In 2011, I challenged myself to read 150 books. I ended up reading 165; although there were a few of those which were too horrible to finish reading, and a few more that were either children’s books or manga (and thus very quick to read.)
You can check out all my reviews on Goodreads, but here are the 12 books that really stood out as amazing for me. I really had to be tough to thin them down to 12 – it was a good year for books!
#12: Surviving the Extremes: A Doctor’s Journey to the Limits of Human Endurance by Kenneth Kamler.
Brilliant non-fiction book about what exactly happens inside our bodies when we survive (or don’t survive) extreme physical situations. It’s just completely fascinating.
#11: In Royal Fashion: The Clothes of Princess Charlotte & Queen Victoria by Kay Staniland
Lovely and lush and interesting – a must-have for costumers like myself.
#10: Memoir of a Revolutionary Soldier by Joseph Plumb Martin
Non-fiction memoir, written by an ordinary guy who was a soldier during the American Revolution. Wonderful to see the war through the eyes of someone who wasn’t an officer or politician. And I really liked *him* as a person, too – I’m hoping we’re actually related. One of my family names is Plumb!
#9: Snook Alone by Marilyn Nelson
This is one of those books that is shelved with the children’s pictures books, but is really for everyone. It’s perfection. Anyone who has ever loved an animal needs to read this!
#8: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
This deserves to become one of the great children’s classics, like Peter Pan or Harry Potter. Utterly charming and quirky and old-fashioned.
#7: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
This is the first time one of Butcher’s books has made my best-of list, even though I’ve been reading him for ages. Every book he writes keeps getting better (so unusual in a series author!) and with this one, he finally broke my heart. In the best, most perfect way.
#6: The Jugger by Richard Stark
Stark writes teeny tiny little mysteries/thrillers, with a professional criminal as his hero. They are very dark, very funny, and probably the best-written books I have ever read. Each word Stark writes is perfect. This is a series that I am reading very, very slowly, allowing myself only a book every couple of years, because they cannot be rushed.
#5: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
When he’s on top of his game, King can write about anything and anyone – even on subjects you have absolutely zero interest in – and make you love them. He writes with such love for his worlds and his characters…and then he rips them apart and you with them. Me, for instance – I don’t like the sixties, and I have an absolute antipathy for JFK. I would never, ever have read this book if anyone other than King had written it. But he did, and I did, and now it’s number five on my list of best books.
#4: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Quite simply, Morgenstern created one of the worlds I always wished I lived in. And then she described it so lushly and overwhelmingly that I felt as though I did.
#3: Harry Potter Page to Screen by Bob McCabe
This is a must-own for any Harry Potter fan. It’s HUGE. And I wish it were four times as big. Such a gorgeous book.
#2: At Home: a Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
I got so much enjoyment from this book. It’s one of those books where you want to read every other section aloud to whoever happens to be in the room, just so you can share the fascination. The hands-down best non-fiction book I read in 2011.
#1: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Don’t judge it by the cover – this is definitely not a horror book. I was completely blown away by this book, by its heart, its truth, and its story. This is a very, very special book; one that everyone should read. It had me in tears, and I am not a girl who cries easily. This is absolutely my top pick from the 165 books I read in 2011. It also has the most beautiful and haunting artwork that is completely integral to the story.