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Looking back on 2011 in Books

with 9 comments

I started this post out on LiveJournal, but being as LJ is basically dead and, as with my twitter account, I want to move more into the public sphere of things, I decided to dust off the blog I registered and begin blogging here. New year, new blog!

But first, a retrospective. In 2011, my original goal was to read 11 books per month. That turned out to be a terrible idea, as I got way too stressed out about my goal and was cutting corners left and right. I gave up after April, something that was definitely helped along by the advent of my reading A Song of Ice and Fire. At any rate, I read more books than I read in 2010, so I count that as a win.

Bold indicates favorite reads.

1. Ash, Malinda Lo
2. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin
3. Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi
4. Twenty Boy Summer, Sarah Ockler

All LBYR books, as I was gearing up for what I hoped would be an interview for an internship there. That didn’t happen, but I did do an informational interview later on (after #14, below). It was a fun interview, although I did that thing where I inadvertently put my foot in my mouth and am then horrified at myself for days afterward. I’m still a little horrified. Oh, well. My favorite of these is probably tied between Ash and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I liked Ship Breaker the least of the four.

5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley

This sounds like something I would love, but mostly I just really hated the protagonist. Possibly because I read too much YA? I have a lot of thoughts on why I disliked this, but not enough space here. If anyone’s curious, they can ask in the comments, I guess!

6. Justin Fisher Declares War, James Preller

See above, re: cutting corners. This was an ARC I grabbed at my old bookstore job because the cover was fun and the concept was cute. I was hoping it’d be very Louis Sachar, but ultimately the humor was not for me.

7. Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone, Dene Low
8. All My Friends Are Superheroes, Andrew Kaufman

My friends, Ryan and Julie, and I were going to do a superhero book swap. This was Ryan’s contribution, and the only one that got sent to anyone. (I was supposed to send out Carrie Vaughn’s After the Golden Age, which is fantastic, and Julie was going to send Soon I Will Be Invincible.) It was weird, very surreal, not my usual fare, but it still sticks with me, so that’s a mark of something good, at least. (And Julie will be moving in with me in March, and I think Ryan is visiting soon, so that obviates all guilt in regards to not holding up my end of the bargain, right? Right.)

9. Yummy, G. Neri

Read for a job interview, one that I wasn’t really that well-suited for, so I’m glad my friend got the job instead. Very moving, very revealing.

10. Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Jonathan L. Howard

Lent to me by my friend Jane. She also lent me the ARC of the follow-up, Johannes Cabal the Detective, which, despite how much I liked the first book, I still have yet to read or return.

11. Lips Touch Three Times, Laini Taylor

I finally gave in to my friend Faye’s bullying and read Laini Taylor after I found a (first edition!) hardcover at my old bookstore job. I don’t love Laini Taylor’s writing as much as Faye does, but it is very pretty and I love her world-building.

12. Brain Camp, Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, Faith Erin Hicks
13. The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz, Laura Toffler-Corrie
14. The Witch’s Guide to Cooking With Children, Keith McGowan

Amy Finawitz was read for an informational interview, and it was great fun. I love epistolary novels, and I love flawed protagonists. That interview lead into a for-real interview (for which I read Witch’s Guide, which was cute but ultimately didn’t stick with me that much), but not a for-real job.

15. Princess Academy, Shannon Hale

My first Shannon Hale book! I own the hardcover now, along with hardcovers of the Enna series, which I can’t wait to crack into.

16. The Everafter War, Michael Buckley

I read all of the previous ones, so I figured I should catch up with the latest. They’re so much fun! I’m a total sucker for fairy tale retellings and incorporations, and while this is basically Fables for kids, I kind of love it for being just that. Also, Puck is amazing.

17. Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen

My first reading! I read Emma for the first time in 2010, and at this rate I guess I’ll be reading one Jane Austen per year? Lame. She’s really great, and I’m glad I waited until my 20s to read her, because I would not have appreciated her as much in my teens.

18. Anya’s Ghost, Vera Brosgol
19. Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke
20. Robot Dreams, Sara Varon
21. The Unsinkable Walker Bean, Aaron Renier

First Second books, all read for another informational interview. Probably the one that was the most fun! I would lovelovelove to work with graphic novels someday, although I am so severely underqualified. I used to read a crapload of webcomics and comics, now I pick up a few graphic novels here and there, catch up on a handful of webcomics every few months, and call it a day. Still, it’s a storytelling medium I love and respect, so I hope one day I’ll get to do something with it. Anya’s Ghost was my favorite of these – one of the webcomics I used to follow oh so long ago was Vera Brosgol’s “Return to Sender”. It was great to see her come to such well-deserved acclaim with this book.

22. Extraordinary, Nancy Werlin

Singling out because I really love Nancy Werlin’s modern-day fairy tales. I liked this less than I liked Impossible (you can still find me humming Scarborough Fair on the subway platform), but it was beautiful all the same.

23.Eon, Alison Goodman
24. Eona, Alison Goodman
25. Chime, Franny Billingsley
26. Nightshade, Andrea Cremer

Penguin titles, coinciding with the start of my online marketing internship there. Eon and Eona I was given at the interview, and I totally devoured them. They hit that old Tamora Pierce sweet spot, and though I definitely had my problems with the second book, overall they were extremely satisfying. Nightshade I read FOR the internship, but I actually ended up enjoying the series. The way I put it, they’re marketed as paranormal, but really they’re fantasy — just told from a point of view that isn’t the magic-wielders’. Very cool.

Chime really deserves its own bullet point. Easily my favorite read of 2011. (Hat tip to Faye for picking it for our inaugural book club read!) It’s beautiful, and so well-crafted, and just amazing. I got to meet Franny Billingsley at a NBA signing at Books of Wonder, and got to tell her that it felt like a book written expressly for me. So, now that’s immortalized in my copy. She’s so great! I hope our paths cross again, and I can’t wait for the companion novels to come out (but I’m also more than willing to be patient, if time is what it takes for such beautiful books).

27. Amulet: The Stonekeeper, Kazu Kibuishi
28. Wolfsbane, Andrea Cremer
29. Amulet: The Stonekeeper’s Curse, Kazu Kibuishi
30. Amulet: The Cloud Searchers, Kazu Kibuishi
31. Bloodrose, Andrea Cremer

32. The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills, Joanna Pearson
33. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly
34. Deadly, Julie Chibbaro

A trio of science girls! I love science girls. One of these days I’m going to get around to writing my novel featuring a science girl. My favorite of these was Calpurnia Tate, which had a voice and mood that was just so. It struck the same chord as Anne of Green Gables, and I dearly hope the author revisits the characters in the future.

35. Soulless, Gail Carriger

Fun, fluffy romance! Gail Carriger is really good at writing sex, which honestly is all I ask for. Big, growly male romantic interests and non-conventional female leads are also a plus.

36. The Demon’s Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan

The next read in our book club. I started out rolling my eyes, but ended up really loving the characters and the story. Sarah Rees Brennan has some really great twists and does some fantastic things with characterization, so I should probably get around to reading the rest of the series.

37. Charles and Emma, Deborah Heiligman

Like Lips Touch, this is another old NBA nominee that I always meant to read. Since I finally got around to Calpurnia, I figured I should read this too. Really fascinating, and it really brings the Darwins to life. Life was so sad in the days before modern medicine, though!!

38. The Dust of 100 Dogs, A.S. King

I first spotted this on my old roommate’s shelf – it has an amazing cover. She didn’t like it that much, though, so I forgot about it until A.S. King started getting buzz for Please Forget Vera Dietz. I’m so glad I went back and picked this up – it’s so much fun. It does great things with reincarnation, and I loved the characters’ voices and the peek into Cromwell-terrorized Ireland.

39. Bossypants, Tina Fey

This marked the start of my new/current bookstore job. I read this in intervals while manning the register. When it was slow! When it was slow.

40. Goliath, Scott Westerfeld

I tried sooo hard to get an ARC of this at BEA (my first year going! if only for a couple of hours in the morning of the last day), but it wasn’t in the cards. Luckily, Faye lent me her copy, and I blazed through it. It’s so good! Not my favorite of the series, but Westerfeld wraps things up really nicely. A job well done.

41. The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner

Okay, Chime is my favorite NEW read of 2011, and The Thief is my favorite OLD read of 2011. I finally got around to reading this after the SLJ battle of the books featured Conspiracy of Kings so prominently, and omfg. This is the best book. Everyone should read this book. It’s amazing. As are all of the rest of them. I’m excited to reread them all when the next installment comes out.

42. Among Others, Jo Walton

My book club pick, recommended to me and given to my by an old friend who loved it dearly. I can see very clearly why she loved it so much (the benefit of knowing someone for a while!), and while I definitely appreciated the book, so much of it was a love letter to books I’ve never read that I couldn’t quite love it. I did like the non-SF/F bits quite a lot, and it paved the path to the next book club pick, which I loved.

43. Skybreaker, Kenneth Oppel
44.Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner
45. King of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner
46. A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
47. A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin
48. A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin
49. A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner
50. A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
51. A Dance With Dragons, George R.R. Martin

It took a while, but finally my boyfriend and I hopped onto the Game of Thrones bandwagon. We watched the show first, and then read the books – at first in tandem, but then he shot ahead of me, so we stopped buying double copies after book three. (I later sent our duplicates to my fantasy-loving uncle, thus earning me a) brownie points forever and b) actual brownies (well, seven-layer bars).) I could write several posts, probably, on the series. Suffice to say I love them and GRRM is a genius. I seriously can’t wait for Season 2.

52. Dragon Bound, Thea Harrison

ASOIAF totally ruined me, reading-wise, though. Aside from reading materials for my new internship at a literary agency, I didn’t read anything for at least a month after I finished A Dance With Dragons. My brain needed a break. I finally broke my dry spell with this book, which is light and fun and totally awesome. Thea Harrison also writes good sex, and fun worlds, and great growly males and unconventional girls. Just fyi.

53. The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, Ursula K. Le Guin

The next book club pick, chosen because Cae loves Le Guin, nobody else had read this collection of stories, and it had been mentioned in Among Others. This was fantastic, a great introduction to Le Guin for me. The Earthsea books were lying around my house growing up, but for some ridiculous reason I never picked them up. I will have to rectify this soon, as Le Guin is clearly a master.

54. Withering Tights, Louise Rennison

Another book read for an interview, but also just because I love Louise Rennison. This was so much fun! I don’t love it as much as the Georgia Nicholson books, but they’re still pretty great.

55. Archer’s Goon, Diana Wynne Jones

The next book club pick, totally adorable. It’s really tragic Diana Wynne Jones is no longer with us, she was such a fantastic storyteller. Archer’s Goon is great the characters (Awful!!), the plot, the twists, and the unapologetic, no-explanations-needed world-building. She walked that fine line between totally alienating the reader and giving just enough info to enjoy the story, and she did it so well. I need to read more. And reread the Howl & Sophie books.

56. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

I felt about this much the same that I felt about Lips Touch – pretty, pretty, pretty, but didn’t adore it – but it there was much more and it was delicious. Sinking into Taylor’s words and her world is a pleasure, and I know that if I could have read this when I was 16, it would have been my favorite book. I’m not that girl anymore, but I can still appreciate the aesthetic I once embraced so whole-heartedly.

57. The Lost Adventures, Avatar: The Last Airbender

When are they going to give us a release date for Korra?!?!?! also, super excited for Gene Yang’s Last Airbender graphic novel! Coming out super soon!

58. Wildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier

I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner. This is the perfect fairy tale retelling, and Marillier’s writing and characterization and world-building is gorgeous.

59. French Milk, Lucy Knisley
60. Storm’s Heart, Thea Harrison
61. Understanding Israel in 60 Days or Less, Sarah Glidden
62. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is perfect, everyone read this book. I enjoyed this much more than Bossypants (which I liked!), probably because I’m closer in age to Mindy. She’s hilarious, I laughed out loud, and agreed with her so hard on so many things about America’s oft-times baffling pop culture.

63. Shut Out, Kody Keplinger
64. And Then Things Fall Apart, Arlaina Tibensky

These were both read for another interview, and I really enjoyed them both. Shut Out had a great concept – contemporary high school retelling of Lysistrata – and it was a good story, even if it didn’t go as deep as I wanted it to. I adored the voice in Arlaina Tibensky’s book, though. I really want to read The Bell Jar now. If I was 15, I would have been totally all over this book – her precocious teenage narrator is spot-on, everyone is heartbreakingly real, and it’s just such an excellent character study that manages to hold your attention even though nothing much happens. It’s really great.

65. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, ed. Kate Bernheimer

My book club pick, and one of those I read for Sirens 2012! There are a lot of really great fairy tale-inspired short stories in here, and a handful that didn’t really appeal to me. But it’s a fantastic collection for showing how fairy tales influence literature, and writers, and the narratives we force our lives into. Highly recommend.

66. Pyongyang, Guy Delisle
67. Drinking at the Movies, Julia Wertz

Also included in my count are 3 books that were read as manuscripts for interviews and will be published in the future, and so I can’t include them here. But my final count is 70! So, you know, go me. 2011 – 70 books, lots of interviews, two great internships, one bookstore job left, another gained… here’s hoping 2012 is just as fun, if maybe a little more prosperous.

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Written by Emily G.

January 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm

9 Responses

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  1. Yay, I love reading about other people’s reading, and I love how you structured your post (grouping them by section). You have some great ones in there!

    Faye Bi (@newsboyhat)

    January 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    • Thanks! They’re pretty much in chronological order, I just tend to read in chunks. also, you totally inspired me to do this, in a roundabout way, so give yourself credit! 😉

      Emily G.

      January 2, 2012 at 12:13 am

  2. … 70 books? Damn. I thought I was doing well with 33.

    steadygoing

    January 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm

  3. Had to process then come back for a proper comment…I’m glad you read so much! I love it when people read and write about it. I’m a nerd, you know this.

    As for a few of them:
    1.’ Ash’, how did you find it? I thought it was slow going and couldn’t bring myself to continue. (I felt the same way about the ‘Game of Thrones’ series and Westerfeld’s series.

    25. ‘Chime’, did you do a review of that on Goodreads? I’m on the fence about it.

    53. Le Guin. Yes, yes, yes. I have yet to find a book of hers I don’t like. I think I have all of them.

    56. Laini Taylor. I’m still formulating my opinion on it. Maybe when the movie comes out(if it does).

    Yay, you’re blogging. I can’t wait to read more(and comment too)!

    Lake (@firelakie)

    January 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    • Hopefully I’ll keep it up! I already have a couple more posts in mind. I look forward to your comments!

      1. I really liked Ash, but I know a lot of people who didn’t, so you’re not alone. I have a soft spot for quiet books, especially ones built around fairy tales. It’s more about the atmosphere than the plot, for me. I’m surprised you couldn’t get into the Leviathan books, though! I thought they moved pretty quick!

      25. I loved Chime, so much so that I couldn’t do a Goodreads review. When I love something tootoo much, I can’t review it, which is ridiculous, but there you have it! It took me about 50 pages to get into it — again, atmosphere! voice! mood! — but once I did I was head-over-heels. I think she did an amazing job with Briony’s voice, the world-building, and her relationships with her sister, Eldric, her stepmother, her father, the swamp. It’s all beautifully drawn, and addresses a lot of contemporary issues in a way that isn’t heavy-handed at all, and the writing is intoxicating. I guess that’s a review right there! (Somehow telling a friend about a book is different than writing a review, hm.)

      53. I really want to read more!

      56. I’d love to hear your opinion when you do formulate it!

      Emily G.

      January 2, 2012 at 9:40 pm

  4. I love this list, and like Faye I love the way you structure it! I would love to find out why you didn’t like The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; I heard good things about it and got it from the library several times but never could make myself start it. I’ve definitely added some of your favorites to (the top of) my (28-page) to-read list.

    Shoshana

    January 3, 2012 at 12:16 am

    • Thanks! I definitely need to go over your list again and add some to my ridiculous to-read list as well. And we need to talk about The Thirteenth Child!!

      I’d heard good things about Sweetness, and I loved the cover, so I had high hopes. It was just a little too precious for me, I think? The old white dude-ness of the author came through too often, I think particularly when it came to his caricatures of sisters. I haaaated how he depicted the sisters and Flavia’s relationship to them, and I say this as someone who had an antagonistic relationship with a sister. 😉 Also, Flavia was a pretentious brat, and I don’t have much tolerance for that if the voice is not engaging. There were definitely good parts, and it was a fun read at times, but overall I was disappointed.

      Emily G.

      January 3, 2012 at 8:37 am


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