2011 End of Year Book Meme

I noticed this meme at Jen’s Book Thoughts a couple of weeks ago and thought it looked like fun and also a little familiar. Turns out I did it last year too. Wish my brain didn’t resemble Swiss cheese quite so closely.

1. Best Book of 2011 – Catherine O’Flynn’s WHAT WAS LOST. I am besotted by this book and its characters. I listened to it the first time around then bought myself a print copy and read that and then listened to the book again. Each time I read it I get something new out of it. It is ostensibly about a young girl who goes missing in the 1980’s but it’s really about much more than that. It’s about loss and the myriad ways people deal (or fail to deal) with it, the absurdness of life (and death) and how truly stupendously awful shopping malls are. It’s sad and funny and beautiful. Did I mention I am besotted?

2. Worst Book of 2011 – I had a fair few DNFs this year (mostly while trying to find something readable for the Eastern European challenge) but the worst book I actually finished was Robert Harris’ THE FEAR INDEX which was full of research on display and silly stereotypes. It was also as exciting as carpet.

3. Most Disappointing Book – Ben Elton’s MELTDOWN. Not only was it not funny but it made me question if Elton had ever been funny or if my laughter at his earlier books could be ascribed to that joint I smoked during University O-week in 1985 (it’s OK mum I didn’t inhale).

4. Most surprising (in a good way) book – I expected nothing from Y.A. Erskine’s THE BROTHERHOOD because I knew absolutely nothing about it when I opened the front cover and started reading (I had picked it up in a bookstore purely because it had a little Australian sticker on it). The novel completely blew me away and if I wasn’t quite so besotted with the people in WHAT WAS LOST this would have been my book of the year. It’s got everything – great structure, great characters, surprises and a really thoughtful exploration of important issues like police resourcing and institutionalised racism. But it’s a ripping yarn above all else.

5. Book you recommended to people most – Well WHAT WAS LOST came out a few years ago so more people have already read it but THE BROTHERHOOD was new this year so I’ve banged on about it quite a bit. I’m recommending it to all and sundry for the Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge too. I’m on kind of a crusade.

6. Best series you discovered – So hard to choose just one. So I won’t.

  • Leighton Gage’s series set in Brazil featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva is amazing. I read the first two books in the series BLOOD OF THE WICKED and BURIED STRANGERS in 2011 and plan to read the rest as soon as possible.
  • I only read one of Ernesto Mallo’s series set in 1970’s Argentina, NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK, but boy what a first book! I have the second one, SWEET MONEY, lined up for January
  • Domingo Villar’s books about police inspector Leo Caldas operating in Vigo, Spain make for scrumptious reading. I read two of these starting with WATER-BLUE EYES then DEATH ON A GALICIAN SHORE

7. Favourite new authors you discovered – As I mentioned in an earlier post I read 83 books by new to me authors this year so listing favourites is a bit hard and it normally does take a couple of books for me to add an author to my favourites list. But, apart from the authors I’ve mentioned in other answers, I think Jussi Adler-Olsen, Christopher Brookmyre, Alan Carter, Shamini Flint, Tom Franklin, Alan Glynn, Geoffrey McGeachin and Angela Savage might have what it takes to become must-read authors for me.

8. Most hilarious read – I’ve taken to the comic noir novel of late and in that vein very much enjoyed Eoin Colfer’s PLUGGED and Helen Fitzgerald’s THE DONOR. But my most hilarious read was undoubtedly Christopher Brookmyre’s PANDAEMONIUM. It made me snort lemonade out of my nose.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book – I had a few dud thriller’s this year but Michael Robotham’s THE WRECKAGE was a genuinely intelligent and topical thriller.

10. Book you most anticipated – I try not to get excited about particular books as I don’t like to set unreasonable expectations but I must admit I was very much looking forward to Elly Griffiths THE HOUSE AT SEA’S END which, happily, was very good (and yes on my copy of the book the title is missing the apostrophe).

11. Favorite cover of a book you read – I adore the covers of Sulari Gentill’s series because they are both evocative of the stories contained within the books and they do not contain any of the stereotypes used on half the other books I read (no running silhouettes or statues of angels here). 2011’s instalment was A DECLINE IN PROPHETS: the cover and the book inside it were both excellent

12. Most memorable character – In some ways it’s Kate Meaney, the young girl who went missing in WHAT WAS LOST as she occasionally haunts my dreams but overall I think it’s Dr Jennifer White from Alice LaPlante’s TURN OF MIND. She has been diagnosed with dementia and although the book is on one level a story about determining whether or not she committed a crime she cannot remember on a different level it is simply her story about living with the hideousness that is Alzheimer’s disease. She’ll stick with me for a long time to come

13. Most beautifully written book – Aside from WHAT WAS LOST (I told you I am besotted) I think it’s a toss up between two books. The first is Johan Theorin’s THE QUARRY where the reader is drawn into the the insular world of the island setting and its slow awakening from a harsh winter to spring. Kudos must also go to Marlaine Delargy who translated the novel from its original Swedish and retained not only the story but the beauty as well. The other book is Tom Franklin’s CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER which was equally atmospheric, this time about the American south.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you – do you need to ask? I am besotted I tell you.

15. Book you can’t believe you waited until 2011 to finally read? I didn’t read a lot of older books this year so I’ll kind of add to last year’s answer. I wish I’d discovered the Swedish Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö much earlier but I am enjoying reading them now. I read the second book in the series, 1966’s THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE, this year and will ration the remaining 8 books in the series over the next few years. The good thing about having waited this long is that the books were re-issued a few years ago with introductions written by modern crime writers. In this instalment it was Val McDermid who wrote about travelling to America for cheap books (this brought back memories for me) and being influenced by these two great authors.

Feel free to join in the meme or leave your answers to any or all of these in the comments

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10 Responses to 2011 End of Year Book Meme

  1. Norman says:

    Bernadette, we agree about so much for instance our brains being like Swiss cheese at times; mine much more often than yours I am sure. And that those three series by Leighton Gage, Ernesto Mallo and Domingo Villar are really good. You are lucky if you have got 8 of the Martin Beck series to read with some of the best still to come.
    I might try this meme if I can get the Swiss cheese to cooperate. 😉 Best wishes for 2012.

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  2. Bernadette – Thanks for your answers to this meme. You’ve reminded me of some wonderful books, you’re suggested some new ones for me, and I’m glad you found some very good books this year. And I completely agree with you about What Was Lost. Go ahead with your obsession; I quite understand it :-).

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  3. Rob says:

    I’m going to give The Brotherhood a go. I might try Pandaemonium as well, though the reviews on Amazon are very mixed. I’ll have a think about What Was Lost. I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea, but you’ve given it a pretty hard sell. I’ll be back to Elly Griffiths next year as well.

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  5. Amy says:

    Lovely, thoughtful selection, as always. I remember getting an ARC of What Was Lost and thinking it was just another chick book. But I love the small-town sort of life of the protagonist, and how he really tries hard to do the right thing.

    You’ve again left me with several titles jotted down to search for. My wallet says EEEK

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  6. Marg says:

    So you really like What Was Lost then?

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  7. Bernadette, I have Yvette Erskine’s The Brotherhood on order at a bookshop in Sydney and went to pick it up only to discover they were closed (Jan 2). Now, reading your comments, I wished I’d ordered it somewhere closer! (I’d won a book from that shop, so thought I’d return the favour).

    Looking forward to reading your reviews this year for the Australian Women Writers Reading & Reviewing challenge. I’m sure we’ll discover lots of great books.

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  8. Pingback: Not just another ‘best of 2011′ reading list | Petrona

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