My Year in Books – 2011

I’m a few days late (thanks to some looming writing deadlines, and all the media attention this week over my Grandma’s story), but here is the list of the books I finished in the last year, separated by the month in which I read them.

(I am also “currently reading” 16 different books – which, I can’t even talk about that. I so prefer reading books one at a time. Such is life with small boys.)

I publish this list, really, in the hopes that others will follow suit (and if you do, please direct me there.) I love knowing what people are reading. In fact, when I see a photo of a home library in Architectural Digest, I always turn the magazine sideways and peer at the spines of the books, trying to see the titles.

I know. NERD.

I don’t have time to finish books these days unless they’re tolerably good, so I can generally recommend all of the books on this list (although some were much better than others.)


Blue Like Jazz, by Don Miller (Christian memoir)
The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson (Travel memoir)
Provinces of Night, by William Gay (Fiction)
Searching for God Knows What, by Don Miller (Christian memoir)

Piano Lessons, by Noah Adams (Memoir)
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson (Science)

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult (Fiction)
Uncharted Territori, by Tori Spelling (Memoir, but I use the term loosely)

The Best American Short Stories 2009, Alice Sebold, editor (Fiction)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss (Writing Instruction)

The Best American Short Stories, 2010, Richard Russo, editor (Fiction)
Doc, by Mary Doria Russell (Fiction)
Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell (Fiction)

Waiter Rant, by Steve Dublanica (Memoir)
Where’s Your Jesus Now?, by Karen Spears Zacharias (Christian non-fiction)
Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? By Karen Spears Zacharias (Christian non-fiction)
My Life As An Experiment, by A.J. Jacobs (Memoir, Humor)
Truth & Beauty, by Ann Patchett (Memoir, not humorous at all)
The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong (Memoir)

Bird Cloud, by Annie Proulx (Memoir)
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman (Biography)
In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson (History)

The Drunkard’s Walk, by Leonard Mlodinow (Science)
The Best American Short Stories 2006, Ann Patchett, editor (Fiction)
Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi (True Crime)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot (Biography, Science)
Population: 485, by Michael Perry (Memoir)
Snow Day, by Billy Coffey (Christian Fiction)

Idea Man, by Paul Allen (Autobiography)
My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy (Memoir)
Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain (Food memoir)
All That Is Bitter and Sweet, by Ashley Judd (Memoir)
A Life of Privilege, Mostly, by Gardner Botsford (Memoir)
Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe (Autobiography)

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano (Fiction)
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua (Memoir)
Mediterranean Summer, by David Shalleck (Food Memoir)
Paper Angels, by Billy Coffey (Christian Fiction)

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Biography)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Fiction)
The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson (Fiction)
For Laci, by Sharon Rocha (Memoir)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson (Fiction)

Spoon Fed, by Kim Severson (Food Memoir)
Neither Here Nor There, by Bill Bryson (Travel Memoir)
11/22/63, by Stephen King (Fiction)


12 thoughts on “My Year in Books – 2011

  1. What did you think of King’s novel? Have you read “It”? I thought 11/22/63 was one of his better books, and that’s saying a lot because I love his writing.

    Also, what did you think of the Dragon books? I’ve heard mixed reviews.

    • Well, I have only read two of his novels: Under the Dome, and this one.

      Under the Dome BLEW ME AWAY, because I had never before seen a writer cover 1000 pages without a single dull one. I have since dubbed him the best self-editor alive.

      With this one, I didn’t have the first-time “Wow” factor, but I still loved it. He knows how to keep you turning the pages, and never really gets bogged down. (In fact, he’s kind of ruined me for other writers! When a writer starts rambling now, I get very impatient.)

      Dragon books: Lisbeth Salander is perhaps the greatest fictional character to be written in the last decade or so, and she is the reason I could not stop reading the books. (Saw the new movie too, and loved it, although it’s graphic.) The books can get a little draggy (especially the 3rd one, which needed to be edited like crazy…I wonder if they ran out of time. It drones on and on about Swedish government.)

      Lisbeth is worth the price of admission. I think you’d really like the first one, at least.

      • I told you about Lisabeth….I don’t think you really believed me. 🙂 I feel vindicated!

      • Agreed in that the Dragon books needed some serious editing. I mean 600 and 700+ pages? Way too much filler. But I really liked the concept of the stories. First one was still best for me.

  2. Wow. I think we have similar eclectic tastes in books. I’ve picked up a few titles here to add to my Goodreads shelf, which doesn’t exist anywhere but my head. What were the top memoirs you read?

    • Oh gosh…let me think. I read a lot of them, didn’t I? I guess the market really is saturated. 🙂

      If we’re talking writing skill (and which ones I enjoyed the most), probably
      A Life of Privilege, Mostly
      Spoon Fed

      (All of which I picked up on a lark at my favorite used bookstore, knowing nothing about them. I find some of my best books that way!)

      Steve Jobs was fantastic, just because he was SO interesting. Bill Bryson’s memoirs are always good and funny. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was fascinating and provocative.

      If you have specific questions about any of the titles, ask away. 🙂

  3. Cathy, I am catching up with my blog-reading after a month-long journey. I am a bride of sixty…an unexpected joy, an accidental reunion of two childhood neighbors. With some forty plus years – and a continent – in between us. We married in the summer and I’ve been living with the two suitcases I brought then. I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Katherine Hepburn, especially her ability to simplify her life. Point in case, her wardrobe: black pants, black Mao jacket. Laid out on a guest bed each night. No need for a closet. I have now lived in the same two pairs of black pants since arriving in California. Alas, I have discovered that I am not as enlightened as Ms. Hepburn. Nor quite ready to quit playing dress-up. So Bill and I flew south to visit his sister and mom and my son, daughter-in-love, and Ciara (the world’s most delightful grand-daughter). And to retrieve the rest of my clothes as well as my car. What an interesting experience but, alas, one that frequently did not provide the 3G – or any other – network required to operate my suddenly not-so-smart phone. This morning I read Minka’s story. It took my breath away. What a gift you have and what an incredible grandmother. The genes do not lie. I am thrilled to have met you, my cyber-friend. And, through you, others such as Karen Spears Zacharias. Every encounter enriches and emboldens me. I am fascinated by the blog-dialog between distant and seemingly disparate people. And within my family, this written conversation has deepened our verbal communication. Love and light to you. Keep writing. And reading…love your list. Many parallels there as well.

    • Celeste, my dear…you have reminded me again just how MUCH I love your writing. (And I probably need to subscribe to your blog – although I currently don’t subscribe to ANY blogs – so that I don’t miss a thing.)

      Congratulations on your wonderful news! And thank you for sharing your vivid thoughts. Thank you so much for commenting, and for being so supportive to me. It looks like it might be a very busy, fun year of writing for me. 🙂

      I have loved “meeting” you and all of my other new writer friends…the best thing, by FAR, about social media!

      Love to you. XO

  4. I will try to compile a list. These are in no particular order and may not be all inclusive.
    The girl with the Dragon tattoo – Loved
    The girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest-Loved!!
    The girl who played with Fire- Loved but agree w/ you about the editing thing…
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet-It was just OK
    Sarah’s Key- Very compelling story. Decent writting; the editing was only so-so. English obviously not native language.
    The Scottish Prisoner- DG. Good-liked it-except for one gross sex scene.
    The Exile (Diana Gabaldon graphic novel)- Amusing. It’s a grown up comic book….nuff said.
    Fall of Giants- I know you didn’t like this- I did. Looking forward to sequel.
    The Help-LOVED
    Water For Elephants-Good
    Cutting For Stone- Really good; not my usual fare, but very well written
    The Art of Racing in the Rain- so.
    Steven Tyler’s memoir- I can’t recall the title. It was awful! The man should be dead.
    That’s all I can I remember. I have an amazon gift card….any recommendations?

    • Ha! Thanks for sharing your list! It’s ridiculous how much I love this info.

      For celebrity memoirs, you need to read some of those on my list…or some other ones I’ve read. There are some good ones out there.

      Recommendations? Oh my. You don’t have the time. Let me think. Let me know what you’re in the mood for, so I can narrow it down. 🙂

    • I looked over your list! I love the bookshelf application, or whatever it is. I tried to make one of those, a while back…but, you can imagine how that went. IT DIDN’T.

      I’m proud…your list is well-rounded! I could use a few more memoirs in there, and a couple more novels, but hey…nicely done, Sir.

      You certainly read far more books than I listened to music. 🙂

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