Monday, January 30, 2012

2011 Book of the Year

(Oh my goodness, aren't my graphics AMAZING?)

Our Book list for 2011
So Much for That
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Cleopatra, a life
The Light of Evening
Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
Slaughterhouse Five
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
War and Peace

This year instead of debating openly about our favorites and potentially tainting each other's opinions with our own adamant love for our standouts, we conducted a paper vote.  It was surprisingly fast and efficient, but I would say that I personally missed the debate about the merits of the books, especially the one's we read earlier in the year.  Perhaps next year we'll talk about the books then do the paper vote.  It is very interesting to see what sticks with people.  

The votes were reasonably split between The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Unbroken, but it was really no contest.  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hildebrand hands down earns our 2011 book of the year title.  (You'll not find a write up for Unbroken (yet) as I had a work event that pulled me away from the meeting and I unfortunately didn't start reading it until this last weekend.  I will say, once I started I regretted my delay. It is quite engaging.)

Our members were also taken with War & Peace and of course Henrietta Lacks, Cleopatra got a nod for being an excellent, and interesting read, but the votes were for Unbroken.

As for what we use to call our "worst book of the year" this title has been renamed "least favorite".  We were called on the carpet by the author of our 'least favorite' last year and we stand by our rights to rank our reading list and yet we intend no disrespect to the talented authors who have published works.   This "least favorite" title is nothing but that, it is the book that we least liked out of our list.  It doesn't mean the book wasn't impactful or important, but we simply didn't like it better than anything else on our list this year.

So, after all that, which of the above titles failed to touch us?  The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.   Sorry Ms. Davis, we've done short stories and liked them, but these did not work their way into our hearts.  

We're looking forward to 2012 and sharing our finds with you.  Thank you for checking in.   Next up, the recap and (maybe) recipes from our annual spousal dinner.


To say our reviews were mixed for this book would be an understatement.  There were those of us who couldn't put it down and others who forced ourselves to finish.   The debate wasn't heated, which can happen when views are so very split on a book.  However, some of the things that one member would call out as frustrating someone else would claim to have appreciated.

We all agree that Jonathan Franzen is a much better writer than our last author, but quite a few of us are weary about reading yet another book describing the angst of (comparably) wealthy middle class white people.   The word bourgeois was actually used in describing the story (not by this re-caper, 'bourgeois' and 'repleat'  are not terms that roll of my fingers or tongue in general conversation. )

The story centers around a trio of people who are in a complicated, but predictable love triangle.  He's a rock star, she's a former collegiate athlete and our other hero is the 'safe and normal guy'' that girls marry.  Throw in some corrupt government contracts, a plot to save a specific bird in exchange for mining rights and you know that no one is happy.  Love is a strong word... their lives are intertwined in an uncomfortable way.

We, as a group, are not put off by unlikable characters, and these did fall mostly into that category.  However, there were glimmers of brilliance in how the characters evolved.  We all tended to appreciate the (forgive me) 'curmudgeonization' of one of the characters who makes it his life mission to rid his neighborhood of free ranging cats.  As someone who is completely obsessed with my idiot neighbors who can't manage their garbage bins, I think everyone should embrace their inner hostile neighbor tendencies from time to time.  Granted, stabbing the tires of the slutty neighbors boyfriend's car is a bit much, but we all have to select our own limits.

While this novel was only mildly well received I think it is important to note that while it did not garner any votes for Favorite book of 2011, it also did not receive any of the dreaded "least favorite" votes.