Monday, December 26, 2011

End-of-Year Book Survey

Time for my end of the year roundup!  I've adapted this meme from Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner, via Amanda over at Ramblings.

1. Best book(s) I read in 2011:  Are best books the same as my favorites?  Some of my favorites didn't necessarily have the best writing or have other flaws, though I still loved them.  So here are the ones that I suppose are the best on a critical level:

The Annotated Persuasion by Jane Austen (annotations by David M. Shaphard)
Germinal by Emile Zola
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

My favorites:  well, keep reading and I think it will be obvious!

2.  Most disappointing book: 

Villette by Charlotte Bronte.  I adore Jane Eyre, so this was a huge letdown.  I know many people love this book, but it just seemed like a huge slogfest, and the payoff sucked.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011: 

This one is a tie:  The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer and A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  I expected to hate Sophy because I'm not a fan of Jane Austen wannabees, but this was great -- I could feel the Austen influence, but the characters were fresh and the story was pretty funny.   Not terribly challenging, but a fun read.

And I normally have no interest in epic fantasy but I fell in love with Martin's world of Westeros and its multiple intertwining storylines.  I finished the first three books in the series and I'm dying to know what happens next.

4.  Books I recommended most to people in 2011:  

The three volumes of Jane Austen annotated by David M. Shaphard:  Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility  -- though I admit I've only read two so far.  Persuasion and S&S are so wonderfully annotated, Pride and Prejudice must be great also.  I'm also looking forward to the annotated Emma which is out next spring.

And I've been recommending Zola all over the place.  Germinal is a masterpiece, but I loved La Bete Humaine and Pot-Bouille as well.  I first read Zola back in 2010 but this is the year I really fell in love with his work.

5.  Best series I discovered in 2011: Hands down, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.  See #3.

6.  Favorite new authors of 2011:  Georgette Heyer and George R. R. Martin.

7.  Most thrilling, unputdownable book of 2011:  Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.  It's called Victorian Sensation for a reason -- I can see why this book has never gone out of print.  It's a fun Victorian roller-coaster of a novel.  Not very deep, but really fun.

8.  Book I most anticipated in 2011:  Probably Germinal by Emile Zola.  I'd heard raves about it from Amanda, and more than a year ago we put it on the reading list for our real-life classic book group.  I know it's more than 100 years old but it was my most anticipated book of the year, and one of my favorites.

9.  Favorite cover of a book I read in 2011:  Again, it's a tie:

The Night Circus is just beautiful and stylish, and I love the woodcuts in the Wodehouse editions by Overlook Press.  If I had more money and bookshelves, I'd buy the whole series.

10.  Most memorable character in 2011:  Two characters actually, both from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.  First, Tyrion Lannister.  He's a rude, lusty dwarf from a horrible family, but Martin makes him so interesting and sympathetic.  Also, Arya Stark, the ten-year old girl who's trying to survive as war breaks out in Westeros.  I can't wait to find out what happens to both of them.

11.  Most beautifully written book in 2011:  Probably The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I did have some problems with this book, but it was really beautifully written.  Unfortunately I can't pull any quotes from the book because there was a huge waiting list at the library and I had to return it immediately after finishing it.

12.  Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for me:  A Storm of Swords is my favorite so far in the Song of Ice and Fire series, but it was A Game of Thrones that dragged me kicking and screaming into the epic fantasy genre.  Definitely NOT my comfort zone!

13.  Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011:  A tie between Zola's Germinal and La Bete Humaine.  From Germinal I realized just how amazing Zola is; La Bete Humaine has moments that still shock me when I think about them.

14.  Book you can't believe you waited until 2011 to FINALLY read:  Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.  I've wanted to read it for about five years, since I read the wonderful Angle of Repose.  I nominated it for my library book group and we had a great discussion.

15.  Book you read in 2011 that would most likely to be reread in 2012:  The Annotated Persuasion edited by David M. Shaphard.  The annotations add so much to these books -- I get more out of them every time I read Jane Austen.

16. Book that had a scene in it that had me reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it?  (A WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc., etc).  No spoilers! : All three books in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin have moments that made me nearly drop the book and scream, "Oh. My. God!  That did NOT just happen!!"  And La Bete Humaine by Emile Zola had some shocking plot twists as well.

Just for fun, some stats about my 2011 reading: 

Books completed: 105
Pages read: approximately 35,586

Books by male authors: 38
Books by female authors: 66
Books by both male and female authors: 1
New books: 93
Rereads: 12
Fiction: 86
Nonfiction: 19
Short story collection: 7
Plays: 1
Children's books: 3
YA books: 1
Big fat books (more than 500 pages): 8
Books in translation: 11 (6 French; 2 German; 1 Swedish; 1 Norwegian; 1 Japanese)

Repeat: authors: I repeated a LOT of authors this year!  I read three books each by Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and George R. R. Martin; four by Emile Zola, and seven by P. G. Wodehouse.

Books from my TBR shelves:  26.  An epic fail!!  I read too many books from the library, and I'm sorry to say I bought way too many new books so I could read them immediately instead of taking something off the TBR shelf.

And let's not even discuss the books I bought in 2012 that are filling up the TBR shelf.  I think it's time to adjust my reading goals and habits.

What about you, bloggers?  Did you have a good reading year in 2011?  What are your reading plans for 2012?


  1. I've been meaning to read Excellent Women for so long - it sounds like I really ought to asap. Also, now that I've read Persuasion I can try the annotated version next time! An excellent list, full of books I suspect I'd also love.

  2. I'm so happy to see Zola all over the place here! And Lady Audley...she was just great! I couldn't find a place to mention her in my survey, so I had to give her honorable mention in my favorite books. :D

  3. Nymeth -- Excellent Women was just wonderful. I keep trying to read more Barbara Pym but I can never seem to squeeze it in! She'll probably be just the thing between the all the big fat books and Victorians I have planned for 2012.

    Amanda -- If I rated my top 10 books for 2012, three of them would probably be Zola. Maybe that should be another post?

  4. I love this meme -- and I loved your answers. I just put Lady Audley's Secret on my TBR list! Looking forward to your reviews in 2012!

  5. I'm so glad you liked The Grand Sophy! I love Georgette Heyer :-)

  6. I really liked Excellent Women - I've never read anything by Barbara Pym before this year.

    I'm going to read Villette next year - so I hope it doesn't disappoint me.
    And I still haven't read anything by Georgette Heyer. Maybe next year.

  7. I never liked Villette, either.

    It's Austen and more Austen for me in 2012.

    Happy New Year, Karen!

  8. I've really enjoyed reading these reading wrap ups! I loved The Slaves of Solitude when I read it and also Crossing to Safety--I'd like to read more by both authors. I've got the first George RR Martin book to read and am happy to hear good things about it--the size has put me off picking it up just yet, though. Happy New Year, Karen!

  9. sounds like a great reading year! I'm now very curious about the annotated Austen books. I don't usually read footnotes when I'm reading fiction but I'll have to pick it up and see if it makes a difference in my reading experience. I have just MANSFIELD PARK of the Austen novels and then I'll be ready to reread.

    And I too was very impressed with GERMINAL this year. I should Zola more of a chance (I know Amanda is cheering right now...).

  10. oh man! Crossing to Safety! I've forgotten that I need to read that.
    and I know I enjoyed Excellent Women but I don't remember anything about it. It was pre-blogging but that too much before. I think I really enjoyed the style and the author voice but ... don't recall the story at all.