Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate it—but it’s also the last Sunday of the year, which means it’s time for my top ten list. As usual, these are my top reads of 2011, not the top published books of 2011. But I’ve also added my favorite film adaptation and my favorite audiobook of the year, since I’ve started really keeping those posts up. I was lucky enough to have a good handful of five star books, but that meant leaving off a lot of four and a half star books that I honestly loved off the list. I invite you to rifle through those categories to your right. And here’s 2010 in review and 2009 in review, if you’re so inclined. I think that’s all the housekeeping, so let’s get started.
While my town dries out of record-setting, epic flooding from Hurricane Irene, let me ask you:
What’s your book with weather events? Hurricanes? Tornadoes? Blizzards? Real? Fiction? Doesn’t matter … weather comes up a lot in books, so there’s got to be a favorite somewhere, huh?
Well, it’s not as dramatic as those, but freezing weather. Specifically, characters forced to survive in freezing weather, especially if they have to flee across a frozen tundra. I first encountered this in The Left Hand of Darkness, which still captivates me to this day, and I’ve seen it in Graceling (as hardy Katsa tries to get little Bitterblue across just such a landscape for very important reasons) and, to a certain extent, in The Secret History, as Richard, too proud to go home or beg off his rich friends (who all think he’s on their socioeconomic level), spends a New England winter in a warehouse with a hole in the roof.
I don’t know why this is, other than that I like warm and hot weather (I am from the South, come on) and haven’t really experienced truly freezing weather. But as a fictional landscape, it forces the characters to strip themselves down to their very core; you can’t bring much and you’re driven to the edge of your stamina and strength.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Providence smiled upon me with The Secret History; I found a first edition in a local thrift store. Normally, this doesn’t matter to me unless it involves my beloved Tolkien, but the people over at Alfred A. Knopf believed in Tartt’s debut so much so that they printed the first edition in a run of 75,000—compared to the 10,000 usually reserved for debuts. It’s also pretty fancy, with a plastic cover that slips over a lovely hardcover. Jenny absolutely adores this book, and I thought it was high time to ignore my library books and get to my own tiny pile of unread books. (I do, in fact, have one! It is in my closet.)