Booklist 2011 – Suggestions Sought

In 2005 I asked readers of defective yeti to pick a year’s worth of books for me. They did, and I wound up reading some of the best literature of my life. I still harken back to the comments that entry when I am in need of a novel to devour.

I haven’t been reading as much in recent years, but for some reason signed on to the 2011 Tournament of Books, becoming a judge for the first time ever. And to that end, I spent January reading my assigned tomes: Model Home by Eric Puchner and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. (The details and brackets of the 2011 ToB were anounced today. check them out.)

From there I moved on to the Uglies quadrilogy, a teen sci-fi series that was recommended by a dear friend. Fun! But these novels each take like a day to complete, and I need to have something lined up if I want to maintain my momentum.

And anyway, reading a score of recommended books is a 2011 Project of mine. So I again turn my lonely eyes to you, Internet. Below are the books I have already selected; please aid me in rounding out the list to an even 20.

The Current List


Recommendations From Comments & Email

Please make recommendations in the comments; I will keep the above list updated as more are suggested. Please second those Candidates that you feel ought to be promoted to the main list (or steer me away from those that you feel I best avoid).

If you want to triangulate your suggestions a bit, I’ll tell you that my favorite books from 2010 were: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families (so good!), Little Bee, Zeitoun, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo SHUT UP I LIKED IT.

I’ll review each and every Booklist 2011 novel here on my site. That’s a defective yeti promise. Which means a promise likely to be broken. But I’ll try.

87 thoughts on “Booklist 2011 – Suggestions Sought

  1. Kavalier and Clay was a non-starter for me (but it’s still on my to-read list) and Cryptonomicon is another good Neal Stephenson read.

  2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
    by Susanna Clarke

    It’s a novelized history of the return of English Magic in the early 19th Century. I recommend it for the excellent footnotes alone!

  3. I highly recommend Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. There’s a follow up, The Year of the Flood, and a to-be-realeased third installment. Wonderful post-apocalyptic science fiction.

  4. I second “The Book Thief”, one of the best books I read last year. I also enjoyed David Mitchell’s “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”.

  5. I absolutely second Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman — beautiful, haunting stories.

    Some recent favorites I didn’t see listed:

    The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, who is a lovely writer and my new favorite
    This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Holmes
    The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – seriously, amazing.
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow – I didn’t expect to like a book by the creator of Boing Boing as much as I did!
    Sunshine by Robin McKinley is a vampire story with a nice twist
    Flicker by Theodore Roszak is a weird read, but a fun ride.

    And for non-fiction, my favorite one to recommend is At the Water’s Edge by Carl Zimmer (a god among science writers). Awesome history of how humans came to understand whale evolution. No, really, it’s awesome.

  6. Guns, Germs, and Steel is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

    For what it’s worth, I think one book about money is enough, but I like the idea of Video Games and Why They Matter. I come to you for board games ideas all the time.

    Not sure if it adds any weight to my suggestions, but I loved Little Bee and the whole Stieg Larsson series. I also loved Infinite Jest. By the way, can you make this list into Summer of Booklist 2011 or something? There is a huge gap in my life still remaining where Infinite Summer ended.

  7. If you end up liking Black Swan Green, read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. It’s Mitchell’s best work to date, very beautiful, with compelling characters. Funny and sad, at turns.

    Also, recommending that Anil’s Ghost get moved onto the main list. It’s a short read, but also beautifully written. The prose is sort of ethereal and based a lot on images and impressions, but there’s also a mystery at the center which keeps the plot moving. Manages also to give a good “slice of life” overview of the political/racial turmoil in Sri Lanka, without being a straightforward history of it.

  8. I really don’t get all the hating on Freedom. It’s so good. Maybe he’s done too well? I loved it. And I’m kind of picky. I’m really interested in what you have to say about Model Home. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself until I see your review. Super Sad True Love Story is on the kitchen table…have to read Lord of Misrule (if I can finish it – good lord with the HORSES already) and Skippy Dies first before I owe the library yet more late fees.

  9. I recommend Born to Run by Christopher McDougal

    Even if you’re not a runner this is a fascinating, entertaining book that will change your perspective on something that has grown to be a part of you. Shoes.

  10. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. A surprisingly good book — it makes you feel good about the whole endeavor of reading.

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. To those who scoff at YA — take that. The machinations of empire, the corruption of power, and a gripping narrative to boot.

  11. I second “A Soldier of the Great War.” A beautiful novel.

    If you want to read “Guns, Germs & Steel” I’d recommend reading “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann, first. It has some truly fascinating history of the pre-columbian Americas, and completely turned my view of that period on it’s head. You get some of the same insight as “Guns, Germs…”, but it’s written for a layman rather than academic audience and, for a history book, is a page-turner.

  12. You likle boardgames (like me), so I wholeheartly recommend “Word Freak” by Steafn Fatsis, even if you dislike Scrabble (like me)! Its so funny and interesting that I bought & Read (& enjoxed) Fatsis second book “A few seconds of panic” despite (as being from Germany) that I dont know anything about American Football.
    Check it out!

    And my favorite book of the last 6 month:
    “Merchants of doubt – How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Its delievered matter-offactly an unbelieveble Story which constantly lets you shake your head – Great Read!

    (There is so muc fiction on your list already, so I wont say anything about “Anathema” and “Shades of Grey” ;-)

  13. “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” by Alexandra Fuller.
    Totally engrossing memoir of her childhood in Africa. Brilliant read.

  14. Bonk! Read Bonk! It’s funny, the subject is interesting, and while all Mary Roach books have entertaining footnotes they reach a new height in this book.

  15. I also second Winter’s Tale – so strange and lovely. But I am interested in why Friendless didn’t think The Power of One was worth reading? A statement like that implies a fundamental flaw in the book, not just a dislike of the style or topic.

  16. Oh,hell. I’m in the minority, but I’d gladly give away my copy of Never Let Me Go. Hated that book; thought it was vapid and silly. Terrible. Honestly, if someone wants it and will pay for shipping, it’s yours–hardback, even.
    I’d recommend, in nonfiction, The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Completely riveting story of the ongoing obsession of explorers of the Amazon. I saw Jon Stewart interview the author and I got it immediately. If you haven’t ever read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which is a sort of retelling of Hamlet novel, that’s a really good read. It’s beautifully written, yet still very nicely engaging.

  17. If you like food – American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen made me drool (and was very well written).

    And, I’m not a big zombie fan but World War Z is very well done and so much more – by Max Brooks (son of Mel).

  18. First comment on your blog, but given that I like the books you like, I’ll give you three of my favorite books of all time:

    A Fine Balance – Rohintin Mistry
    Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
    Water Music – T.C. Boyle

    You simply can’t go wrong with any of them.

  19. Ooh ooh! Read the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness! If you enjoyed Westerfield’s Uglies it’s a must. It’s about a human colony on another planet. There are only men in the village, and everyone’s thoughts are constantly broadcast. The call it, “noise.” The noise includes animals as well, and the opening line of the book is the main character’s dog saying, “Need a poo, Todd.” Which, hilarious. Ok, but seriously these books are great. Exciting and thought provoking and I was so mad when I read the first two and found out that the third hadn’t been published yet (it has now, and I don’t even have an excuse for this since I’m a Youth Services Librarian)

    Also, I can’t believe Little Bee was a favorite. I thought it was so bogus that Sarah brought Charlie to Nigeria. I thought it was totally out of character for her and the revelations that she JUST HAD. Also, when she did bring him, his role became totally predictable. YMMV

  20. I second both Nothing To Envy and Room, especially if you enjoy books about people desperately trying to escape from unimaginably horrific and seemingly hopeless situations.

  21. Oh, right TC Boyle. Forgot to say that. I really liked Tooth and Claw, but that’s a story collection so I don’t know if it counts. Drop City was great, too.

  22. Bonk is perhaps one of my top books I’ve read this year. (read it while waiting for “Packing for Mars” to come back to the library.) The subject matter being what it is, the author must have carefully re-read each chapter to make sure it didn’t fall into the “playground laugh” zone. The footnotes, like always, are hilarious, perhaps more so than the main writing. It’s also a pretty quick read, though I don’t suggest you bring it along to places where people are likely to ask the awkward question of “what’s that about?”, ie work, coach tours, family reunion/gatherings. Grandma had to ask about the ladybugs on the cover…

  23. My recommendation, (though you don’t know me from Jack) is a book by the name of: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This book surprised me like no other book has in a long while, grabbed me up and forcibly dragged me along for a ride on a train gone rogue and you’re waiting for the tracks to fall out from under you the whole time. Yet, when it happens, you’re shocked and heartsick, but find redemption, hope, and true faith so beautiful, your heart breaks again. Did I give too much away? ooops, darn it. ~grinz~

  24. Saw you’re considering “Bonk” by Gail Roach. Anything by her is great, “Bonk” included. She actually has sex with her husband in an MRI as part of her research.

    If you haven’t read any of her books I’d start with “Stiff: The Curious Life of a Cadaver”. I read “Packing for Mars” a while ago and that set me on to reading some of her recommendations (her footnotes are the equal of her prose) like, “Riding Rockets” the autobiography of Astronaut Mike Mullane. There is some seriously laugh out loud stuff in that book.

  25. “Bonk” by Mary Roach was phenomenal, as were her books “Spook” and “Stiff” about the afterlife and cadavers. I think my favorite of hers however is the most recent one about packing for Mars. A real riot.

    And I just read the coment above saying basically the same thing. But, I’m leaving my comment anyway :)

  26. Not the newest book (do they have to be new) but “The Boy Detective Fails” by Joe Meno. Just wonderfully odd and entrancing, it deals with serious subject matter but balances it with the remnants of the childhood detective genre (for pete’s sake, the bottom of each page is in code, and there’s a cipher in the back).

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