Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favorite Books of 2011

I read so many great books this year that I couldn't narrow it down to ten. So here are my favorites divided into categories.

Favorite Young Adult Fiction:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
This book seems to be on everyone's favorites list for the year. The characters were intriguing, the story unique, but honestly, my favorite part of this book was the setting. Prague is a beautiful and creepy city, the perfect place to write a beautiful and creepy novel.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Beauty Queens is a hilarious romp with  marooned beauty pageant contestants who just survived a plane crash. The hilarity in this book is almost palpable, yet Bray manages to give this novel substance as well as humor. The audiobook is narrated by Bray herself and not only is she the most successful author/audiobook narrator I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, she also one of the best audiobook narrators period.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
While everyone raves over the dystopian tour-de-force that is Divergent, I preferred Delirium ten times over. Lauren Oliver's prose is magical, her story-telling masterful. If I could have the talent of any writer, I would wish for Oliver's. The way she weaves words, sentences, and stories together is like nothing I've ever experienced before.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
I have said this many times before, but it bears repeating: I hate zombies. They totally creep me out and I don't like being creeped out (despite the fact that I like the creepy setting in Daughter of Smoke and Bone). But Carrie Harris managed to write a non-creepy zombie novel with Bad Taste in Boys. In fact, it was funny, sassy, and campy. Words I never expected to use when describing zombies. If Libba Bray were to write a zombie novel, I imagine it would be similar to this one. Having met Carrie at her book launch party this summer, and still correspond with her, I can tell you that her personality comes right through in this book. She is so much fun to be around.

Shine by Lauren Myracle
No only does Myracle write a compelling mystery in Shine, but she uses it as a springboard to start a conversation about hate crimes and the bigotry that still runs rampant in small town America. I still vividly remember one of the final scenes in this book. It's a story that will haunt you even after you finish it.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
*Sigh* Oh how I love Mia and Adam. And the fact that I can even remember their names this many months later tells you how much this book should be on my favorites list. I'm one of those readers who forgets almost everything about a story after I read it. But Mia and Adam? Probably one of the most perfect couples to ever grace the literary world. If I Stay is one of my favorite books of all time and so when Where She Went came out, I was so excited to get the chance to spend some time with Mia and Adam again. I know Forman has said that she's done telling their story, but I so wish that we could have one more romp with them.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
So I know that Revolution was published in 2010, but I had to include this book on my 2011 favorites list because it was by far my favorite book I read (listened to) this year. The story was so unique and the musical aspect of the main character's story was just so compelling that it was like nothing I'd ever read before. I loved this book so much that I was CONVINCED that the classical composer that Donnelly created was real and went to look up some of his music at the library only to discover that he didn't exist. I was so invested in his being real that it was like the wind was knocked out of me when I discovered he was a creation of the author. 

Favorite Middle Grade Fiction
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
This book has a quiet power to it. The story is a modern retelling of The Snow Queen, and Anne Ursu writes in such a way that the magical elements weave seamlessly into reality.

Pie by Sarah Weeks
Even though I gave this book three stars on Goodreads and I still remain dubious about certain aspects of the story, this was still one of the most enjoyable books I read this year. Reading it with a group of kids who beg you everyday, "Can we please read more of Pie today?" probably didn't hurt adding this to my favorites list either. 

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood
In this second book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, Maryrose Wood shows how well-suited she is at writing middle grade fiction - and humorous middle grade fiction at that. I can't tell you how many times these books have made me laugh out loud. Though Katherine Kellgrine's audiobook narration certainly helps add to the hilarity of the story.

Favorite Graphic Novel
Bake Sale by Sara Varon
Given the title of my blog, it's no secret that I love books that revolve around food. So when you get a talented artist like Sara Varon and a book that revolves around food as characters? Sound like a book Beth will love. And it was!

Favorite Nonfiction
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
I haven't reviewed this book yet as I only finished it a few days ago, but when you read my thoughts, they will be glowing. Whatever Kathleen Flinn writes, I will read. Not only is she a gifted story-teller, but she also writes about food in such a way that always made me want to put the book down, go in the kitchen and whip up something delicious. She makes cooking feel accessible rather than insurmountable, which is exactly the point of this book.

Favorite Picture Books
Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein
All I can say is, I hope this is not the last of the Buffalo books. The sheer hilarity of turning a buffalo into a lovable, cuddly picture-book character is not lost on me. Add Audrey Vernick's unique voice along with Daniel Jennewein's endearing illustrations and you have a recipe for lots of laughter.

Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
What's a girl to do when she so desperately wants a pet, but her parents won't let her have one? Get creative. Which is exactly what Prudence does. I love the idea of this story, I love the humor, and I love the way the ending resonates even more. 

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond, illustrated by Diane deGroat
I absolutely adore Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond: her blog, her show, and now her picture book Charlie the Ranch Dog. I think what makes me love this book so much is that I am familiar with Charlie from her show and her blog, and this really is Charlie's story. Given that I can't pass up a good dog book, and that the story so perfectly captures Charlie, it's no wonder why this was one of my favorite books of the year. 

Rah, Rah Radishes! A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre
Colorful, mouth-watering photographs and a fun, chant about vegetables is bound to get kids excited and curious about eating what's good for them. Couple reading this book with a cooking lesson or two, and maybe we can start changing the paradigm of how kids eat in this country. When you involve kids in knowing and learning about food, they're more likely to make better choices.

Magic Trash by J.H. Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Newton
Magic Trash is the story of Tyree Guyton, the man behind The Heidelberg Project in Detroit. As someone who has heard of The Heidelberg Project but never actually gone to see it, this book made me want to drive to Detroit to take a gander. Since I live in metro-Detroit, it's really something I have no excuse for not going to see. What I love about the book is how it explains the inspiration for the project in the first place, which was to detract the riff raff from hanging out in the neighborhood. I mean, what crack dealer is going to want to enter an abandoned house decorated with giant polka-dots?

So those were my favorite books of the year, what were yours?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I loved your post today! (I loved Pie, too.)
    I have been wanting to read Bake Sale, and it looks like The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place is a book I need to read.
    I really love your blog theme. (It helps me know mine is okay since mine uses a shoe theme.)

  3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Beauty Queens are on my wishlist (just waiting for UK paperback release). I wasn't that impressed by Delirium but I'm in the minority.

    My best reads of 2011

  4. Ellie, I wasn't impressed with Divergent so I am definitely in the minority there since every review I've read of it has been glowing. Plus all my students who read it loved it and even my principal loved it.

  5. We have pretty much identical taste! I love all these year-end lists so I can keep track of books that I somehow overlooked. I had never heard of Pie; I'm going to check it out.

    Happy new year!

  6. I definitely have to get Daughter of Smoke and Bone - as you say, nearly everyone lists it! And Bad Taste in Boys sounds fun as well!