says:

    Karen, try The Glass Castle, A Memoir by Jeanette Walls. Very good.

  97. julie says:

    “Half-Broke Horses” was great. I’m totally with you– I HATED ‘Freedom,’ and regret that I took the time to finish it! Life is short; put down books that suck!

  98. Heather says:

    Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. I reread it every few years.

  99. Jeannine says:

    There are sooooo many listed here that are great reads, and I love that so many categories are represented. I’d like to put in a mention for “The Coral Thief” by Rebecca Stott. This is a beautifully written novel that takes you to 1815 Paris where the world is on the cusp of change in so many ways. Napoleon has just been sent to his final exile and on the fringes of science and art and politics a panoply of mysterious characters draw you into a fascinating plot. And now I must go to Amazon….

  100. Michelle in Htown says:

    Last year I reread “To Kill a Mockingbird.” A great story and just so darned well-written.

    I am on book 2 of the “Hunger Games” trilogy and could.not.put.down the first one. It was like a drug!

    Please read: “The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival.” It is a small book, a quick read and an absolutely hilarious look at rural Louisiana. I can almost promise, based on your blog’s voice, that you will love it.

    Cheers from Houston, where’ it’s 78 degrees today. What’s that about? (Rhetorically spoken)

  101. Pam says:

    Past, just Finished “An Hour Before Daylight” by President Jimmy Carter. It’s about his life growing up on a farm. Makes you believe you CAN become President!

    Present, am in the midst of “My Life in France” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. Makes me want to cook, cook, cook.

    Future, have on order “Catherine the Great” by Robert K. Massie and “Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone” by Johnny Ramone. Not sure what will happen after these two!

  102. Paulina J! says:

    I’m definitely being out-read!! I need to catch up with you guys! Last year I was on a classical kick and read:
    Jane Eyre (my favorite)by Charlotte Bronte
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
    Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
    Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
    Emma by Jane Austen
    Persuasion by Jane Austen

    Maybe this year I’ll read something from thsi decade 🙂

  103. Louise says:

    My favourites of 2011:

    The Help
    Island beneath the sea by Isabel Allende
    Last night in Twisted River by John Irving

    And I also hate wearing acrylic sweaters 😉 I wear natural fibers as much as I can

  104. Charity says:

    Last year I stumbled upon “Beginners Greek” by James Collins and I LOVED it!

  105. Susie says:

    A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

  106. Trinity says:

    Nobody mentioned “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery!! Or I didn’t see it listed. It’s a WonderfuL book.

  107. judy says:

    UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit) Soo good what an inspriation!

  108. Tracy says:

    The Book Thief is a GREAT read; I’ll bet you’ll love it! I also read The Help and rushed out to see the movie almost before the last page was turned. I had kind of a dry year, though, otherwise; not too many other books I read would be high on my ‘to recommend’ list. I’m adding Night Circus to my nightstand, too.

  109. Liz says:

    I read The Night Circus and The Hunger Games both last week. They were EXCELLENT! Read The Book Thief last year. You’ve got great picks for this year so far! If you haven’t already read them, Pillars of the Earth and the follow up, whose name escapes me at the moment are favorites of both my husband and myself. My husband was not a reader but after introducing him to Pillars of the Earth, he has devoured everything Ken Follett has written.

  110. Stacy says:

    Lots of good reads on here!

    My two personal two favorites:

    The Glass Castle
    The Peaceful Warrior

  111. deb says:

    Karen, thanks for starting this conversation! What a resource for readers!
    I have read many of the suggestions- but so much more out there I’ve missed. “Freedom” by Franzen? Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not a book burner!

    Currently reading ” Catherine the Great” by Massie. Rich and reads like a novel. Thanks to all for the suggestions- Happy reading in 2012

  112. Shannen says:

    You should read “The Third Eye” by Lobsang Rampa – This book is an “eye”-opener (pun may, or my not be intended) and is controversal…both make for the perfect read!

  113. Chancy says:

    I just finished The Night Circus and really, really enjoyed it. It’s just magical. Blood, Bones and Butter is on my to read list.

    My fave books this year were:
    The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet – Reif Larsen
    The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
    The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon
    The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

    I have a goal of reading 4 books a month every year. I’ve never made it but most of the time I come close. And I’m seriously thinking about buying The Little House on the Prairie series to reread it and have it for my collection thanks to you. I loved those books in my youth.

  114. Nicki says:

    Faves Of All Time:

    These Is My Words – Nancy Turner (At first it’s depressing, but push on through til December. You’ll know what I mean if you read it. You will NOT regret it. It’s wonderful. Easily one of my all-time faves EVER.) You will love it – especially if books like Lonesome Dove and the Little House books interest you. There are also 2 more in the series.)

    The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd (literary music.)

    The Blue Castle – LM Montgomery (written for an older “girl” and just plain fun.)

    The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield (wierd but a great book to get lost in)

    The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (I can’t say enough about the prose. SO incredible. SO worth reading just for the beautifully written words that create images that make up the simple story.)

    Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (The last book is a bit disappointing, but the first 2 are pretty cool!)

    Happy 2012!

    I love your blog (btw) – and I love YOUR writing! You always make me laugh! I hope you wouldn’t mind if I mentioned your blog (with a link) on mine sometime? I love your dollar store genius crafts and the way you write! Keep it up!

  115. Kimmie says:

    My favorite book of 2011, hands down, was THE CHRONOLOGY OF WATER by Lidia Yuknavitch.

    On another note, I have a problem. I run a bookstore and always have more unread books than I do read books. It’s the opposite of your problem, Karen. Someone should take all these books off my hands…

  116. Diane says:

    I just finished The Help. Awesome book…but again I was so very saddened by the lack of effort put into the movie.
    I’m about halfway through Steve Jobs biography and I have The Hunger Games waiting patiently on my Kindle.
    Do you guys read several books at once? Cause if you do, that is super talented if you ask me! I can’t do it. I’ve tried. I end up forgetting what happened in Book 1 while I was reading Book 2 and have to read the previous chapter of Book 1 before I can happily move on. 😛 And so on and so forth…lol

  117. Jesse says:

    I hope you get this but there are several more little house books. that one is not the complete set! 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Jesse – I know! Thanks. I got the set for Christmas and have just read the first 2. I read them all when I was young and I’m happy to report I don’t remember them at ALL. It’s like reading them for the first time all over again. 🙂 I’ll get the other ones too. ~ karen

  118. Tricia says:

    Has no one mentioned the Book of Negroes? Great book! Also loved the Book Thief, A Fine Balance, the Shipping News, “The Girl Who Did Something” (what my kids call the series), the Cellist of Sarjevo, the Red Tent, People of the Book….the Night Circus was recently recommended to me as well as one about Madame Tussaud. The cheap side of me has been enjoying the free versions of everything Jane Austen that is offered on my ipad.

    • Karen says:

      Tricia – I think it was mentioned. I actually read The Book of Negroes (Someone Knows My Name) several years ago when it first came out. Then last year I ended up going to see Lawrence Hill speak at a synagogue, LOL. (he lives about 5 minutes from me) Definitely one of my top 10, possibly top 5 books of all time. LOVED it. ~ karen!

  119. Emily says:

    Favorite book I read last year- Under the Dome by Stephen King

    Favorite book of all time- The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    Current Book I’m working on- The Complete Collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

  120. Sarah says:

    I fully realize that this thread is over 2(!) years old, but I saw this today and thought of you (see link–I promise it’s not spam or something that I’m trying to sell).

    http://kottke.org/14/09/pioneer-girl-by-laura-ingalls-wilder

    I know how much you adore Laura Ingalls Wilder. Hope you’re having a wonderful Friday!

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