What Did I Read in 2011?
2011 was the year of the e-reader after my boyfriend brought back a Kindle from America. It really kick-started my reading because it meant I could have a book on me at all times, whether it’s on the Kindle itself or on the Kindle app on my phone. I still worked through some of my paperbacks as well, but some of them may not be on this list since I can’t remember them off the top of my head and I’m currently not at home! In any case, I feel like I read quite a bit more this year, and quite a few of those books stuck with me (despite my previous admission that I can’t remember some of them). Without further ado…
Reading ‘The Hunger Games’ on my Kindle.
- The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner. Very inspiring. A great story of three girls who pick up and leave New York to travel around the world. It wasn’t all fun and games, but it was very real…and made me want to pick up and leave immediately on my own round-the-world trip.
- Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm. I didn’t find this one nearly as controversial as it was made out to be, but I did find it quite entertaining. Basically, the writer is trying to find his feet writing a Brazil guidebook and doesn’t get paid enough. Hilarity, sex, and drinking ensues.
- The Wheel of Time, Books 9-11 by Robert Jordan. A bit of a slog, to be honest. I stopped reading this series at book 7 sometime in late 2008 because it was becoming too long-winded and frustrating. I finally picked it up again in late 2010 and plowed through the last 4 books that Robert Jordan published in quick succession (mainly just to get through them and on to the better books)!
- The Wheel of Time, Books 12 & 13 by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Much, much better than the rambling tomes written solely by Jordan. Sanderson injected the life that the series needed and toned down the very annoying guys vs. girls theme. He’s finished the first draft of the final book (A Memory of Light) so hopefully it means us WoT fans will be put out of our never-ending misery soon!
- Monster Blood Tattoo Series (Foundling, Lamplighter, & Factotum) by D.M. Cornish. A tale of an orphan going out into a world full of monsters and the people that fight them. It took a while to get into and parts of it do move quite slowly, but overall it was a good story and a well-done allegory of society today.
- Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book 1) by George R. R. Martin. By far one of the most engrossing books I have ever read. Fantasy but without much of the cliche and with lots more intrigue and back-stabbing. Plus it was turned into an amazing mini-series on HBO that I could watch over and over again.
- A Song of Ice & Fire, books 2-5 by George R. R. Martin. Books 2 & 3 were just as engrossing as the first, and 4 & 5 were slightly less so but still quite riveting. I can’t wait until A Game of Thrones season 2 in April (and book 6, The Winds of Winter, when it finally comes out).
- New Spring by Robert Jordan. A prequel to the Wheel of Time series that takes you back 20 years. I found it very interesting to get a bit more backstory on some of the key players in the later books.
- Preincarnate by Shaun Micallef. Weird. Often found that I was plowing through just to finish rather than trying to make any sense of it.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Good lord, what can I say? Completely and insanely addictive story about children from a dystopian future that are sent into an arena to fight for their lives…as entertainment. Yes, it’s morbid, but it keeps you turning the pages and makes you miss dinner because you’re completely immersed in the world of Panem. I can’t wait for the movie to come out in March…provided they’ve managed to do the books justice!
- Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I read the first book plus these two in the span of about 4 days. I read them in every moment I could possibly snatch. Action-packed and full of social commentary, and I thought it ended quite well.
- The Girl Who Was on Fire by Leah Wilson, et al. A collection of essays about all aspects of The Hunger Games. I really enjoyed getting different authors’ perspectives on the series.
- Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. A much better vampire novel than some of the current tripe on the market, but I find it very hard to describe. The characters and interactions were intriguing, and I really enjoyed part of the ending…but part of it just seemed like annoying filler to make sure there were enough supernatural elements to the story.
- The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo. Supposedly Jo Nesbo is the “Norwegian Steig Larsson.” His main character, Harry Hole, is certainly an anti-hero and this is a crime novel, but I think the similarities with Larsson end there. This book had historical subtext rather than social/political, and I found that to be rather more interesting (even if Harry Hole isn’t quite the character of Lisbeth Salander…but I’m sure he continues to develop through the 7 or 8 other books Nesbo has written about him).
- The Uglies series (Uglies, Pretties, Specials & Extras) by Scott Westerfeld. Ok, but nothing special. I know, I read four of them, so you think there must have been something there…but it was really just my annoying need to know the end of the story. I mainly read these because they were a recommended young adult dystopia novel, and I was trying to find something as gripping as the Hunger Games. It certainly wasn’t, but I did find Extras to be an interesting allegory to our current online world that revolves around Facebook and Twitter.
- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Awful, awful, awful. Dymocks provided it to me as part of a review program, but I could not bring myself to write anything close to a nice review about this. The only good thing about this book was the details about the “language of flowers” that the Victorians used to use to communicate feelings. Everything else was cliché and pointless.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This has always been on my “to read” list but it never quite got ticked off. I finally got around to it this year and was happy that I did. I found it to be an interesting story of growing up in the South and navigating the minefield of the social politics of that era. It didn’t grab me quite like The Help did though.
- Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. A crime novel set in Saudi Arabia that was recommended to me and did not disappoint. The main characters are a loner man who spends a lot of time in the desert and a woman that works in Jeddah’s crime lab. The solving of the crime itself really took backseat to the vision of what it’s like to be a woman in Saudi Arabia. Much of this is based on the experiences of the author, who married a Saudi man and moved there with him in the early 90s.
- City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris. I thought this sequel was even better than Finding Nouf. The crime that was being solved was more compelling for me because it involved an American woman who moved to Saudi with her husband who insisted that she live like a normal Saudi woman. I was shocked to read about her being put into a room for “Unclaimed Women” at Jeddah airport solely because she was unaccompanied!
- Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. So much disturbing sh*t in such a short book. Figured out the ending early-ish in the book, partially because everyone was talking about the big surprise at the end (no, I still haven’t seen the movie).
- Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver. The new James Bond book, taken on by the famous crime writer Jeffrey Deaver (famous for novels like The Bone Collector). I found it to be a bit of a slow start, full of lots of boring details and acronyms, but it quickly picked up and turned into quite an adventure. Now I need to read an original Fleming novel to see how it measures up.
- Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. A really gripping tale of a former athlete turned WWII airman turned Pacific POW.
- Bossypants by Tina Fey. Very funny, as can be expected from Tina Fey, but it also has quite a bit of hard-earned advice. It went well as a mostly light-hearted airplane read.
- Rafa by Rafael Nadal. Finished it, but kind of wish I hadn’t. It took a bit of the sheen off of his meteoric rise to the top. However, it was really interesting (for me as a die-hard Rafa fan) to find out some otherwise unknown details, like why he has constant knee trouble.
- Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Bear Grylls. Loved it. Rollicking tale of how he came to be the man that goes against the wild every week on TV. From sleeping on top of belltowers on a backpacking trip through Europe to climbing Everest a year after breaking his back, it’s full of adventure and very enjoyable to read (although sometimes I did have to wonder how he is still alive!).
- In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. I found this really quite intriguing. Even though it was a history, it read as quickly as a novel. It is based on the writings of the American ambassador to Berlin from 1933-1937, which is a time period I’ve rarely read about (since you usually only hear about WWII itself). It was incredibly interesting to see what other countries thought of Hitler’s rise — and how they thought he was too radical to stay in office and cause much trouble for the world.
- The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do. The memoir of a refugee turned popular comedian. Highly recommended by a lot of people, but I’ve only just started it.
- How Hard Can It Be? by Jeremy Clarkson. A great book for filler between other books. It’s yet another collection of his Times columns, which are full of non-PC musings that many people are thinking but no one else will say.
Next Up for 2012
- The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
- Facing Up by Bear Grylls
- The Stand by Stephen King (since I loved Justin Cronin’s The Passage)
- The Dr. Siri Paiboun books by Colin Cotterill
- Going Postal by Nathan Millward
- Five Ways to Carry a Goat by Ben Groundwater
- Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
What Other Travelers Are Reading