Amanda Gates

Top 5 Books for 2011

Every year I compile a post about the top 5 books I read that year. In 2010, with a new baby, I didn’t read as much as usual. And while I just missed my goal of reading 25 books this year, I’m happy with how much I was able to read. Being able to check out library books on my Kindle helped tremendously with this.

Here are the Top 5 Books I read in 2011.

The Book Thief: At first, death as the narrator was a little off-putting. But I quickly got into it and the book was just fabulous. Heart-wrenching, but full of love. I loved the father and I loved the girl. I enjoyed learning about the war from this perspective. It’s hard to imagine that this is considered a young adult book, because I thought the themes were quite mature.

Cutting for Stone: I don’t even know what made me first buy this book. I think Amazon just kept recommending it and it had such great reviews. And while it took me weeks to read, it was worth it for the in-depth family history, the beautiful prose and the complicated relationships. These children grew up in interesting times in Ethiopia, but they were fortunate to have wonderful adoptive parents. I think the family dynamic – and the love for one another – was my most favorite part.

Bossypants: I was in need of a light book and a good laugh this past spring and my husband knew just what to buy me. Sure, this isn’t Cutting for Stone-like prose, but it’s hilarious. Tina Fey is humble and self-deprecating and one funny woman. She tells her story chronologically but through vignettes instead of year by year. I loved learning about her dad, her SNL friends, her thoughts on women in comedy and her thoughts on motherhood. I borrowed this book to no less than seven other woman who also loved it.

Unbroken: I give five stars to very few books on Goodreads, but this one is most deserving of such high praise. Hillenbrand is gifted in telling true stories and making you feel like you’re right there; in this case, in a fighter jet, floating on an ocean or in a POW camp. Louie’s journey is remarkable and I feel fortunate for having the opportunity to read about him. Not very many books make you feel that way.

The Forgotten Garden: I have yet to post about this book, which is really absurd, because I adored it from page one. Maybe I just don’t think I can put into words how sweet and magical this book was for me. A story told throughout three different periods of time, all interconnecting within a mystery. Plus, not only does the author write this complicated tale, she also writes a smattering of original fairy tales within the book. It’s amazing.  Kate Morton was new to me with this book, but I’m now halfway through The Distant Hours (almost as good) and I’ve heard House at Riverton is wonderful, too.

Honorable Mention

The Hunger Games series: I loved the first book but after that the books (Catching Fire & Mockingjay) went downhill for me. I was actually a bit disappointed in the ending. However, I’m very glad I read this series. It’s more mature than Twilight, which was a very nice perk for a young adult series. The trailer for the movie is phenomenal, so I’ll be seeing that for sure.

What are your top books for 2011?

Archives of Top Books: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007


Thanks for your comment!

Hi Sim,

Thanks for writing. The Marriage Plot is definitely one I want to read, but I need to wait for it from the library or for paperback. Thanks for the recommendation!

I also loved A Thousand Splendid Suns, even though it was so sad.

That's the same reason I started blogging back in 2007 - I wanted to talk about things that my friends/family couldn't or didn't want to talk about. :)

5 best books of 2011

Hi Amanda
I found my way to your blog because I am just about to start Middlesex (I think!)by Jeffrey Eugenides and I was curious to see if it had been made into a film. You posed the same question in your old blog a couple of years ago!
I love your list of best books from last year. One not on your list is The Marriage Plot, also by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's a love triangle of a sort, and really, really good. The two male characters are definitely not your typical male leads. I say 'male leads' because it's going to be made into a film but that's a year away at least.
I agree with Jen about the Safran Foer book; it is so incredible - the story, the characters but mostly just how he writes - I can't remember being so affected by a book except maybe the Thousand Splendid Suns book which was pretty devastating.
I have a fairly newish blog where I blah blah about books that have been made into films; I was boring my friends insisting that they read The Help, read The Descendants, read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy BEFORE they see the movie so I decided to blog instead. you can find me at I hope you will think about stopping by sometime!

I forgot!

I forgot about Henrietta Lacks. That book was amazing, too! Such good storytelling for such a complicated life and subject (human cells).

And yep, The Help was great, too!

Thanks for the recs!

Hey Jen,

I'll definitely put Extremely Loud on my list for 2012. I totally trust you when it comes to book recs. I agree on Mockingjay. By the time it ended, I didn't especially care either. Plus, I just don't feel Katniss' life would've ended up like that. Seems weird.

Liberal arts major here, too! Someday we'll have to meet IRL. :)

The best book I read this

The best book I read this year -- and probably in the last five or so years -- was Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It didn't come out this year, but the movie based on the book comes out at the end of this month, which is how I first learned about it. I picked it up in the airport en route to NYC, and I read almost the entire 350+ pages during one 5-hour flight. I was actually bummed we had to land because I wanted to finish it in one sitting, it was that captivating.

Have you read it? If not, I do think you'd enjoy it, especially as the mother of a young boy, like me.

I also read the Hunger Games series this year. I enjoyed the first two books, but I really hated Mockingjay. I know a lot of people were enraged by the ending, but I was more frustrated that it the last 100 or so pages seemed to multiply so that it took me FOREVER to even get to the end. When I finally got there, I did not care what happened to Katniss, Peeta or Gale. I was just so relieved to be DONE. I am, however, looking forward to the movie. It looks pretty awesome.

I've got Divergent on my nightstand to read next, but I think I need a break from YA for a bit. Back to nonfiction memoirs -- Roth has Blood, Bones & Butter on HIS nightstand that I'm going to steal from him and read over the holiday break.

PS: The fact that your spam-preventing captcha is asking me to do math is hurting my head! HAAA. I was a liberal arts major!

yes, yes, yes!

I agree with all of your selections, except Unbroken. But I'm sure I'll love it when I get to it, it'll be on my 2012 list. My #1 was definitely Cutting for Stone. When I look at your list all of the titles bring warm feelings. The Book Thief was so unexpected. As was The Forgotten Garden, it grew on me. I'll never forget how hard I laughed while reading Bossypants on the bus. I was hysterical, in the good way.

One of my other faves this year was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I'd see people reading it on the bus and ITCH to talk to them about it. If I finish it this year, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen will make my top list, too. His writing is the best I've read since Cutting for Stone. The Help was on your list last year, but it was a top for me this year.

(for accuracy, I also didn't read Hunger Games so I guess those weren't faves for me either)

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