On the first day of the new year, it’s time as always to take a look back at books I read in 2011. I don’t feel 2011 was a particularly great reading year for me, unlike 2010 where I read so many absolutely wonderful books that I had a really hard time narrowing it down to a Top 10 list. In 2011, for one thing, I only read 68 new books — significantly fewer than the 80-100 I normally read in a year. There were a couple of contributing factors: a period during the winter when I was deep in researching and writing That Forgetful Shore, and reading only books that were relevant to that research; the entire month of June sacrificed to the Game of Thrones series, which I did like a lot, but not enough to take my breath away; also the fact that my e-reader died in May and I was getting by until November with borrowing either Jason’s or Emma’s Kobos, reading on my phone, and checking out the odd paper book from the library. It was a patchwork solution that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, especially during our three-week vacation, and I didn’t feel I was really back on track, book-wise, till I got my Blackberry Playbook in November.
Despite that, there were some very good books in this year’s list. I read 45 fiction and 23 non-fiction books; 26 books were written by men and 42 by women. In both those cases the proportions are about what they usually are.
So, what are my ten favourite books of the year? I narrowed it down fairly quickly to eleven, and then debated all day over which one to knock off to make it an even ten. It’s always pretty arbitrary.
As per usual for the last few years, I’m not going to just give you the list. No, I’m going to give you clues to the list, and you can search here through my archived reviews for the year, or anywhere else on the web (or dip into your own vast well of book-knowledge) to figure out which ten books made the list. If you think you have the list figured out, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (I’ve disabled comments on this post so you can’t accidentally post the list here and spoil it for other people).
This year I will pick four winners (probably the first four correct lists, unless I get a vast amount of entries in which case I might just draw four at random) and I will be giving four prizes. Two of the winners will get to pick their own favourite book from my Top Ten list (you have to actually pick one; just saying “Pick one you think I’ll like!” has not always given good results in the past). The other two lucky winners will get prize packs of my books (you can visit my writing page if you want to know more about them). The Historical Fiction Prize Pack consists of three books by me: That Forgetful Shore, By the Rivers of Brooklyn, and The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson. The Biblical Fiction Prize Pack includes four books: Esther: A Story of Courage; Deborah & Barak; Lydia: A Story of Philippi, and James: the Brother of Jesus.
When you send in your entry, be sure to let me know which prize you’d like if you win!
Without further ado, here are the clues to my top ten books of the year:
10. Educational opportunities for Native Americans in colonial New England? I didn’t think I was interested, but … the right writer can draw me right in.
9. Just another Holocaust novel — but its intense personal focus makes it so much more.
8. Here’s another, “Didn’t think I was interested, but ….” This time, it was a non-fiction writer who made me fall in love with a long-dead German shepherd.
7. Supposed to be a young-adult novel, but this time-travel story fascinated me more than it did my eleven-year-old daughter.
6. I’m not normally hooked by graphic novels, but this one — yes. And it’s also “just another Holocaust story” … but so much more.
5. A collection of essays? Not my usual reading choice, but these witty, thoughtful women writers caused me to race through the book in a day.
4. Beautiful historical fiction, again about a subject I didn’t think I was fascinated by. Japanese painting? Oh yes!
3. I love her on TV so what’s not to love about her book?
2. Breezy, funny, wonderful memoir by an ex-patriate Newfoundlander.
1. I like this author’s writing, but I usually dislike his subject matter. This time I loved it all, making this weighty tome my favourite book of the year.
Remember, if you think you’ve figured out all the books, email me your list along with a note about which prize you’d like to receive, and if you’re one of the lucky four I’ll be sending you a book or maybe even a whole package of books! Contest closes 12:00 midnight, Newfoundland Standard Time, Friday January 6, 2012.