Best Books of 2011

Every year starting in November, newspapers, websites, and blogs begin posting their list of the Best Books in 2011. This year we decided to share some of our favorites from library staff around Pinal County.

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
A new writer with a new protagonist named Vanessa Michael Munroe meets my criteria for an edgy heroine filled with angst. This first book gives us a glimpse of her early life and how she became a name to be feared at a young age in Africa, while she is searching for a young woman who vanished in that continent years ago. When she is hired to find the daughter of a Texas oil baron she needs all of her many skills to do the job and stay alive. A number of our Pinal County libraries own this, and we recommend you read it soon since her second book The Innocent will be published at the end of December.

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, fairies…this series has them all! Just when you think you have heard of every possible downworlder, Cassandra Clare comes up with something new. Clary’s passion, Jace’s strength, Simon’s gawky sarcasm, Alec’s search for self, Isabelle’s brash independence, Luke’s warmth, and even Valentine’s vile arrogance will make you love this series, too. The series is mysterious, sexy, funny, frightening, and just very well-written. Enjoy!

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber
This is the latest addition to Debbie’s many Christmas stories, but it is also the twelfth and final book in the Cedar Cove series which began in 2001 with 16 Lighthouse Road. Whether you have enjoyed these books from the start, joined somewhere in the middle and caught up, or have never read this series, you will enjoy 1225 Christmas Tree Lane. While the main story introduces new characters, all of the Cedar Cove residents from the previous stories are brought back one last time, and it is all tied together with the theme of Christmas, and a basketful of puppies. The book wraps up each story nicely, but it can also be an introduction to the series, or read as a standalone.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser
Have you noticed recently that the results you get from your Google search have changed? What about Facebook? Have friends with different interests dropped from your News Feed? If you’re curious or concerned about this phenomenon then you might want to read the Filter Bubble. The author explains how personalization of our search results is changing our experience of the world. Find out more about “filter bubbles” by viewing Eli Pariser’s TedTalk from March 2011.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
A very young Ernest Hemingway married Hadley Richardson in 1921 and moved to Paris. Paris in the twenties was a hotbed of expatriate artists and writers disillusioned by war, haunted by a sense of moral loss, and united by their rejection of America’s post WWI values. Hadley struggles to cope with her crushing loneliness while Ernest works or travels. She tries to adjust to life with a moody writer and his eccentric friends, all the while feeling like an outsider that still believes in traditional marriage. You may find it hard to like Hemingway after reading this, but McLain’s writing style does have charming echoes of Hemingway’s spare prose. The Hemingways palled around with the likes of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. This glimpse into the magical, creative world of the “Lost Generation” is fascinating.

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
This is a short, sweet story about a relationship. But instead of the standard boy meets girl tale, it’s told through dictionary entries. As is true of any good dictionary, the entries are in alphabetical order. As you read, you piece together bits of the story and start to put the love puzzle together. To keep the story going, there’s a Twitter account that adds entries every day.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Audio book narrated by Hope Davis)
Ann Patchett is a favorite author of several staff members and in this book Patchett beautifully weaves the tale of Dr. Marina Singh, a medical researcher for a pharmaceutical company, who travels to the jungles of the Amazon to investigate the death of a fellow researcher. Singh’s also been sent there to find the wayward Dr. Swenson, who has been down there for years studying a native tribe’s fertility. Listening to this book on audio you feel as if you are in the Amazon, and Davis’ reading is luminous, as usual.

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
This is the story of a group of men that can’t forget the girl that went missing when they were in high school. Their story is told collectively – use of we, our, etc – and it gives their thoughts about what happened to Nora Lindell. Since no one knows what really happened to Nora, they can only guess; and they have a lot of guesses – some happy, some sad, some outlandish, and some entirely too plausible. The story says a lot about how we cope and if we can cope when there’s no clear conclusion. Beautifully written and interestingly told, The Fates Will Find Their Way is a fantastic debut by author Hannah Pittard.

Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly with Jeffrey Zaslow
Gabrielle Giffords was elected to represent Arizona’s 8th Congressional District for southern Arizona in 2007. She is well-loved and very committed to her district. She is married to astronaut Mark Kelly, Commander for the final space shuttle in May 2011. On January 8, 2011, Gabrielle scheduled a “Congress on Your Corner” in Tucson to meet with her constituents so she could hear what they had on their mind. Jared Laughner came to the event armed. He shot Gabby in the head, left six other people dead and thirteen wounded.

This book gives a frank account of Gabby’s long and difficult recuperation from a traumatic brain injury. It’s an inspiring read and you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat as Mark shares Gabby’s challenges and successes. It is heartbreaking to hear how their lives have been turned upside down, but exhilarating to learn how well Gabby is doing.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
There have been many novels published over the past year trying to fill the hole left by The Hunger Games. Some are mediocre, some are terrible, and some are good. Divergent is even better than good, it’s fantastic! It’s a well-paced, interested story about a futuristic society where everyone is placed into one of five factions: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. At sixteen, citizens must choose the faction they will spend the rest of their lives with; even if it means leaving behind the faction they’ve known their entire life. This means they also leave their family. Tris is a likable, but realistic main character and you’ll stay up way too late reading to find out what decision she makes. The follow-up, Insurgent, has an expected publication date of May 2012!

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
If you like psychological thrillers, then you’ll love this one! The novel opens with a young woman waking up with no idea where she is. We only know what she knows and we quickly discover that she’s not as young as she thought upon waking and she has no clear memory of anything. By the end of the first chapter, she discovers that she’s been keeping a journal. The second part of the book is only her journal entries over the past few weeks. We only know what she remembers to write down and she only knows what other people tell her. The writing is incredible, the characters are intriguing, and you’ll stay up late trying to unravel Christine’s story.

Want more “Best of” lists? Take a look at these resources:
largehearted boy
- A blogger collects the links to just about every “Best of” list on the web
#libfavs2011 - This hashtag was started to encourage librarians across the country to tweet their top 11 reads of 2011.

Is your favorite missing on our list? Tell us about it in the comments!

We’re making a few changes!

In an effort to always deliver fresh content, we’re expanding the scope of this blog! Going forward we will include Staff Recommendations, Read-alikes, and Book News. But don’t worry, we’ll still keep you up-to-date on our available book club kits, too.

Book Club Kit: The Book Thief

Markus Zusak - The Book ThiefThe Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
First Published: 2006
10 Copies & Reading Guide

Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, a book that she stole from her brother’s burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a fullfledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. Liesel is illiterate when she steals her fi rst book, but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read. This is a story of courage, friendship, love, survival, death, and grief. This is Liesel’s life on Himmel Street, told from Death’s point of view.

Reading Guide:
ReadingGroupGuides – Includes Critical Praise, Author Info, and Discussion Questions

Reviews:
The New York Times – “Stealing to Settle a Score with Life” by Janet Maslin and “Fighting for Their Lives” by John Green
The Guardian (UK) – “It’s a Steal” by Philip Ardagh
USA Today – “‘The Book Thief’ Rises Above Horrors of War” by Carol Memmott
The Washington Post – “The Power of Words” by Elizabeth Chang

On the Web:
Author’s Website – www.markuszusak.com
The Guardian (UK) – “Why I Write: Markus Zusak” interview by Sarah Kinson

If you enjoyed The Book Thief, you might like these:
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
City of Thieves (Book Club Kit) by David Benioff
Sarah’s Key (Book Club Kit) by Tatiana de Rosnay

Food Bonus!

Check out The Book Club Cook Book for Markus Zusak’s Vanilla Kipferl (aka Crescent Cookies) recipe!