December wasn’t the best month for reading. For one, the books I picked took too long to read (always a problem with me) and they weren’t worth my time. If you’re interested in what they were: Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga, The Taker by Alma Katsu (okay, so that one was all right), and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (someone needs to get that man a better editor. The book was horrid. Meandering all over the place, you could have cut every other paragraph and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story).
Instead, I’ll steal another idea from The Broke and the Bookish and give you my Top Ten for 2011:
1) Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World Robin Wright – If there was one book from the entire year I would strongly encourage everyone to read, this would be it. Detailing not only the events of the Arab Spring and Bin Laden’s assassination, but the quieter counter jihad gaining traction all over the Middle East, it made me wonder, again, just how much information we miss out on by relying solely on American news sources.
2) The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov – Okay, so maybe I should recommend two books. This would be the other one. The devil decides that the Muscovites need to believe in him, so he sets about convincing them that yes, Satan exists. Oh, and he has an overly large cat named Bohemoth.
3) Hard Bitten Chloe Neill – Of all of Merit’s adventures, this one had the most impact, with its stomach dropping, I-can’t-believe-she-did-that ending. More so that Drink Deep. Investigating the raves that are sweeping across Chicago, Merit tries to duck and dodge the romantic entanglement her master, Ethan, seems bound and determine to have. Out of the five in the series, this would have to be my favorite so far.
4) Cast in Shadow (Chronicles of Elantra) Michelle Sagara – The book that started it all…I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy until I read this book. Then I raced through the remaining books in a matter of weeks. Hawk Kaylin Neya is forced by the Hawklord to return to the feif she fled seven years before to investigate a series of ritual murders…murders that started when she was a child and then abruptly stopped with her departure. Sagara has crafted two incredible things here: a kick-ass heroine and a complex relationship between Kaylin and Severn, a man she trusted and loved like a brother, only to be betrayed by him.
5) Brooklyn Colm Toibin – The perfect book for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Newly emigrated Eislis explores her newfound freedom in 1950’s Brooklyn, taking a job as a sales clerk in a department store and getting involved with a young Italian boy from the neighborhood. It reminded me so much of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that I didn’t want the story to end.
6) XVI Julia Karr – Nina is 15 going on 16, stuck in a futurist world where the age of consent is 16, and once you’ve been tattooed, some men will think that means you’re willing…even if you’re not. Occasional foot-stomping temper tantrums aside, if you’re looking for a different take on how consumerism is shaping our world, this would be the book to read. Oh, and the sequel, Truth comes out in just a few weeks. Yippee!
7) A Drink Before the War Dennis Lehane – The first of the Kenzie and Genaro mysteries, Patrick Kenzie is hired to track down a missing cleaning woman, who may or may not have sensitive information regarding a certain local politician. This was the first book I’d read in quite some time where it was just as fast paced as any action film. Lehane sure as hell knows what he’s doing.
8) The Rapture Liz Jensen – This book TERRIFIED me. Crazy Bethany can predict natural disasters after she receives a round of electric shock therapy. Thing is, all the disasters she predicts are happening in places they shouldn’t…and they all come to pass, exactly when she says they will. If this is a sign of the impending apocalypse (which it very well could be, there’s something about this plot that is entirely too plausible) I say we’re all fucked.
9) The Elegance of the Hedgehog Murial Barbery – Paloma, convinced her future is set in stone, decides to kill herself on her 13th birthday, but not before documenting the mendacities of daily life in her apartment building. I loved the book as much as I loved the film, and that rarely ever happens.
10) Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk David Sedaris – Modern day fables, as told by one of the biggest smart-asses around. What’s not to love?