Top Five Book Picks of 2011

I usually don't do book reviews, but once in a while, it's fun to blog as a reader rather than a writer. Here are my favorite books that I read this past year.  I read many other fantastic books as well, but if I have to limit myself to five...

(Listed in the order in which I read them.)

1. Plain Kate by Erin Bow

I have already gushed about Plain Kate -- the poetic language, the heartbreak. I loved this book so much that I bought two copies – one to keep and one to underline and analyze. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fairytales and bittersweet stories.

2. Push by Sapphire

Push is not an easy book to read. It's told from the point of view of a girl who was sexually abused by both her father and her mother and becomes pregnant twice by her father. The narrator's voice is very strong, and despite its dark subject matter, the story is surprisingly hopeful.

3.Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

My writing group reads a young adult book once a month, and this was the first book since The Hunger Games that all five of us loved. I couldn’t figure out how to blog about it though. I remember trying to draw principles about why it worked, and the only thing I could come up with was “be interesting and hilarious,” which, while true, isn't exactly the type of concrete advice that makes for useful blog entries. So yeah, still no idea how it works -- I mean, as far as I can tell, there isn't even a plot for the first few chapters. But I was still turning the pages, and laughing my head off.

4. Vicarious Pleasures and In Sickness and in Health by Jacob Appel.

Okay, so this is technically two, but they are short stories so I'm counting them as one. I don’t often read literary fiction, but I was really drawn to these stories. I love Appel’s characters -- he paints incredibly vivid, complex, yet identifiable people in just a few pages. And both the stories had endings that left me thinking.
(FTC Disclaimer: I received these two as review copies from the publisher, but that had nothing to do with their inclusion on this list.)

5. The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

I had an interesting experience with this series. I actively disliked the main character Mac in the first book – I mean, seriously wanted to punch her in the face. The next two books felt like a lot of set up and not really books in their own right. But the series had an addictive pull. Mac grew as a character over time, and all the setup from the earlier books paid off on a grand scale in books four and five. The series itself is hard to put in a genre. It’s a paranormal romance at the core, with lots of action, plus the cast size and world building of an epic fantasy. Ultimately, your opinion of the series will depend on your reaction to the male lead Jericho Barrons. If you enjoy romances involving conflicted and dysfunctional, yet intriguingly sexy men, you’ll probably like the Fever series. (Parental Advisory: This series is not family-friendly. At all.)

So, dear readers, your turn.  Have you read any of these books?  What are you own picks from the past year?


  1. I loved Moning's Fever Series so much, I felt withdrawal when it was over. I will definitely check out the YA selection.

  2. How in the world is this the first time I've visited your blog? Shame on me. Would Plain Kate be an appropriate pick for Lawrie? Always looking for well-written ya books for her. Tired of the garbage she reads and thinks is good.

  3. I actually haven't read any of your picks though I've heard good things from my book club friends about Will Grayson Will Grayson (and just John Green in general) and the Fever series. Plain Kate sounds like something I would love.

    I read a lot of YA and fantasy myself and my top five from this year are:
    1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor- wonderfully imaginative story, and the language Laini uses makes me want to be her when I grow up.
    2. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss- this epic fantasy was even better the second time around.
    3. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray - this is like Lord of the Flies meets Lost meets Miss Congeniality. Libba manages to have me howling with laughter and crying because I'm so touched by the characters. I think this is a such a particular talent.
    4. Soulless by Gail Carriger - a Victorian comedy of manners with vampires and werewolves. The humor and voice in this one won me over from page 1.
    5. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - a lovely story where the good guy actually gets the girl

  4. Kathy -- Lol. The Fever series does have that addictive quality, doesn't it? I'm just glad book five was out when I finished book 4, cuz otherwise that would have been a very frustrating cliffhanger.

    Cass -- Yup, Plain Kate would be great. The others are a bit too old for her.

    Jessica - Ooh, all of those sound good. I saw Beauty Queens in a bookstore the other day and it promises to be entertaining.

  5. I read PUSH in my masters program. great, strong stuff. I've read lots of John Green, but not this one. He's good. My fave read of the year was Chime by Franny Billingley.

  6. Oh, So many books so little time. I'll be packing a few more into my Kindle, based on some of the recommendations above.

    Who was it that said picking your favorite books is kind of like trying to decide which vital organs you'd want to live without?

    1) Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. Not fantasy, but totally engrossing and moving story of the twin sons of a nun who died in childbirth and how they reconnect with their physician father. Also learned something about the fall of Haile Selassie, of which I knew nothing. I love historical fiction.

    2) Swamplandia, by K. Russell. You've gotta love a book about an alligator theme park.

    3) The Last Werewolf, Gary Duncan. He's interesting and exciting company. I guess potential extinction will do that.

    4) Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I think it was published last year, but I just got to it. I love Kay's history/fantasy mashups. This one recreates Tang China.

    5) The Long Ships, by Frans G Bengtsson. Maybe the best historical novel I've ever read. Viking mayhem told with deadpan humor. Michael Chabon loves it, too, if you don't trust me.