As for 2011, I had to stew on my "Best of" post this year. When I thought back over the year, it felt like it went so fast that I couldn't think of a single book that knocked me off my socks. That's not true though. Once I really went back over my 100 (Woo hoo!) books that I'd read, about fourteen jumped out at me.
In order from the beginning of the year until now, here are my top ten reads of 2011:
This was such a Gone With the Wind meets Jane Austen sort of twist, that I couldn't help but grin. There were some fun name dropping and Austen-related story lines that you would only catch if you were a fan, but overall it was just a really good Austen-reading good time! (Review: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell)
I was actually a little shocked when I saw the mixed reviews on this book. The sweetness of the story, with the gut-wrenching twist to it was a surprise and a beautiful gift all at the same time. This was one of those reads that I couldn't put down. (Review: Things I Know About Love by Kate Le Vann)
This was no light read. Considering that it took me an hour to read 15 of these weighty pages, it took me over 8 months to finish. Even then, I skipped some of the chapters (on horticulture and such). I loved that this biography really took me into Wharton's world, in a very academic sort of way. I had missed the depth that Hermione Lee provided here, and considering what a fan I have always been of Wharton's work, this was an amazingly insightful read that taught me more than I ever thought about the author, the time period, and the other artists with which she surrounded herself. (Review: Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee)
How could I NOT mention Anna and the French Kiss this year? Having read both of Perkins's novels in the same year, I really was in for a treat. I found the teenage voice in this novel to be spot on with what I knew of my students (and what I remember of my own teenage years). The romance felt real, the tension created was palpable, and the location a delight. What was there not to like about this read? (Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)
I really debated about whether or not Shadowfever would make my "best of" list this year. Although it drove me absolutely batty with its constant jerking me around (is he or isn't he, is she or isn't she), I really got into this series and had to give Moning credit for creating a story that I felt like I simply couldn't predict. In some cases you don't mind predicting what will happen, but when you can't and it all makes sense somehow, it's a treat. These were not for the faint of heart, but for friends that could handle it, I was out recommending this series left and right! (Review: Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning)
So here's the surprise read of my year, Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe. The name dropping and anecdotes in this autobiography were infectious and tantalizing. I've never really been a rabid fan of Rob Lowe, but always kind of appreciated his acting (and let's not forget his handsome face). This was actually one of my first audio books that I listened to after returning to school and I found myself, many a night, not wanting to get out of my car. What a great Hollywood and human tale! I highly recommend this autobiography if you haven't read on in awhile. (Review: Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe)
Here was another shockingly fun read this past year. Although I really enjoy poetry, I couldn't have imagined that a little book of poetry would win me over as much as this one did. With all of its cheekiness and "bro" oriented storytelling, I really enjoyed these poems. They have some great classical connections, but I can't exactly take them into my classroom. Regardless, for my own personal reading, I found them a little naughty, a bit ironic, and very funny! (Review: Broetry by Brian McGackin)
Yep. Both Perkins novels made my "best of" list this year. For sheer enjoyment, originality, and modern storytelling, Perkins really gets my vote. Lola was a bit quirky, but every bit as vulnerable (if not more so) than Anna. I love the originality in her stories and yet the way she brings the YA chick read into out times. Altogether, I just really enjoy her novels! (Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins)
I don't know that my year would be complete without a great Austen-esque novel by Sharon Lathan! This year I thought that Miss Darcy Falls in Love came out of nowhere, with its stand alone qualities, to recapture more of that Austen story and time period that I so love. I'm an obvious fan of all things written by Lathan, so no surprises here that another of her books would make my top 10 list. (Review: Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan)
My final choice this year was a delightful British Chick Lit. novel, Carrie Goes Off the Map by Phillipa Ashley that I recently read and reviewed. This is now my third by Ashley, and I really have grown to love the escapist nature of her novels. When I need a bit of a reprieve from my own busy life, Ashley's novels with their strong female characters and romantic tension really fit the bill. (Review: Carrie Goes Off the Map by Phillipa Ashley)
This has been one of the most intense years of my life, professionally speaking. Because of that, I noticed that most of my personal reading has been escapist reads. I didn't want to be pushed and I didn't want to read with a pen! It was interesting to see that come through here in my list this year.
As for 2012, what are my goals? Well, I've decided to forgo reading challenges once again. I have no idea when my career will slow down, so I'm riding the wave for now and getting out of debt! It really is all good, but super busy, so I take life one step and one day at a time. I did, however, join the Goodreads Challenge and have given myself another 100 books to push myself with during this upcoming year. I look forward to seeing what my list will look like next year!