2/365 – My top ten reads of 2011

For the past few years over at Chapters Indigo, where I moderate a group called 50 Books in [insert year], I’ve compiled a list of my favourite books. This year is no exception. Here are my favourite books of 2011.

The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly  

Absolutely my favourite book of the year. The writing was beautiful. David broke my heart.

Once upon a time—for that is how all stories should begin—there was a boy who lost his mother.

He had, in truth, been losing her for a very long time. The disease that was killing her was a creeping, cowardly thing, a sickness that ate away at her from the inside, slowly consuming the light within, so that her eyes grew a little less bright with each passing day and her skin a little more pale.

And as she was stolen away from him, piece by piece, the boy became more and more afraid of finally losing her entirely. He wanted her to stay. He had no brothers and no sisters, and while he loved his father it would be true to say that he loved his mother more. He could not bear to think of a life without her.

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

About 30 pages in this book had me by the throat and would not let me go. I actually had to force myself to s-l-o-w down while reading it. SO GOOD!

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing  much to say.

Need a poo, Todd.

Shut up, Manchee.

Poo. Poo, Todd.

I said shut it.

Quiver – Holly Luhning

A creepy, crawly thriller by Canadian author Holly Luhning that weaves the story of a young forensic psychologist with the tale of 16th century countess Elizabeth Bathory, famous for torturing young girls and bathing in their blood.

She was easy to spot.

Her skin was almost blue-white. As usual, at the corner she said goodbye to the other girls; he saw her part from the heads of pink hair, tight black curls, a blonde pixie cut. Watched her follow a narrow asphalt footpath that led around the corner to a pedestrian tunnel under the busy motorway.

He’d been in the tunnel, walked its sixty feet back and forth.He had done this most mornings this week, on his way to the office. No one noticed him. He was just a man wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase, going to work. When a lorry passed on the road above, the caged fluorescent lights that hung from the ceiling buzzed louder. Sometimes cyclists whizzed towards him through the tunnel, but they always stayed on their side of the yellow line painted down the centre of the path. Each day before he left the tunnel, he stopped and looked at the yellow paint, imagined it blotted by a puddle of blood, a small broken body stretched across its line.

One Day – David Nicholls

Dexter and Emma share one night together and their lives are forever shaped by it. I loved every single second of this book.

Friday 15TH July 1988
Rankeillor Street, Edinburgh

‘I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,’ she said. ‘You know, actually change something.’

‘What, like “change the world”, you mean?’

‘Not the whole entire world. Just the little bit around you.’

They lay in silence for a moment, bodies curled around each other in the single bed, then both began to laugh in low, pre-dawn voices. ‘Can’t believe I just said that,’ she groaned. ‘Sounds a bit corny, doesn’t it?’

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Collins has created a chilling post-apocalyptic world and peopled it with characters it’s impossible not to care about. Then – she makes them expendable. Teens love this one…but so do I.

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress.  She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.

I prop myself up on one elbow. There’s enough light in the bedroom to see them. My little sister, Prim, curled up on her side, cocooned in my mother’s body, their cheeks pressed together. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten down. Prim’s face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named.  My mother was very beautiful once too. Or so they tell me.

The Housekeeper – Melanie Wallace

This was a strangely unsettling book about a girl who tried to outrun her past, only to be caught up in complex relationships she knows nothing about. It is  a stark, grim page-turner…beautifully written.

The first time Jamie saw the boy, he was tied to a tree. She was in no way prepared for the sight, of him wrapped tight in old clothesline haphazardly wound and knotted, the rope soiled and stained where it had at some previous time curled on pulleys and grimed. He was remarkably still but for the snot that ran from his nose.

The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

A book you can sink your teeth into – this is a tale of social class, love and money and it resonates still.

Seldon paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart. It was a Monday in early September, and he was returning to his work from a hurried dip into the country; but what was Miss Bart doing in town at that season? If she had appeared to be catching a train, he might have inferred that he had come on her in the act of transition between one and another of the country-houses which disputed her presence after the close of the Newport season; but her desultory air perplexed him. She stood apart from the crowd, letting it drift by her to the platform or the street, and wearing an air of irresolution which might, as he surmised, be the mask of a very definite purpose. It struck him at once that she was waiting for some one, but he hardly knew why the idea arrested him. There was nothing new about Lily Bart, yet he could never see her without a faint movement of interest: it was characteristic of her that she always roused speculation, that her simplest acts seemed the result of far-reaching intentions.

Falling Apart in One Piece – Stacy Morrison

Morrison tells the story of her marriage and divorce without rancor. Her prose is straightforward as she navigates herself through the messy aftermath of a ruined marriage and I found the book insightful and, yes, helpful.

I suppose I should start where it all started. Or, more specifically, started ending. The night Chris told me he was done with our marriage.

I can recall exactly what I was doing on the June evening this one-way conversation started: I was standing at the sink in the kitchen area of our one-room first floor, washing a bunch of arugula, my favorite salad green, pushing my hands through the cold water in the salad spinner to shake the dirt loose. I was looking out the window over the sink, marveling at the beautiful backyard of our Brooklyn home: an actual lawn, its bright green grass thick as a carpet; a wood deck; and a pergola with grapevines climbing over it in curlicue abandon. The yard was my favorite thing about our house, a house that we’d bought and moved into just five months before on a freezing-cold January day, when our son, Zack, was just five months old. Stationed in his bouncy seat on the floor in the empty living room, he’d watched with wide eyes as everything we owned was marched through the front door in big cardboard boxes.

The Mercy Killers – Lisa Reardon

Lisa Reardon creates the most amazingly screwed up characters and yet it’s impossible not to fall in love with them. I am a huge fan.

It’s hard to think how different their lives would have been if it weren’t for the mess they got themselves into, if it weren’t for that war, if they hadn’t all been so young and stupid and scared. On a rainy evening in the spring of 1967, Old Jerry hunkers on his bar stool like a liquor-soaked question mark. The topic of conversation is his long-awaited suicide.

The bartender brings him a shot of Stoli. “From Olivia,” he says, “A little early happy birthday for you.” Old Jerry gives Olivia a nod and a wave across the bar. She waves back. Almost sets her chiffon hair scarf on fire with her cigarette. Old Jerry adds the shot to the other two her has got lined up.

I Think I Love You – Allison Pearson

This book was tremendous fun to read because I WAS THAT GIRL! That crazy pucca shell wearing, feathered hair, singing into a hairbrush to Partridge Family records girl! Really enjoyed it.

His favourite colour was brown. Brown was such a sophisticated colour, a quiet and modest sort of colour.  not like purple, which was Donny’s favourite. I wouldn’t be seen dead in purple. Or in a Donny cap. How much would you have to like a boy before you went out wearing a stupid purple peaked cap?

Honest, it’s amazing the things you can know about someone you don’t know. I knew the date of his birth – April 12, 1950. He was a typical Aries but without the Arian’s stubbornness. I knew his height and his weight and his favourite drink, 7Up. I knew the names of his parents and his stepmother, the Broadway musical star. I knew all about his love of horses, which made perfect sense to me because when you’re that famous it must be comforting to be around someone who doesn’t know or care what famous is.

3 thoughts on “2/365 – My top ten reads of 2011

  1. Shanie Mangulins January 20, 2012 / 9:18 pm

    Chris – this is great! Shanie a.k.a. Raksha

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