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Neglected Favourites of 2011

December 29, 2011

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As regular readers I know, I took a lot of blogging breaks this year. As a consequence, some absolutely wonderful books managed to slip through the cracks. As a comfort to myself, I decided my first ‘best of 2011’ list would thus have a theme: the best I didn’t blog about. When I rounded them up, it turns out there are exactly twenty-five, divided into fifteen works of fiction and ten works of nonfiction. (I swear I didn’t count/sort/etc. until after I’d chosen them all!) How convenient is that? So here they are, presented in the same one-sentence format I use with Sunday Salons now. Needless to say they were all four or five star reads, and I heartily recommend each of them to you. :) The only ‘order’ to them is that I’ve alternated groups of five fiction with groups of five nonfiction; other than that, it’s random. (Also, the cover for each group is just my favourite image of the five; it’s not a reflection of my ‘absolute favourites’ or anything.)

  • Read Favela by Janice Perlman if…you’re interested in nonfiction about the developing world that’s written from a respectful viewpoint or you’re curious about Brazil or you love good an-so writing.
  • Read A Border Passage by Leila Ahmed if…your favourite memoirs fall into the books-about-books category or you’re a fiend for women’s studies
  • Read Well-Read Lives by Barbara Sicherman if…you want even more nonfiction that falls at the intersection of women’s studies and books-about-books or you love US history that focuses on less-than-famous subjects (Sicherman looks at poorer American women, African Americans, and Jewish Americans).
  • Read The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings by Olaudah Equiano if…you’re interested in a different type of slave narrative or you love ‘true adventure’ type memoirs.
  • Read An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor if…you’re looking for some inspiration on how to get the most of your day-to-day life or you’re curious about the Episcopal church.

  • Read The Complete Romances of Chretien de Troyes if…you want to read the first Arthurian stories or can’t get enough of chivalry or just enjoy medieval writing (I definitely recommend the Staines translation).
  • Read Cheri by Colette if…you love nostalgic writing or fin-de-siecle France or want to see traditional gender roles turned on their head (it centers around a relationship between a wealthy older woman and gorgeous younger man).
  • Read Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid if…you can’t resist a brash narrator and coming-of-age story or a ‘marginalised’ perspective that doesn’t pull its punches.
  • Read An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro if…you want to see a Japanese version of Remains of the Day play out or you just love Ishiguro’s subtle style and willingness to leave it up to the reader to fill in the blanks.
  • Read The Oresteia by Aeschylus if…you want to be shocked by how fresh and relevant stories from millenia ago feel or you’ve been looking for some epic tragedy to sink your teeth into (I definitely recommend the Fagles translation).

  • Read Looking for History by Alma Guillermoprieto if…you love international relations-type books and are looking for a non-US/UK perspective or you just can’t resist a wonderful essay collection.
  • Read Courtroom 302 by Steve Bogira if…you’re a Law and Order aficionado and curious about it compares to reality or you’re a fan of social justice books.
  • Read Meeting Faith by Faith Adiele if…you love self-aware travelogues in which the author is brutally honest or east-meets-west kinds of cultural exchanges.
  • Read Reading is My Window by Megan Sweeney if…you’ve read a ton of books-about-books and are looking for a new perspective (it’s about reading in a women’s prison) or think you have nothing in common with people in prison or are building a social justice collection.
  • Read The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs if…you’re in the middle of a reading slump and looking for inspiration or you’re a book blogger who enjoys an author who can talk about the blogosphere or just want a delightful, celebratory book about how wonderful books are!

  • Read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky if…you love intellectually stimulating classics that deal with ‘Big Life Issues’ (I definitely recommend the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation).
  • Read Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo if…you think the best part of reading international lit is the little window you get into the day-to-day lives of people in different cultures or you enjoy ‘feminist’ fiction.
  • Read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon if…you love an author that’s willing to take big risks and succeed or you find it invigorating to be dropped into a book that imagines an alternative world so vivid you’d swear it must really exist.
  • Read The Ventriloquist’s Tale by Pauline Melville if…you love lush settings or gothic storylines or novels that explore the effects of colonisation on both coloniser and colonis-ee in an intelligent way.
  • Read A Candle for St Jude by Rumer Godden if…you still imagine what life would be like if you were a ballerina or you love novels set in short time periods or stories that focus on the inner lives of very memorable characters (especially women).

Whew! That was exhausting but worth it. :) Do you have any overlooked favourites of your own from the year?

24 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2011 6:58 am

    Some wonderful books here! I have added Meeting Faith and Reading is my Window to my wishlist :)

  2. December 29, 2011 7:12 am

    I really liked The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon but have yet to write a post about it. Funny thing, I was thinking about it this morning on my way to work.

  3. December 29, 2011 7:15 am

    A Distant View of a Minaret is one my best reads of the year. And i love Ishiguro’s Artist… Lovely list and such great reading. Happy New Year, Eva.

  4. December 29, 2011 9:57 am

    Oh my…I’ve just added 4 of your choices to my WishList…love this list!! :)

  5. December 29, 2011 9:57 am

    Fantastic recommendations. I see several from the fiction and non-fiction categories I’d really like to get my hands on. Thanks for taking the time to do this post, Eva!

  6. December 29, 2011 10:04 am

    I was thinking “Wow, what a coincidence, I’ve just been thinking of reading Sagas of the Icelanders!” Then I realized that it’s because I just read the book on medieval literature you recommended. Distant View of a Minaret is going on my list too. Great stuff!

  7. December 29, 2011 10:38 am

    I might borrow this idea if that is okay? There are a few books I haven’t reviewed and I just don’t want to deal with them come 2012… I will see where this idea goes when I actually write up my post, though.

    This was a fun post! More books on my wish list. :)

    • January 4, 2012 12:05 am

      Borrow away Kelly! :) (Sorry it took me ages to reply.)

  8. December 29, 2011 12:02 pm

    Ooh, the one sentence summation is so tantalizing :-)

  9. December 29, 2011 1:29 pm

    I love this post. I read so much that I don’t have time or take the time to blog about. This is inspiring me to think of doing a feature like this on my blog from time to time.

  10. Liz permalink
    December 29, 2011 4:24 pm

    Goodness me, Not even 2012 and already my 2012 TBR list is sky-high thanks to the many additions from this list.

    I like how this is set out – succinct but informational. Nice job. :-)

  11. December 30, 2011 12:20 pm

    what a fabulous post! I enjoyed your format immensely and added several books to my tbr list. Thanks!

  12. December 30, 2011 4:38 pm

    oh, i loved Medea and Her Children! I’m so glad you read it!

  13. December 30, 2011 5:18 pm

    So glad you are blogging about Rumer Godden. A brilliant writer and I’ve not read the title you mentioned.
    Happy New Year!

  14. December 30, 2011 6:59 pm

    Have the Colette and Ishiguroo on the TBR, but I’m afraid I’m not as ethusiastic as you of the Michael Chabon (it was actually one of the dissapointments of last year…).

  15. December 31, 2011 4:06 pm

    I also like your single sentence reviews. Nicely done. Loved your comment on Chabon’s book. I really enjoyed that book too !
    Also liked what you said about The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I had to read it for a class in college and I totally agree with you.

  16. January 1, 2012 4:01 pm

    What a wonderful list, Eva. I’m bookmarking it for future reference.

  17. January 1, 2012 8:34 pm

    Yay, A Candle for St. Jude! If you want to read more from Rumer Godden, let me know. I am always always good for a Rumer Godden recommendation. :p

  18. January 2, 2012 2:52 pm

    Fantastic post – so much is tempting on this list. The books mentioned that most caught my interest were The Shadowy Horses, The Complete Romances, The Oresteia and Courtroom 302. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it – Hugo’s little humorous asides most of all – even if it is by and large a tragic book. I loved the passage about the bells too which was just gorgeous. The library copy I borrowed was such a lovely old hardback too.

  19. January 5, 2012 6:58 am

    what a great list of books! I have a put a ton on my to read list. Sound fantastic.

    I also read Changes this year. I concur with your thoughts. Great look at day-to-day life elsewhere.


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