The 10 Best Books I Read in 2011


Book lovers never go to bed alone. – Unknown

Some of you occasionally follow me over here on my GoodReads account which I started in January to keep track of the books I’ve read and how much I like them.

Earlier this year I set a 2011 reading goal for myself. 100 books. Yes, 100. A Benjamin of books.

A little over-ambitious. I know.

Did I make it? Not quite.

I read 65 books in 2011! While that is only 65% of my goal, averaging out to reading 1.25 books a week.

(I did make that goal before I knew we would be moving, buying our first home and that we would be heavily DIYing our own renovations. So I don’t feel so bad. Ahhh, those peaceful evenings reading in the bay window of our old apartment seem a million miles away. Also, I made that goal before the invention of Pinterest. Enough said.)

But I digress.

See the full list of new books here (I didn’t count books that I had already read before – maybe then I would be up to 100!).

After reviewing my 2011 reads, my top 10 books (in no particular order) that I have read this year are:

1. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Wallis

This book is the perfect example of reading a book when you’re in the right mood. I had read “Glass Castles” by Wallis and it was a fantastic read. The first time I had started to read this and couldn’t get through the first chapter. The second time I picked it up I finished it within 48 hours.

Half Broke Horses is about Wallis’ grandmother – a bonafide modern woman of the West in the early 20th century. She was a teacher, a flapper, a rum-runner, Amelia Earhart wannabe and resourceful cowgirl. This is the story of her life.

2. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

I blogged about this book here.

I loved this book. I thought it was beautifully and intricately written. To spend my days studying and selecting colored glass seems like a dream… okay, I’m being completely idealistic. The book also forces you to ponder the topic of artistry ownership, something all artists need to think about at some point in their lives.

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebekah Skloot

An intriguing read on the world of biotechnology and the woman whose cells started it all. This is the story of HeLa, or Henrietta Lacks. Actually, this is the story of her family, who didn’t know that 50 million metric tons of their mother’s cells were being used for medical testing all over the world until 20 years after her death. This book tackles modern day medical biotechnology as well as racism in medical testing in U.S. history.

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Stieg Larsson (I know, 3 books)

This Scandinavian suspense/thriller/murder mystery trio explores the concept of violent crimes against women. Mikael Blomkvist  and Lisbeth Salandar are a modern day Lois and Clark with 10,000 the edge. You can read just one, but I recommend reading all three. I watched the Swedish movie in subtitles, but am looking forward to the American version coming out soon.

5. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (I know, 3 books again)

This year’s Tween hit, the Hunger Games pairs the futuristic world of Panam with historically gruesome Roman gladiator entertainment. The worlds of Katniss and Peetah get turned upside down when their names are drawn to represent District 12 in the horrific Hunger Games. Another book-turned-movie I am looking forward to next year.

6. At Home by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is never a disappointment. On his endeavor for writing this book, he did not want to leave the confines of his home. What does he do? Explores the history of the world by going through his household objects room-by-room.  Only Bryson can write 5 pages on the history of the ice cube or salt and pepper and make it hilariously interesting.

7. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

This is not the story of the prestigiously eccentric architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This is the story of his lifelong lover, Mamah Borthwick. This book spans the story of the fame and the shame of their illicit relationship throughout Mamah’s life.

8. The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

I won’t lie. I totally read this before the Royal Wedding because I was caught up in the hype. I am a lover of biographies and this one by Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown was a gripper. I am young enough not to remember much about Princess Diana’s life when she was alive. I do remember waking up earlier one morning and coming downstairs only to see my Mother glued to the television talking to a friend on the phone. I knew bits and pieces of the life of Shy Di, but this book was quite intriguing. And I definitely followed it with with “Diana: In Her Own Words” because they referenced it so much in the book. Two Princess Diana biographies in 1 week? Excessive. I know. But totally worth it in my Wills&Kate prepfest.

9. The Reason for God by Tim Keller

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in NYC, is known as the Christian Unapologetic. The Reason for God is a book that goes through the reasons people give for not believing in God. He proceeds to go through refuting reason by reason (chapter by chapter). I’ve been studying this book with a small group and watching the discussion video Tim Keller made with a panel of self-professed non-believers to discuss. Instead of a hasty argument, the book and coinciding video discussions are highly thought provoking.

10. Shucked by Erin Byers Murray

I have a confession. I read and enjoyed this book, but I’ve never eaten an oyster. This is a memoir from a Bostonian who gave up her cushy lifestyle-writing career to harvest oysters in the Duxbury Bay. Hard labor, freezing waters and some pesky bivalve-growing spin the tales of this classic New England farm life story. I’m officially hooked line and sinker and am ready for my first oyster tasting.


What was your favorite book you read this year?