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A Year in Reading 2011

By posted at 10:45 am on December 1, 2011 35


If you’re like me, you keep a list of books you read, and at this time of year, you may run your finger back over it, remembering not just the plots, the soul-lifting favorites, and the drudges cast aside in frustration. You also remember the when and where of each book. This one on a plane to somewhere cold, that one in bed on a warm summer night. That list, even if it is just titles and authors and nothing more, is a diary in layers. Your days, other plots, imaginary people.

And so when, in preparing our annual Year in Reading series, we ask our esteemed guests to tell us about the “best” book(s) they read all year, we do it not just because we want a great book recommendation from someone we admire (we do) and certainly not because we want to cobble together some unwieldy Top 100 of 2011 list (we don’t). We do it because we want a peek into that diary. And in the responses we learn how anything from a 300-year-old work to last summer’s bestseller reached out and insinuated itself into a life outside those pages.

With this in mind, for an eighth year, we asked some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and readers to look back, reflect, and share. Their charge was to name, from all the books they read this year, the one(s) that meant the most to them, regardless of publication date. Grouped together, these ruminations, cheers, squibs, and essays will be a chronicle of reading and good books from every era. We hope you find in them seeds that will help make your year in reading in 2012 a fruitful one.

As we have in prior years, the names of our 2011 “Year in Reading” contributors will be unveiled one at a time throughout the month as we post their contributions. You can bookmark this post and follow the series from here, or load up the main page for more new Year in Reading posts appearing at the top every day, or you can subscribe to our RSS feed and follow along in your favorite feed reader.

A Year in Reading Wrap Up

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

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35 Responses to “A Year in Reading 2011”

  1. Yulande Lindsay
    at 12:08 pm on December 1, 2011

    These books really stood out for me: The Passage by Justin Cronin; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro; The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood; I Knew This Much Is True by Wally Lamb; The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins.

  2. Shana
    at 2:10 pm on December 1, 2011

    The really good ones:

    State of Wonder-Ann Patchett
    The Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson NF
    Ester and Ruzya – Masha Gessen NF
    Train Dreams – Denis Johnson
    Unnatural Selection – Mara Hvistendahl NF
    Born in Africa-Quest for Origin of Humans – Martin Meredith NF
    Sacred Trash – Hoffman and Cole NF
    The Free World – David Bezmozgis
    Principles of Uncertainty – Maira Kalman
    The Singer’s Gun – our own Emily Mandel
    Daniel Stern, Interpreter – Ludmila Ulitskaya
    Ether & Stories – Evgenia Citkowitz
    The China Study – Dr. Campbell (life changing book) NF

    and especially Binocular Vision – Edith Pearlman

    and my very guilty wonderful pleasure: The Jane Whitefield detective series by Thomas Perry read in order of publication

    can hardly wait for other Millions readers to chime in with their lists.

  3. Tanya
    at 3:33 pm on December 1, 2011

    Secret Daughter by Shilpi Gowda

  4. Sarah
    at 4:40 pm on December 1, 2011

    I just wrote a blog post about this, this article serving as the inspiration. I’d have to say, looking back at my list (and I do record them), my top three favorites are:

    “The Yacoubian Building” by Alaa Al Aswany.
    “What was the Hipster” (non-fiction) published by N+1
    “Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart

  5. Courtney Floyd
    at 1:23 pm on December 2, 2011

    Some of this year’s highlights have been:

    The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak
    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins,
    White Teeth by Zadie Smith,
    The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz,
    The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler,
    Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy,
    Toni Morrison’s Beloved,
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte,
    Eavan Boland’s Outside History and Object Lessons,
    ans Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers.

  6. Robin Sterns
    at 4:02 pm on December 2, 2011

    I read a lot of good books this year, but without question the best was Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, which I only heard about through my local bookstore, The Book Lady in Savannah, Ga. Powerful, heartbreaking, confusing. Brilliant plotting and writing and the depth and horror of it was still occurring to me days after I finished reading it.

  7. ted
    at 8:31 am on December 3, 2011

    I’ll do a full wrap up at the end of the year on my blog, but a few stand-outs for me this year were:
    The Memory Chalet – Tony Judt
    Angel – Elizabeth Taylor (the writer, not the actress)
    To the End of the Land – David Grossman

  8. Michael Travis
    at 11:00 am on December 3, 2011

    I always look forward to this feature each year. With a month left to go, my favorite books of the year are (in no particular order):

    Meditations in Green, by Stephen Wright
    Loving, by Henry Green
    Party Going, by Henry Green
    Voss, by Patrick White
    Troubles, by J. G. Farrell
    The Ambassadors, by Henry James
    Washington Square, by Henry James
    Warlock, by Oakley Hall
    Wizard of the Crow, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
    Sanctuary, by William Faulkner
    Don Quixote, by Cervantes (Edith Grossman’s translation)
    Death of the Fox, by George Garrett
    Mr. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell
    The Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner
    Parades End, by Ford Madox Ford
    The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, by Vladimir Nabokov

  9. The most wonderful time of the year | Readers' Salon
    at 9:08 am on December 6, 2011

    […] of my favourite book-related websites, The Millions, chooses to do a Year in Reading feature instead; they ask various contributors such as Jennifer Egan “to name, from all the […]

  10. Writer's Reading Lists | The Outlet: the Blog of Electric Literature
    at 8:12 pm on December 6, 2011

    […] Millions is running their fantastic annual feature called “The Year in Reading,” where authors recommend books they’ve read in 2011. So far the list of writers […]

  11. Suzanne
    at 8:05 pm on December 7, 2011

    A few from a very long list…

    Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce, both by Joseph Boyden
    Lev Grossman’s books, The Magicians and The Magician King
    Rondo by Kazimierz Brandys
    The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
    Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
    Elizabeth and Hazel by David Margolick
    The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
    Objects of Our Affection by Lisa Tracy
    To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild
    The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
    The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam
    Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
    Kate Atkinson’s novels featuring Jackson Brodie

  12. 2011: My Year in Books « douglas e riggs
    at 1:56 pm on December 8, 2011

    […] account as my guide, here is my ‘Year in Reading’ a la what the Millions is doing over on its site. Looking back on a whole year I’m sad I didn’t get to as many books as I wished to, but […]

  13. Geoff
    at 4:38 pm on December 8, 2011

    My list is classics-heavy because I’m filling some gaps in my literary education, but I managed to read some modern literature as well.

    Middlemarch by George Eliot
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
    Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
    The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant (non-fiction)
    Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
    The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
    Reamde by Neal Stephenson
    Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
    Hombre by Elmore Leonard

    The book I’m currently reading, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, will make my year-end list as well.

  14. My Year In Reading « So Much To Read
    at 4:56 pm on December 9, 2011

    […] and have found more than a few recommendations there. For the 8th year, The Millions is featuring “A Year in Reading” (#yir2011 on Twitter), where famous authors and celebrities write a short post about what […]

  15. Monday Medley « No Pun Intended
    at 7:07 am on December 12, 2011

    […] The Millions kicks off its always entertaining and enlightening “Year in Reading” series. […]

  16. My Year in Reading | We are Living in a Society
    at 1:35 pm on December 12, 2011

    […] to offer the highlights from their own reading in the previous year, a project simply called A Year in Reading. Inspired by this, I offer some of the best books that I read in 2011 that I recommend without […]

  17. My Daily Tweets 12.12.11 « memoirs on a rainy day
    at 8:49 pm on December 12, 2011

    […] #yir2011 pieces today. Check out which books made the cut for @EdanL, @mrkocnnll, and @emilymkeeler 12 […]

  18. Sheila
    at 3:09 pm on December 13, 2011

    Train Dreams – Denis Johnson
    Just Kids – Patti Smith
    Into the Whirlwind – Eugenia Ginzburg
    Cain – Jse Saramago
    Comedy in a Minor Key – Hans Keilson
    In A Strange Room – Damon Galgut
    Sarah Bakewell book on Montaigne
    Rin Tin Tin – Susan Orlean
    Almost Dead – Assaf Gavron
    The World Without Us – Alan Weisman
    Binocular Vision – Edith Pearlman

  19. Richard
    at 8:28 pm on December 14, 2011

    The whole Hyperion series by Dan Simmons.

  20. The Millions : A Year in Reading 2011 « Sandeep Sood
    at 12:49 pm on December 15, 2011

    […] The Millions : A Year in Reading 2011. […]

  21. Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Authors’ and Editors’ Favorite Reads from 2011
    at 2:04 pm on December 15, 2011

    […] like Salon, The Millions, and The Guardian go straight to the authors for their recommendations. I decided to do the same, […]

  22. Holiday Book Roundup » Adad Press
    at 9:54 am on December 17, 2011

    […] trying to finding a good read/gift this winter, how about one of the many from The Millions’ A Year in Reading 2011 (as picked by many excellent contributors such as authors and […]

  23. The Year in Reading « Books Worth Reading
    at 9:11 am on December 19, 2011

    […] books everyone has read in 2011. (The discussion was inspired by the Millions’ great series, A Year in Reading.) When I looked back through my 2011 reads, I was surprised to find that there were exactly five […]

  24. My Year in Reading | joshjulieblog
    at 1:02 pm on December 20, 2011

    […] year The Millions has a feature called “A Year in Reading” that I really enjoy. Throughout the month of December, they publish a bunch of short little […]

  25. A Year in Reading | Pop Loser
    at 4:48 pm on December 20, 2011

    […] The Millions year in reading. […]

  26. My “Year in Reading” for The Millions | BROOKE HAUSER
    at 8:09 am on December 22, 2011

    […] More from A Year  […]

  27. Preview of 2011 Booklists #1 | Semicolon
    at 10:50 am on December 27, 2011

    […] in Ireland, read and enjoyed a couple of my favorite novels in 2011, Anna Karenina and Gilead. The Millions has an entire series of posts by their staff writers, and by other selected authors and… My suggestion for Mr. O’Connell: War and Peace by Tolstoy is just as good as Anna Karenina, […]

  28. One Book to Rule Them All – Dead SULs
    at 5:00 pm on December 31, 2011

    […] a few predictably iconoclastic exceptions, are pretty much identical). Like The Millions‘ A Year in Reading list, where writers describe their favorite reads this year (regardless of the books’ publication […]

  29. Best of 2011 (not from 2011) « Snarkmarket
    at 5:09 am on January 4, 2012

    […] because they’re not all albums from 2011. This is also what I like about The Millions’ annual Year in Reading: the picks aren’t restricted to stuff that was released during this last spin around the sun. I […]

  30. Book Group Buzz – Discussion of Book Clubs, Reading Lists, and Literary News – Booklist Online » Blog Archive » Looking Back, Looking Forward
    at 1:54 am on January 12, 2012

    […] at it again, with a couple of strong recent posts. If you prefer to look back at 2011, try their Year in Reading, which asked a long list of authors, including some well known ones like Colum McCann, Jennifer […]

  31. Hey, Internet: Vol. 6 | A. is A.
    at 12:10 pm on January 15, 2012

    […] roundup gleaned from The Millions’ excellent Year in Reading series.  I loved the Year in Reading series, partially because it focused on favorite books read, […]

  32. Sunday Salon « The Intrepid Angeleno
    at 12:15 am on March 19, 2012

    […] chose this book, and several others, when I was reading The Millions: A Year in Reading series where they ask authors, editors, musicians and actors to write about the best books […]

  33. Monday’s Margins: Murakami, The New Inquiry, A Year in Reading | Identity Theory
    at 5:24 am on April 9, 2012

    […] literary underclass barred from the publishing establishment.”  The Millions‘ “A Year in Reading” feature is underway. Colum McCann, Jennifer Egan and Michael Schaub are among the contributors in […]

  34. Listening Lessons « The Bronsk Commons
    at 6:44 pm on September 21, 2012

    […] One was that Philip Levine, the U.S. Poet Laureate for 2011-12, selected it as his entry for The Millions’ A Year in Reading 2011 book list. Ever since I read his seminal collection What Work Is some twenty years ago, I have deeply admired […]

  35. Dancing in the margins of books at Pinterest | Critical Margins
    at 8:02 am on January 23, 2013

    […] of marginalia. I’ve followed in the footsteps of writers like Sam Anderson who catalogs his year in marginalia over at The Millions and the New York Times. In fact, Anderson’s work inspired me to write […]

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