2011 BOOK REPORT// This year in books

With the beginning of the year always comes a lot of reflecting of the year past. 2011 was definitely a huge year with many ups and downs and life changing decisions. Sometimes it's overwhelming to try and sum up a year and sort it out, but a lot of times you can tell a lot about the year you've lived through the books you've read. For example, when I think of a Visit from the Goon Squad, I think of my honeymoon in the vibrant and sunny Bahamas, or when I think about the History of Love, I am reminded of the quiet mornings before work. Here's a list of some of my favorite books this year:


  1. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: It was a really close one between #2. Both books moved me and opened my eyes to seeing the world in a genuinely new way. What I loved about this book was that it was beautiful on so many levels- beautiful conceptually, beautiful in language, beautiful in story, beautiful emotionally, and beautiful in structure.
  2. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: I had the pleasure of reading the Interpreter of Maladies a few summers ago which won Lahiri the Pulitzer Prize, but I actually thought Unaccustomed Earth was better. When I finished the last sentence, I was in a daze for days.
  3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: Our Pulitzer Prize winner this year pleasantly lived up to every expectation I had for it. I went into reading it already knowing about the power point presentation and determined not to like it, but it got me and it still gets me every time. Egan talks about the concept of time and the human experience with such eloquence and grace in these interviews which was a total treat to listen to after reading the book.
  4. Williams Sonoma Weeknight Fresh and Fast Cookbook:  I'm not really much of a cookbook person, I get really impatient with following directions, and never seem to have the ingredients on hand.  However, this book, which was a gift from our dear friends Kim and Marcelino turned out to be a total life saver as I navigated my way through my new wife responsibility of putting dinner on the table.  The recipes actually are really fast, simple in a delicious way, and beautiful.
  5. Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte.  THIS is an amazing book. I'm a visual person- if you explain it to me in a diagram or picture, I'll absorb it 100 times better than if you describe it to me in words or make me read something. In this day and age, when our attention spans can't last 5 seconds if we aren't drawn in from the get go, this book is filled with diagrams that encapsulate years and years of data into one image, making connections that mere words could never make. 
  6. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship by Alice Munro My two writer brothers were unanimous in predicting how much I'd love this book, so I pretty much squealed like a little girl the whole car ride home after picking it up from the library.  This is definitely my kind of book- a short story collection that goes into inner workings and complexities of men and women and relationships.  
  7. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen: Read this book on my trip to Seattle with my brothers and it was a total page turner.  It's one of those books that you try to take breaks from so that it won't end.  I also read The Corrections by Franzen which he wrote before Freedom, and the characters of both books just stay with you forever. I love his women characters and how he just gets them spot on in such a sympathetic and hilarious way. Patty Berglund and Enid Lambert- how are you two able to encapsulate pretty much every woman I know?
  8. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman: I still remember standing in line to buy this book when Borders was closing and everyone and their mother was trying to use their 50% off your entire purchase coupon before Borders stores across the nation would be shutting their doors one final time. (what a sad day)  I had just listened to an interview with Kalman talking about the exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center that was feauturing her work, and I was so enchanted her imaginative and unconventional take on life and was determined to brave the crowds and buy the book first thing after work.
  9. Decoded by Jay-Z: Since my early college days, my taste in music has changed countless times, but two artists that I will NEVER turn away from are Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z.  It was a total treat to listen to Jay-Z's interview with Terry Gross, and see a different side of him.  The book was really compelling artistic, insightful, and showed an intellectual and poetic side of Jay-Z. 
** for image source, click on title links. 

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