For the past three years, I’ve made it my goal to read at least 50 books each year. This year I’ve upped it to 52, and you can keep track of my book challenge here. This page will be updated with links new reviews and as they are posted, along with summaries and star ratings.
Fellow bookworms, feel free to friend me on GoodReads!
What I Read in 2011
42. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
A little flimsy on plot, this collection of ruminations on a relationship is a gorgeous read.
41. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
This hilarious collection of super-short stories focuses on eccentric animals but says a lot about human nature. Snappy, silly, and hugely entertaining.
40. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes. And a little bit of good advice.
39. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
38. Naked by David Sedaris
37. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A slow-starter, once you’ve read one or two of Atwood’s apocalyptic futures you know roughly how it’s going to reveal itself. Since this played on social issues from a time less familiar to me. When it finally hits its stride, though, it’s a thrilling, rapidly-unraveling tale.
35. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore
Lorrie Moore’s stories are snapshots of an inquisitive mind looking out. Here the short novel’s protagonist recounts the young friendship with her adolescent bestie and her life’s journey through small-town life, traversing into adulthood in a self-deprecating stupor of misplaced affections and under-appreciated mercies. Moore’s words paint thousands of pictures, all of them nostalgic yet tainted with sadness. Essentially, it’s a series of well-written vignettes, more thought character study than meaningful narrative.
34. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Journalist Caitlin Moran’s excellent new book is part memoir, part feminist manifesto. From talk of lady-bits that will make you laugh out loud to a birth reenactment enough to make your ovaries recede, it’s a straight-forward, honest piece that tackles taboo and the accepted rituals of femalehood that, in many cases, are batshit insane. It may be complicated but she reminds us that, man, it’s fun to be a woman.
33. The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi
A frankly batshit crazy fairy story for the new generation. Flights of fancy meet some stunning hand-coloured animations to make a quirky story of love and persistence.
32. The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex by Mark Kermode – Review
A detailed written basis for his Wittertainment soap-boxing and all manner of excuses for a good whinge. While we’ve all heard the anecdotes workers thousands of times, there are plenty of topics of note and choice anecdotes from film history to keep it spry and entertaining.
31. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (re-read)
Paris cafés and drunken adventures in sunny Spain. Revisited for my annotated book club. (More to come on this later).
30. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
A masterfully woven narrative of short stories and recurring characters full of neuroses, poignent moments, and touching tales.
29. Silent Comedy by Paul Merton
Stand-up comedian and silent comedy enthusiast Paul Merton shares a succinct history of the silent comedy era and its stars – Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. An excellent beginners guide and personal handbook of the stars’ most accomplished films.
28. How to Leave Twitter by Grace Dent – Review
A brief and humorous guide to my favourite social network, including some insights into how to use it well and an array of wittily crated thoughts and experiences of Grace Dent’s in her 3 years of using the website.For sharp-tongue and quick wit, get your butt on Twitter. If you’re already on there, you can read this extra-long tweet in book form by picking up this book.
27. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald
More amazing 1920s short stories from one of my favourite authors. A must for fans of Fitzgerald.
26. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
A major new release from Maureen Johnson, this teen novel follows Louisiana girl Rory Deveaux, who arrives at her new boarding school in London as copy-cat Jack the Ripper attacks break out across the city. Quirky, fun, and thrilling.
25. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Concluding the Harry Potter series and a massive hole on my “well-read” record, I finally see what all the fuss was about. Though some niggling issues brought limitations and the finale proved pretty exposition-heavy, it’s a worthy ending to an excellent series.
24. Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina, Tina, Tina. As a massive fan of Ms Fey’s work in general and 30 Rock in particular, I was expecting humorous memoir essays of the standard and ilk of Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris. Initially disappointed, once you traverse from awkward teens-and-twenties stories to, coining her own phrase, “after the personality dust has well and truly settled,” Fey’s accounts of SNL life and writing funnies is touching, honest, and humorously memorable.
23. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
A stunning tale of infatuation, mortification, and illness that will never be fully captured on screen. Although parts of the story have worn thin with time, it’s a lyrical journey and well-deserving of the title ‘literary classic’.
22. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (re-read)
Fitzgerald is always worth revisiting. Although this is the only novel of his I’ve read, I’ve been burning through his short stories over the past 2 years. I didn’t remember much of Gatsby’s story, so it was fun to revisit. Though most of the characters are detestable their insular 1920s world of hedonism and socialite gossip continues to enthrall.
21. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
As far as kick-up-the-butt literature goes, this is a fantastic wee ebook. (It was free when I downloaded it, but you can purchase it here.) It maps an idea from conception through all of the obstacles that will get in your way and how to beat them. A fun read.
20. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Boy, did this guy know how to wrange a metaphor. Heart of Darkness is a turn-of-the-century classic (which became the source material for Apocalypse Now), and reads like one. Its truncated, hypnotic prose tumbles on into dark themes and shady characters, but the story never quite hooked me.
19. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
If, like me, you were never assigned this book in class, it comes highly recommended. Steinbeck’s mastery of the exchange between characters is simple yet striking, and stacked with symbolism. An immensely interesting read.
18. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Follow-up to Oryx and Crake, this book tackles the same events from different perspectives, piecing together a patchwork of the overall narrative arc. Occasionally flawed by its own logic but ultimately an enjoyable read.
17. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Part I of Atwood’s dystopian world with inflated scientific advancements and corporate compounds, this study of the lives of an unremarkable boy and his prodigal friend is rich in imagination and placidly engrossing.
16. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
15. Looking for Alaska by John Green (re-read)
John Green’s debut novel and its protagonist Miles are responsible for my penchant for last words and one of the best depictions of high school crushes and friendship (cheesy as that sounds) I can recall. Another young adult hit. Where were these books when I was 16?
14. Bette Davis by David Thomson
The world’s favourite film critic’s short career biography of the late, great Bette Davis. Worth a leaf-through for film fans.
13. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games part III moves from totalitarian government to rebellion. Considerably less exciting than parts I and II, but commendably well-written.
12. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Kafka’s classic story of George Samsa, the lawyer who woke to discover that he had transformed into a giant cockroach. Worth catching up on.
11. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Part II of the Hunger Games trilogy, and almost as good as the first.
10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The first instalment of Collins’ dystopic totalitarian nation, Panem, and one insolvent’s involvement in the Government’s annual spectacle: kill-or-be-killed arena games. Fun, tragic, and exciting, this is exemplary young adult fiction.
9. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A serene yet sinister tale of boarding school kids bred for a particular purpose, this mundane mystery unravels through primary school politics survived into adulthood. Sedate, but affecting.
8. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
When you’ve read one Malcolm Gladwell book, you’ve read them all. Very well written, but anecdotes become tiring when they’re repeated over and over again for a few hundred pages.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
We all know why it’s a masterpiece. It’s good to remind yourself of that once in a while.
6. Zombiecorns by John Green
John Green meets Zombie Novella. If you’ve heard of him, you know exactly what this signals – and it’s exactly what you’ll get. Still clueless? Get learnin’.
5. Room by Emma Donoghue
Fun, tense, inventive.
4. One Day by David Nicholls
Chick-lit meets massive yawn-fest.
3. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier – Review
Essentially the same scene sewn together in slightly different permutations over and over. The result is a novel that feels like the same short story narrated by six different characters read in quick succession.
2. Candide by Voltaire – Review
Though it begins with so much promise, the extent of Candide’s timelessness wears off after the first couple of chapters. A delightful beginning to a disappointing middle and not the best of all possible endings.
1. Harry Potter & the Order of The Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
This has always been my least favourite Harry Potter volume. The first half is thick with angst and difficult to get through, though it does pick up towards the climax. A disappointment after Goblet of Fire.