The Books of 2011 – 40 Books in 365 Days

I can’t believe we’re wrapping up 2011. It’s been an eventful year but just because stuff happened doesn’t mean I dropped the ball when it came to my annual reading goal. This year, though, I was [un]lucky to have my first semester reading list, which meant taking on 20 “serious” books for writing, which meant almost a book a week between June through November, which meant that the quality of books I read went way up and that I’m surprised my eyesight hasn’t gotten bad from all the page turning.

Somehow I managed to still read 40 books (and hopefully one more: Cold Comfort Farm which I’m reading right now) over the past year. I’m proud because I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it and that I’d have to disembowel myself for dishonoring the family. Or something like that.

Here’s what I read in a random, particular order of my school reading list and the crappy books I read before that:

  1. Reading Like A Writer – Francine Prose
  2. Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro
  3. Stories – Anton Chekov
  4. 9 Stories – JD Salinger
  5. A Good Man Is Hard To Find – Flannery O’Conner
  6. Cathedral – Raymond Carver
  7. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  8. Martin Dressler – Steven Millhauser
  9. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  10. Willful Creatures – Aimee Bender
  11. Winesburg, OH – Sherwood Anderson
  12. Pastoralia – George Saunders
  13. The Art of Time in Memoir – Sven Birkerts
  14. Stop-Time – Frank Conroy
  15. Ship Fever – Andrea Barrett
  16. The Elements of Style – Strunk & White
  17. The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
  18. Wyoming Stories Close Range – Annie Proulx
  19. Burning Down The House – Charles Baxter
  20. Perfume – Patrick Suskind
  21. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton
  22. The Blythes Are Quoted – L.M. Montgomery
  23. The Cailiffs of Baghdad – Mary Helen Stefaniak
  24. The Woman In Black – Susan Hill
  25. Citizen Girl – Emma McLaughlin
  26. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me – Kate Bernheimer
  27. Sheer Abandon – Penny Vincenzi
  28. A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick
  29. Fury of the Phoenix – Cindy Pon
  30. A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
  31. The Surrendered – Chang-rae Lee
  32. World & Town – Gish Jen
  33. The Long Song – Andrea Levy
  34. The Distant Hours – Kate Morton
  35. The Widower’s Tale – Julia Glass
  36. Freedom – Jonathan Franzen
  37. Absolution – Caro Ramsay
  38. Little, Big – John Crowley
  39. Kept – D.J. Taylor
  40. Shades of Milk & Honey – Mary Kowal

The ones in bold are the books that I absolutely enjoyed. They’re a range of genres, from cowboy dramas (I almost cried after finishing Brokeback Mountain in Annie Proulx’s anthology) to the predictable, like Slaughterhouse-Five (I kind of feel like a douche for liking it so much again), and the deliciously disturbing (Flannery O’Connor. Would it be weird if I named my first child after Flannery? Do you think my fobby mom would be able to pronounce it?).

I also had to say that book #40 was possibly the worst thing I have ever read since…well…forever. My advisor warned me about reading for entertainment over reading for the craft, so I’ll admit that I picked this book up for pure entertainment and because I have a tiny soft spot for anything like Jane Austen (even though I’ve never really actually read a Jane Austen book and I kind of hate girls who obsess over her) and magic. Except this book, Shades of Milk & Honey, was such a complete Austen wannabe that it was pure fluff: predictable characters, ridiculous descriptions and an overall trying-way-too–hard feel. Ugh. I was so pissed while trying to get through it (which only took me less than a day).

Anyway, I’ve already got my reading list for January and a secret list for entertainment reading growing in my head. Here’s to another forty–and hopefully 50–in 2012!

  1. I’ve been trying to find some books to read during the holidays and the other day I started wondering if you’d do a reading recap again this year. I thought you might be too busy with class, so this is a nice surprise.


    1. Oh, yay! I know I’ve been super busy but I promised myself to put together a list for future reference, too. Glad someone else has a use for it, too.



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