I’m a bit of a bookworm. Although, now that I have a Kindle, am I still a “bookworm”? E-readerbug? Kindlegnat? Oh, semantics! I digress…
My literary taste very much leans toward contemporary fiction, but I do read a current nonfiction book every four or five reads. The following are my favorite books of 2011, in no particular order:
1. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
After the solemnity of 2010’s best books (Franzen’s Freedom, Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, etc.), Moregenstern’s debut novel was pure, well, magic. A conventional plot–star crossed lovers–is injected with heady mystique when set amidst a beguiling circus. Morgenstern weaves so much detail into the setting of the circus, I still find myself trying to beckon a memory from the back of my mind only to realize it’s not a memory at all, but a scene from this book. Compelling and entertaining.
2. State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
This is perhaps my favorite of all of Patchett’s exquisite novels. Her latest is a transporting story of a female medical pharmaceutical researcher who treks into the Amazon to discover the truth behind her lab partner’s death while working there. This book wonderfully blends mystery, biomedical ethics, exotic cultures, and deep character evolution. The story will haunt you.
3. Bossypants, Tina Fey
Seriously funny, seriously smart, seriously honest–what’s not to love about Tina Fey and her hilarious memoir? More than just a collection of embarrassing confessions, this book is a frank portrayal of the struggles women uniquely face. But, I swear, even men will laugh out loud at every turn…so long as they are feminists.
4. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
This is one of those unique books that has the ability to make you laugh out loud one page, and then weep the next. The story opens with Alice waking up after an accident at the gym. Alice’s injury leads to the past ten years of her memory being erased, so the 39 year-old divorcee wakes up believing she is a 29 year-old pregnant newlywed. While the book gives a 26 year old like myself some hope of the future (Alice is thinner and prettier at 39!), it is also totally horrifying (in ten years will I, too, develop all those characteristics I presently hate?). This is a book to read and discuss with your best friends and your mom.
5. In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson
This nonfiction work about the American ambassador and his family living in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power is more wild than any made up story. Larson’s historical narrative, while inherently retrospective, is told with the objective coherence of his subjects’ realities. A very fresh look at a rather exhausted time in history. (Any bets when Hollywood will turn this into a movie?)
6. The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman
Set during Jerusalem’s fall to the Romans during the first century, Hoffman’s novel follows the lives of six women in the Masada settlement. The story is told in four parts, each narrated by a different woman. The prose and the plot are extraordinary, but even more noteworthy is that this story is based on historical artifacts. Like most historically accurate stories, this one is rife with tragedy; what makes this story unique is the portrayal of the magic–both figurative and literal–possessed by this time period’s women.