Favorite Books of 2011

15:44 Sun 08 Jan 2012
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2011 involved less reading for me than any year other than 2004, with a rather low total of 37. I’m not sure why it was so low, but I went through a very slow reading period after starting Gravity’s Rainbow in mid-August, and after starting (and never finishing) it I didn’t finish reading another book until the end of October.

2011 was my year of the ebook; I read more ebooks than paper books for the first time, 32:5. I’d be surprised if that trend were reversed (failing some kind of major economic/technological breakdown), and anticipate reading mainly ebooks in future.

This was also the first year I assigned a rating to each book as I finished it. My ratings are purely based on how much I enjoyed the book at the time, and not on how good I think the books are.

My favorite fiction book of the year was Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones, which as I wrote in my review was one of the best works of fiction I’ve read in years.

My favorite non-fiction book of the year was Debt: The First 5,000 years. Everyone should read it. It’s a fascinating exploration of money and debt, with plenty of revelations about the nature and origins of money.

Stumbling on Happiness was excellent, and that’s another non-fiction work I’d recommend to everyone. Meditations on Violence was another strong piece of non-fiction, and one that made a lot of sense to me.

East of Eden was a great read, although the start and end were not quite as good as the middle parts.

The best science fiction I read in 2011 was China Miéville’s Embassytown, followed by Gilman’s The Half-Made World. The worst (and the book I rated lower than any other) was Doris Lessing’s Shikasta, a book that contained an awful central message of fatalism and a large amount of finely-rendered but unbearable bureaucratic language.

The best fantasy novel I read (not counting re-reads) was either Joe Abercrombie’s Heroes or George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons; I enjoyed the latter more at the time, but suspect that Heroes might have been the better book. I finally finished the 10-book epic of Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, but was fairly disappointed with both of the final two books, Dust of Dreams and The Crippled God. In the end I felt that the series just didn’t have what it took to make it feel like there was a worthwhile conclusion—admittedly a difficult task given the colossal nature of the series.

I also finished Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series, and thought that he ended it very strongly with The Troubled Man.

Last but not least, I was extremely happy with Neal Stephenson’s Reamde, as I enjoyed it thoroughly throughout and thought it an excellent return to form after Anathem, which I couldn’t stand.

The books I read in 2011:

  1. Stumbling on Happiness; Daniel Gilbert 08/01/2011 Rating: 80%; {Format: ebook}
  2. Quarter Share; Nathan Lowell 08/01/2011 Rating: 70%; {Format: ebook}
  3. Half Share; Nathan Lowell 11/01/2011 Rating: 60%; {Format: ebook}
  4. East of Eden; John Steinbeck 14/02/2011 Rating: 85%; {Format: ebook}
  5. Replay; Ken Grimwood 18/02/2011 Rating: 75%; {Format: ebook}
  6. Heroes; Joe Abercrombie 21/02/2011 Rating: 80%; {Format: ebook}
  7. The Half-Made World; Felix Gilman 27/02/2011 Rating: 80%; {Format: ebook}
  8. Shikasta: Re, Colonised Planet 5; Doris Lessing 09/03/2011 Rating: 55%; {Format: ebook}
  9. Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won; Tobias Moskowitz; 14/03/2011 Rating: 75%; {Format: ebook}
  10. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead; Max Brooks 19/03/2011 Rating: 75%;
  11. Tales of Nevèrÿon; Samuel R. Delany 27/04/2011 Rating: 70%;
  12. The Kindly Ones; Jonathan Littell 03/05/2011 Rating: 90%;
  13. Warriors; George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, eds. 09/05/2011 Rating: 65%; {Format: ebook};
  14. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption; Laura Hillenbrand 20/06/2011 Rating: 65%; {Format: ebook}
  15. Daughters of the North; Sarah Hall 22/06/2011 Rating: 70%; {Format: ebook; AKA: The Carhullan Army}
  16. A Drop of the Hard Stuff; Lawrence Block 24/06/2011 Rating: 70%; {Format: ebook}
  17. A Game of Thrones; George R.R. Martin 27/06/2011 Rating: 90%; {Again: True}
  18. A Clash of Kings; George R.R. Martin 02/07/2011 Rating: 90%; {Format: ebook, Again: True}
  19. A Storm of Swords; George R.R. Martin 03/07/2011 Rating: 90%; {Format: ebook, Again: True}
  20. A Feast for Crows; George R.R. Martin 05/07/2011 Rating: 75%; {Format: ebook, Again: True}
  21. Dust of Dreams; Steven Erikson 11/07/2011 Rating: 65%; {Format: ebook}
  22. A Dance with Dragons; George R.R. Martin 14/07/2011 Rating: 85%; {Format: ebook}
  23. Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence; Rory Miller 15/07/2011 Rating: 80%; {Format: ebook}
  24. The Crippled God; Steven Erikson 22/07/2011 Rating: 65%; {Format: ebook}
  25. Angry White Pyjamas; Robert Twigger 23/07/2011 Rating: 75%;
  26. Embassytown; China Mieville 26/07/2011 Rating: 90%; {Format: ebook}
  27. Leviathan Wakes; James S.A. Corey 31/07/2011 Rating: 70%; {Format: ebook}
  28. Slip of the Knife: A Novel; Denise Mina 05/08/2011 Rating: 75%; {Format: ebook}
  29. The Folding Knife; K. J. Parker 07/08/2011 Rating: 80%; {Format: ebook}
  30. Life; Gwyneth Jones 27/10/2011 Rating: 65%; {Format: ebook}
  31. Reamde; Neal Stephenson 04/11/2011 Rating: 85%; {Format: ebook}
  32. The Night and The Music; Lawrence Block 05/11/2011 Rating: 70%; {Format: ebook}
  33. Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles; Kim Newman 28/11/2011 Rating: 60%; {Format: ebook}
  34. Debt: The First 5,000 Years; David Graeber 28/12/2011 Rating: 90%; {Format: ebook}
  35. Firewall; Henning Mankell 29/12/2012 Rating: 75%; {Format: ebook; Translator: Ebba Segerberg}
  36. The Troubled Man; Henning Mankell 31/12/2011 Rating: 80%; {Format: ebook; Translator: Laurie Thompson}
  37. Roseanna; Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo 31/12/2011 Rating: 70%; {Format: ebook}

3 Responses to “Favorite Books of 2011”

  1. jeffliveshere Says:

    “I’m not sure why it was so low, but I went through a very slow reading period after starting Gravity’s Rainbow in mid-August, and after starting (and never finishing) it I didn’t finish reading another book until the end of October.”

    You’re not sure why? It’s clear that Gravity’s Rainbow sucks the life out of people. It must be stopped.

  2. jeffliveshere Says:

    What a great list. Lots I have read, but lots I haven’t. I recommend “The Paradox of Choice” as a fantastic companion book to Stumbling On Happiness.

  3. Jen Says:

    Fantastic list. I wonder if you’ve updated….

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