2011 in Reading: A Retrospective

Happy New Year’s Eve, EDIWTB readers! I hope you all have a wonderful celebration tonight and a great year in 2012. I know it will be a big year on this end, with a new addition coming in June.

Last year, Books on the Nightstand issued a challenge: read 11 more books in 2011 than you read in 2010. I took that challenge on, and am happy to report that I far surpassed it. I read 54 books in 2011, compared to 33 books in 2010. I’m happy about that number. I credit audiobooks, which allowed me to layer more books in during a month, despite my short commute. BOTN’s challenge for 2012 isn’t to add ANOTHER 12 to the 2011 count, but to choose 12 selected books – 12 non-fiction, 12 classics, etc. Or just 12×12=144 books (!). I’d love to repeat this year’s number, but I have a feeling that will be hard.

Here are my standout reads for 2011:

Special mention to debut author Susan Barr-Toman, whose When Love Was Clean Underwear I found to be an especially impressive first novel.

The theme of the year was: depressing subjects. The books I read spanned the following: the siege of Leningrad, war veterans and families, the horrors of life in Afghanistan and Pakistan, suicide, a Rapture-esque dystopia, kidnapping, unnamed diseases, autism, polygamy, bigamy, anti-Semitism, madness in the Amazon, adultery, amnesia, giving up children with Down syndrome, 9/11, slavery in America, child estrangement, missing parents, ghosts, picture brides and Japanese internment. Sheesh.

The breakdown:

  • 45 fiction, 9 non-fiction
  • 4 repeat authors during 2011: Katie Crouch, Khaled Hosseini, Tom Perotta, Julie Otsuka
  • 14 audiobooks
  • 14 male authors, 40 female authors

The silliest books I read were Save Me by Lisa Scottoline and Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal (but I enjoyed this one nonetheless).

Here’s to another great year of reading in 2012! What were your favorite books and reading  highlights from 2011?


  • December 31, 2011 - 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only read one of your favorites – You Know When the Men are Gone – and it made my favorites list too. Happy New Year!

  • Erin
    December 31, 2011 - 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I also read 54 books this year, no audio books though.

  • Susan B
    January 1, 2012 - 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Happy New Year! Four books by authors I’d never read before blew me away in 2011. I love discovering new (to me, at least) authors.
    Fauna – Alissa York
    Father of the Rain – Lily King
    The God of Animals – Aryn Kyle
    The False Friend – Myla Goldberg

  • January 2, 2012 - 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m incredibly impressed you upped your number of books so much this year! Your list of best reads is so eclectic, and it reminds me I must read Open. It was one of the first books I bought for my Kindle when I got it two years ago, but I still haven’t read it. Perhaps it will get me in the mood for the Australian Open this year!

  • Andrew G
    January 2, 2012 - 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Incredible. I was impressed with my own 35 and 1 audio. For me it was the year of the memoir, with 15 of them, 1 historical fiction, 13 novels and 8 non-fiction.
    Top 5, with editorial comments, and in no particular order, were:
    1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (better than a novel)
    2. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (beautifully written, totally original concept)
    3. Open by Andre Agassi (page turner)
    4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Maybe all kids need is love and encouragement and no actual parenting)
    5. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman. (Awesome peek into the way a Nobel Prize winning genius sees the world)
    Just missing the cut was White Fang by Jack London, which I had not previously read but was great.
    Worst of the year was Bossypants by Tina Fey. Just like most SNL episodes, funny at first but then goes on too long on one joke and wish it would end. Speaking of too long, try Life by Keith Richards and The Forever War by Dexter Filkens. Enjoyed both of them, but need a visit from the editor’s red pen. Novels by David Baldacci (Absolute Power, The Winner) and Jodi Picoult (Plain Truth (predictable)) are fun to read but forgotten a week later.
    Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is bad in the sense that I can’t believe that anyone would intentionally have that kind of horrible relationship with their kids. Good luck with that.
    Enjoy your blog! Will need a longer commute to add audiobooks to repetoire

  • Len
    January 3, 2012 - 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Wow…that’s impressive Gayle! I won’t underwhelm you with my run-down, except to say that I haven’t read a complete book since March. 🙁

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