Les livres de 2011: round 6 (FINALE)

Reading with Dad in 1988. That's me with the bowl cut.
The other day someone asked me what I purely love. What do I love so much that it remains untainted by anything- responsibility, obligation, whatever.

That's a tough question. But after thinking about it for a few minutes, I said that I purely love reading. I don't feel an obligation to read anything I'm not in the mood for (and if I start reading something and am not into it, I'll drop it immediately). In this one area of my life, I go with the flow. I go with what I love.

Much more to say about this another time, but here are the final book reviews of the year. And if you scroll down a bit farther, you'll see the list of books I read in 2011. Happy reading, you rabbits!

(PS Here's last year's list, if you're interested.)

39. New York: the Novel by Edward Rutherfurd
I wrote a little about this novel last month. It's pretty epic. It traced the stories of families from the 1600s all the way up to present-day. I'm not going to say the writing was incredible because it wasn't. But you know how you read some things that aren't great in terms of craft, but in terms of story and learning? This was one of those books.

I'm dying to read his novels on London and Russia. I mean, seriously. What better way to learn the history of a city?

40. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Every once in a while, the New York Public Library emails me to say that a book that I had on hold came in. I put this book on hold back during the MEMORY semester (which is to say, a year ago). Way to be current, NYPL...

This book was really bizarre. It's the story of a woman who can only remember up to 24 hours; when she goes to sleep at night, she forgets everything and has to start all over again the next day. Given the trickiness of pulling off any sort of meaningful story with these restrictions, the author did a decent job. The ending was pretty scary - and surprising for me, but I'm pretty naive. I'd recommend!

41. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Again, I recently wrote about this one too. Audrey Niffenegger, dude. Hardest name in the world to pronounce, but totally someone I'd love to meet.

I remember when I was at the Iowa workshop last summer, someone mentioned that she'd been there a few years back, right in the middle of writing The Time Traveler's Wife. She was getting ripped apart in some of the classes and was feeling really down on herself, but I guess some classmates bucked her up. She was supposed to stay the whole summer, but ended up leaving partway through and writing full-time to finish the book. And we all know how great that turned out!
This little anecdote gives me hope for my book one day. Firstly, that I write it. Secondly, that I will have a network of people who believe in me. Cause I literally can't wait to see what she writes about next.

42. Other People We Married by Emma Straub
Recently, it was Small Business Saturday and Am-Ex was giving people a $25 credit on their statement if you spent $25 at a small biz. Hello, independent bookstore down the street!

I picked up this book of short stories because I was in the mood and it was a mixed bag. I don't remember many of the stories (something that always gives me pause...), but I was intrigued by the theme of the book. They were all stories about relationships that could have happened, but didn't for one reason or another. I liked it more towards the end.

43. Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian
OK! This is way out of order. I read this in June and just realized it never made it into a book review. That's a problem because this book was GOOD. I excerpted it while I was reading and bought it somewhere super-cheap recently to make sure it was part of my collection.

It's a modern-day story about a couple who has two young kids. They're having normal, modern-day issues. He works in venture capital. She works and cares for the kids. They don't have enough alone time. There are some weird lies that get told for good reasons. And it's the downfall of their marriage, as well as a rebuild.

Details are hazy because I read it so long ago, but I remember REALLY liking it. You might too.

44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
We saw Jeffrey Eugenides at the New Yorker festival this year. He was on a writer's panel and man, was he likeable. Very straightforward but funny, honest and a little quiet. He joked that it's awkward for him when one of his books comes out because he goes to dinner parties soon after and everyone asks when the NEXT one is happening. "Don't they know it takes me 9 years between each book?!" he laughed.


I think the biggest reason I like Middlesex is because it's about so many topics that I know nothing about. Detroit, Greece, immigration and, obviously, hermaphrodite-ism. I literally feel like I learn things by reading this book. And though I'm positive I didn't do this while reading for the first time, I had my iPhone handy to look things up as I encountered interesting stuff this time around.

The story is about a hermaphrodite who shares his story by reaching back into the past and tracing the funky things that happened with inter-marriage, all resulting in a tweaked gene. I like the idea of reading stories about several generations. I had the same feeling with Rutherford's New York. There's something to be said for puzzling out how characters are why they are based on who they came from.

I super-recommend. It's a great read.

And now! The full list of books I read in 2011. I've put stars next to the ones that were my favorites...

1. Great House by Nicole Krauss
2. Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss
3. Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt
4. The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
5. The Lovers by Vendala Vida
6. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall**
7. Pre by Tom Jordan

8. The Tiger by John Vaillant
9. The Age of Comfort by Joan Dejean
10. The Bitch in the House by Cathi Hanauer

11. The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen
12. The Boelyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
13. A Rope and a Prayer by David Rohde and Kristen Mulvihill
14. The Long Run by Matt Long
15. Life After God by Douglas Coupland
16. Reading Jesus by Mary Gordon
17. The Girl who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow

18. Mary by Janis Cooke Newman
19. The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
20. The Wheel of Life by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
21. The Weird Sisters by Elenor Brown**
22. On Life After Death by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

23. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain**
24. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
25. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
26. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

28. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
29. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
30. Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian**

31. The Women of the House by Jean Zimmerman**
32. Inside the Apple by Michelle Nevius

33. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
34. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
35. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot**

36. How I Planned Your Wedding by Susan Wiggs and Elizabeth Wiggs Maas
37. The Greater Journey by David McCullough**
38. Bossypants by Tina Fey
39. Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

40. New York: the Novel by Edward Rutherfurd**

41. Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
42. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger**
43. Other People We Married by Emma Straub
44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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