Yes, this is another “best of” list and, either due to my own sense of importance (it’s my blog, humor me) or due to the fact that these books are fabulous, I am adding my list to the rest of those floating around the blogosphere.
So, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2011.
The Memory Palace by Mira Bartók is a moving memoir detailing Mira’s relationship with her mentally ill mother. Not only is this a creative and beautifully written story, it is one that contains the most haunting and emotionally accurate death scene that I have ever read. While other scenes depicting the death of loved ones may seem empty or tinged with insincerity, Bartók’s writing is genuine and this scene, in particular, cuts to the core of human emotion.
Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster is a rich, perfectly crafted story. The two aspects of this story that really shine are the dialogue and the balance of emotions. The book is funny, it’s dark, it’s romantic, and it is the kind of book that can be interpreted in so many different ways. Better yet, it is a book that does not get bogged down in its themes.
Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness was an instant favorite. Not only is this book the first science fiction story that I have read, it is one that speaks more to human nature than any other book I’ve come across–and the characters are not all human! The understanding, compassion, love, and courage of the characters, human and alien, are nearly tangible.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is one of those books that makes you look up and go “What?!” Not only does Ishiguro insert a shocking sub-culture, for lack of a better word, into modern society, his writing is so organic that he tricks you into believing it is possible! This is one of those stories that sticks with you long after you read the last page.
I fell in love with Graham Greene after reading only one page of The End of the Affair. This book is reflective without sacrificing its pace, it is driven by both the thoughts and the actions of its characters. I didn’t review this book because, quite frankly, I didn’t have time, but it is a must read and instantly became one of my favorites. I was also intrigued by the religious nature of the book and the idea that, in order to hate God, He must exist.
More of a contemporary novel than the classic titles that have so far dominated the list, Juliette Fay’s Deep Down True is fabulous because it is real. This story presents real people who have real problems. They are not exaggerated, overblown problems; they are problems that people face every day. I love the honesty of this story, which is written beautifully.
Wunderkind by Nikolai Grozni is a book that I really savored. Writing about music is not easy, but Grozni made me want to learn the piano. Not only are his characters interesting, they are unique. The actual writing is fluid, it is beautiful, and it puts words to the feelings that music evokes without seeming contrived. Basically, it is an honest, organic story that highlights the contrast between gorgeous music and the difficulties of living in communist Bulgaria.
Margaret George’s Elizabeth I does more than simply retell the story of Queen Elizabeth–it brings her to life. I love the many sides of Elizabeth that this story portrays, from her political attitudes to her reflections on love, loss, and the future. There was one scene in particular, when she was looking through her jewels deciding which to sell to keep England afloat, that really brought life to her character.
Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner is a series of snapshots over several generations of the Popper family. These snapshots are often short, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always striking. Orner’s writing is superb and I did not want to put this book down.