Favorite Books of 2011 (Yes, Another List).

Like everyone else in the blogosphere I wanted to do a short count-up of my favorite books for the year.  I’m pretty sure only one of these books is a relatively new print (The Adults – Alison Espach) and the rest are just books I happened to read this year and fell for, cried over, and later drowned in.  (Up a river without a paddle, har har).  It took me forever to write just one blurb for the first book because I’m feeling after-Christmas lethargic.  Even though the family had ham not turkey – and I’m honing my vegetarian skills so I don’t touch the sad pig.  Because I’m lazy, mostly, instead of writing paragraphs, you can check out a few of the reviews on the “Books Read This Year” page and for everything else I’ll just write a quick sentence.

After reading my one-sentence wonders, it may seem that I have a very strange book taste – which is true, my palate is quite smooth and wet (and depressing).  I generally don’t like best sellers (just a fact).  A lot of times it’s because I’ve already talked myself out of liking it before even opening the cover page and sometimes it’s just because the writing is horrendous.  See:  One Day by David Nicholls which I have tried to give away countless times, and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.  I also refuse to read anything that has made Oprah’s Book Club, unless of course it doesn’t say that on the cover and I’m tricked into it.

What this means for you: if you particularly hope for a fairytale ending, I don’t really recommend any of my favorites for your reading pleasure.  I’m not a fairytale kind of girl….(except when I’m planning my wedding, without any ring, on pinterest).   But everyone needs a little darkness.  We’re all attached to those gray shadows anyway.  Just coon up, and let the black dust span in.

1. Lark & Termite – Jayne Anne Phillips

  • A story of a train out of water.

2. Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safron Foer

  • A folktale and the reality of a Jewish-American road trip.

3. The Adults – Alison Espach

  • A ripening.

4. Blue Angel – Francine Prose

  • Bad sex in Creative Writing.

5. The Country Between Us – Carolyn Forche

  • Two girls; one has been to Paris, one on another road.

6. The Gathering – Anne Enright

  • Three generations of potatoes, freckles and death.

7. Bee Season – Myla Goldberg

  • A spelling bee, a shaved head, and a kleptomaniac.

8. The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisnos

  • A young girl building a staircase in her mind rather than a wedding.

9.  Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach

  • True(ish) stories of your eyes, hair follicles, and slippery, red organs after the rest of you floats away.

10. Delicate Edible Birds – Lauren Groff

  • Stories where the middle leaves no room for a happily ever after.

11. Reasons For and Advantages of Breathing – Lydia Peelle

  • You’re  on a farm, you’re riding a ferris wheel, you’re starving a crippled goat and losing your locket.

These are like six word memoirs for novels.  For those of you who don’t know, six word memoirs are what people used before twitter and other social networking thought it would be cool to limit word count.  For example, “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” – Hemingway.  If you’re really interested, see the NPR story on it (since you know I love to share a good NPR listen).

Hope everyone can give me some good recommendations for my 120 goal next year.

26 thoughts on “Favorite Books of 2011 (Yes, Another List).

  1. Michael Ann says:

    Laughing at your one-liners! I have not heard of ANY of those books! Well, except the ones you mentioned here. :-) I am such a best seller person it’s sickening. Except I agree about Oprah’s choices.

    In case you wanted to know, my fav book of the year was The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield. It was written like a old novel, like Wuthering Heights. The protagonist is a writer who works in a bookstore with her father. She loves old biographies about unknown people. She gets caught up in a mystery about an old house and the family that lived there. I think you’d like it ???

    Happy New Year!
    Michael Ann

    • Cassie says:

      Michael Ann, I read that this year too and LOVED IT. I’m actually surprised I don’t have that on the list. It’s on my bookshelf right across from me and I didn’t even think of it. Seriously though, that was a wonderful book.

      I still haven’t read Wuthering Heights though. How sad is that…I avoided it like the plague in high school AND it’s my best friends favorite book. BLEH.

      Happy New Year Back, Michael Ann!

  2. Andi (Estella's Revenge) says:

    You, me…same wavelength!!! I see several of my own faves here and some I don’t see discussed often (Blue Angel!!!). You already know I love Delicate Edible Birds because I’ve gushed here before, and Stiff is an ATF (all-time fave).

    Cheers to more awesome reading in 2012!

  3. mylivereads says:

    I absolutely loved Everything is Illuminated. Try Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as well, before it gets turned into a movie and becomes wildly mainstream. One of my favorites (that doesn’t have a happy ending, although it is a satisfying one) is The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue.

    • Cassie says:

      Haha YAY! Great minds think alike. I, too, love Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – it was the first book I read by Foer…then Eating Animals, then Everything is Illuminated. I love each one even though Eating Animals was completely disturbing. I will definitely add The Mercy of Thin Air to my “to-reads” though. Thank you for the recommendation.

  4. Kimberly says:

    I love lists!
    I feel the same…don’t like best sellers or Oprah’s book club. What else will she do!? Good luck on achieving your 120 goal! :)

  5. unfinishedperson says:

    I have another Safron Foer book on my list of books to read for 2012: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close so I think I’ll tackle that first.

    I have a friend, an owner of a bookstore, who loves Jennifer Egan but for some reason, I can’t bring myself to read her books. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll have to go see why you disliked A Visit from the Goon Squad.

    • Cassie says:

      I love Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – it was the first one I read by him. You’ll have to let me know how you like it. I feel like I should give Jennifer Egan the benefit of the doubt and read another one of her books that may be less popular and see if it’s just her writing I hate, or just Goon Squad.

  6. wcs53 says:

    I’m with you on the Oprah thing. However, Night, which you just commented on at my blog, was an Oprah choice. But if you have an old copy then that may be your way around it!

    As for your list, ‘Bee Season’, ‘The Gathering’, and ‘Everything is Illuminated’ are ones that look most interesting to me.

    • Cassie says:

      Bee Season is eclectic and odd so if you’re into that – go for it. The other two you chose are perfection. Oddly enough, Everything is Illuminated is real weird as well. It must be a thing with me. Thank goodness I have a copy of Night that doesn’t say “Oprah Book Club Choice.” : )

  7. Marie says:

    Several of these are favorites of mine- Everything is Illuminated, Bee Season and The HOuse on Mango Street- and several are in my TBR pile, which gives me hope!

  8. Leah says:

    I found your blog after you dropped by mine the other day. I really love your posts and look forward to hearing what else you read. You’ve read such great books. I read Bee Season many years ago and it’s always stuck with me. I met Myla Goldberg last year and was able to finally ask her a few questions about the book. Anyway, added you to my Google Reader.

    • Cassie says:

      Bee Season was wonderful, you’re so right – it’s a book that sticks with you. What questions did you ask her? I’d love to ask her some questions as well since that is a really quirky book. Thanks for the follow. I’m also doing project 365 so this should be exciting! I’ll add you to the blog roll when I update every Sunday.

  9. Tara says:

    Great list! I love your one-liners for each of your reads. I reckon you should add some quick reads to your 120 goal! The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is quick, Pigeon English and maybe something really light like a Sweet Valley High!! The Gathering is on my list too.

    • Cassie says:

      The gathering is a wonderful book. Definitely one of my top ten. She’s amazing….enright. I didn’t like her last book but any before that one I’ve loved. It’s funny you mention julien Barnes because I’ve been getting a lot of recommendations about her. I’ll have to read that. Thank you.

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