It never ceases to amaze me exactly how fast a year can go by. It seems like only yesterday that we were ringing in 2011, and here we are welcoming 2012. Though I didn't get nearly the amount of reading done in 2011 that I had planned on, I still discovered a number of gems and new favorites that will remain with me forever. Here are my top 5 books of 2011:
Honorable Mention: The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. I just finished the book yesterday and have not had a chance to fully review it, but it is definitely worth a read. Though this 700 page tome was written in 1875, it could just as easily describe life in today's world. The preoccupation with money, the willingness to overlook falseness in those who have it, and a lack of respect for honest and trust is just a prevalent today as it was in Trollope's time. A must read Victorian classic.
#5: 84, Charing Cross Rd. by Helene Hanff. This classic is enough to warm the heart of any book lover. It tells the story of a brash New York writer and a buttoned-up British bookseller who begin a correspondence that lasts for many years. Though they never actually meet, their mutual love of good literature helps create a strong friendship that brings them together despite the ocean between them. This is a warm, comforting read that brightened up a slow rainy day at my office.
#4: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Often described as a "haiku in prose", this sparse novel by Japanese writer Kawabata is painfully beautiful. Set in the hot springs resorts of Japan's snow country, it is the story of two people who simply cannot connect on an emotional level, no matter how much they want to. This was my first taste of Asian literature, and it left me craving more.
#3: Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens, and this particular book is certainly one of his better ones. Great characters, an intriguing pot, and relative lessons about life are all found in this one. Though it can be uneven at times, it still ranks up there with some of my most favorite Dickens works.
#2: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. A truly heart-wrenching story of love, betrayal, and self discovery. Set against the backdrop of 1920s China, Maugham's work removes the mask from his characters and shows us human nature as it really is. I highly recommend it.
#1: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I knew the moment I finished this book that it would probably be my top book of the year. Paton's cry for truth, justice, and human dignity is as poignant today as when it was written. It is both a beautiful novel with a lyrical writing style, as well as a powerful story with wonderful characters who can move you to tears. This is one that I wish I had read years ago. If you have never read this jewel of a book before, I am telling you to do so now. You won't regret it.
So what is coming this way for me in 2012? I don't have as definite a plan of reading as I have in past years, but nevertheless I believe it will be a great year for me in books. First off, I plan on reading more non-fiction this year than I have in years past, so be prepared to see those kinds of reviews as well. I also plan on dipping my toes into the world of young adult literature by reading The Hunger Games trilogy (let's see how well that goes). And finally, I hope to post much more regularly this year. Though my days have gotten no less busy, I plan on making reading and blogging a much higher priority on my "things to do list". Hopefully I'll gain some lost ground this year.
To all of my readers, thank you so much for sticking with me and taking time to read my thoughts on books. I hope that your 2012 is an amazing year both in reading, and in the rest of your life. Happy New Year!!
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