Saturday, December 10, 2011

Best 10 Books( I read) in 2011 (regardless of publication date)

10. Sartoris by William Faulkner or Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth
Why two books here? Because I could not make up my mind. A classic by a Nobel winner in literature or a thoughtful, fairly philosophical book by a children's writer? Sartoris is the first novel by Faulkner that I've read in a many, many years. See Choice #2 of my Top 10 for the reason why. Sartoris claimed my full attention with its tale of characters who represent the Old South and the rising of other classes among them.  Zen Ghosts is sheer mastery of both logic and magic, words and illustrations. It also requires attention to detail to contemplate its depth of meaningl

9. Ultimatum by Matthew Glass
A slow-paced, detail-setting first half with a hurtling-beyond-belief second half. A political agenda by a very hope-filled president who truly wants to solve problems, find solutions, especially for the eminent, ongoing climatic devastation. His plans are disrupted by one little decision that changes the course of his presidency. A fascinating read, especially the ever-developing conflict between this president and the Chinese leader, who represents a totally different way of approaching the world and his own leadership. Too late he learns why presidents have various kinds of advisors. Frankly, be prepared for a slow beginning which builds to a powerful and provocative second half and raises most disturbing issues and questions.

8. 61 Hours: A Reacher novel by Lee Child
I could have picked any of the Reacher novels, but this is one of two I read in 2011, the other being The Affair (which is not nearly as strong as 61 Hours). From page one, this novel is non-stop action, a book difficult to put down for any length of time. Reacher finds himself in North Dakota, the coldest state in a cold period. As usual he finds himself helping local law officers, the sheriff and a particular deputy, keep an important witness safe until she testifies. As usual it is one murder after the other with violent and evil characters contrasted with a couple of good people. The story takes place within 61 hours and concludes with the most puzzling ending of any Reacher novel.

7. Young Samurai: the Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford
Since serving as a children's librarian, I have come across a number of really fine series of books written for older children. The Young Samurai series is one of the best. The story is set in feudal Japan in the late 1500's. Jack Fletcher is a monkey on his father's ship which is beset by ninja off the coast of Japan. The only survivor is Jack, who is "adopted" by the local samurai lord and is then trained in samurai school. You can begin to imagine the adventures and momentous times he has in each book of the series. I read the six in the series one after the other. The seventh and final book should be published soon.

6. Conspiracy 365: December by Gabrielle Lord
This is another of the fabulously exciting series for older children. Young Callum is told on New Year's Eve by a total stranger to run away and stay away for one full year or 365 days or he would be killed. A conspiracy is tied in with his family's name. He needs to find it and solve it before the year is up. There is not one dull page or a single false note in the story. This is a wowzer--and there are 12 books in the series, each for a month of the year that he is away from his home. Lord throws in a few red herrings along the way. Usually good at solving these riddles, I didn't this time. I suspected several of the characters as being the "villain." Of course, one of my choices was guilty.

5. Crocodile Tears (Alex Rider) by Andrew Horowitz
This is the last, until recently, novel in the Alex Rider series. Alex is forced into becoming a fifteen year old spy for jolly ol' England and the queen's service (mainly because both his dad and uncle were also spies). I almost must rate this one as my most favorite (after Paulsen's Hatchet series, which I read in 2009). Alex Rider can do anything--and it's all believable because Horowitz slips in the necessary  bits of information that prepares the reader for sometimes utterly fantastic things that happen to Alex or he causes. Another wowzer!

4. Lucky's Lady by Tami Hoag
Normally, I don't read bodice rippers--too unrealistic. Does a man really totally love a woman like those found within cover of such a book, that is. Looking for a book, I found this on my Hoag shelf and did not remember buying it or how it got there. Took it down and was hooked on the first page. No matter the genre, I want to be hooked on the first page. This is a delicious book. Here's the benefit. Imagine exactly what you want in a man, both physically and emotionally, intellectually,  professionally, and Lucky is it!! Even with a ponytail (which I do like!). This Lucky is a Cajun who lives in the South Louisiana swamp and makes his living mysteriously, at least he likes his life secret after being a POW for too long. Serena and Lucky, of course, immediately bristle up to each other, while simultaneously develop deep attractions which must be answered. The surrounding story is a worthy ecological one: save this particular swamp. Developers have it on radar to buy and build. An exciting read without unnecessary details.

3. In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke
Do you read books that--swish--go right through your brain and are forgotten minutes after reading them? Some linger and linger. "In a Perfect World" is one that lingers. It begins quite chickish and quickly becomes apocalyptic. The airline flight attendant is attracted to the handsome pilot,  who gives up others for her. However, she must be willing to take on his kids. Their relationship is fine until a pandemic strikes the world and he is confined to Europe while she is stuck with his kids--at his insistence. Meanwhile, Jiselle takes in an elderly neighbor and her own mother, with whom she has had a struggling relationship. This is a story of struggle, survival, and building community within one's own home. A profoundly affecting story!

2. William Faulkner: the Cofield Collection by Jack Cofield
I've had this book for 30 years. I actually bought it at a bookstore in Oxford, Mississippi, within hiking distance of Faulkner's home. I've looked at the photos many times over the years, but recently, I took the book out again and actually read the print. I felt I was tracking Faulkner's life from beginning to end. I thought I "knew" him, but learned so many more details of his life. He was a horseman to the end, and eventually died from injuries, the results of a fall. He courted Estelle, but she married another, who died in WWI. Faulkner pursued again, they married, then produced their beloved daughter Jill. Faulkner's story is based entirely on the photographs in the book, collected and arranged by one of his close friends.  That's how the reader knows if the truth is being told. I took my time and studied each photo. Then I got out all my Faulkner novels and stories. I stopped reading halfway through "The Sound and the Fury." When I retire, I'll finish it.

1. The Terror by Dan Hawkins
This book is a stunner! Out of a slow beginning come the details of searching, searching by explorers/adventurers, trying to find a waterway from the Atlantic to the Pacific--there, at the top of the world in the frozen Arctic. The novel is historical fiction at its very best. A friend tried to read the book and became bogged down in the details and gave up. After I read it, I insisted she try again because of the sheer imagination of the author in inserting a mythical monster into the story. At the first mention of this huge monster in the pages of a superlative explorer book, I was very disappointed. However, the last 100 pages are the most satisfying of any book I've read in a long, long time. Utterly fascinating!

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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.