Saturday, 17 December 2011

2011 - The Year in Review

Over the past few Blogs, I've highlighted some of my favourite books of 2011. Today's is more of an overview of the books I read this past year. I enjoyed it very much, trying to finish off the various reading group challenges I participated in, trying to have as varied a reading experience as possible; a mix of genres, a mix of new and old authors, and on the whole, I think it's been successful. As of today, I had completed reading 70 books this year.

I'm currently working on P.G. Wodehouse's The Inimitable Jeeves as I wind down 2011. It's a nice light, fluffy sort of book, dry humour and nicely written. I think I'll have time to finish one or two more before the end of the year and start my 2012 challenges. I'm currently thinking of one or two of H.E. Bates' The Jacaranda Tree (set in WWII in Burma), Eugene Burdick's Fail-Safe (a re-read for me; set during the Cold War, it's a tense thriller about a failed bombing exercise where a group of US bombers disregard their return signals and head to Russia to drop their loads of nuclear weapons) and John Le Carre's Call for the Dead (his first novel, written in 1961, which introduces his iconic George Smiley).

Now onto my review of the books I read in 2011. I've broken down by genre; Bio/History/ Travel, Fiction, Mystery, SciFi/Fantasy/ Horror and Adventure/Spy/War. Each genre will be listed from highest to lowest rating. There were no 1 star books this past year. For info, this is how I try to use a 5-star rating system:

1 star - So bad I couldn't finish
2 stars - I finished but on the whole the book was unsatisfying to me
3 stars - Most books should be a 3; ultimately, satisfying, interesting enough to hold my interest, but probably no real major surprise or wow moments
4 stars - Excellent, surprising and a book that I had difficulty putting down
5 stars - Will be personal favourites, with the probability that at some point I will re-read.

So without further ado, here I go -

Adventure/ War/ Spy

5 stars!
1. Alan Furst - Spies of the Balkans ***** (one of the surprises of the year, an author unfamiliar to me, but who grabbed my attention. I will be reading more of his work. Check out this Blog for more info)
2. John Buchan - The Thirty-Nine Steps **** an old classic and a re-read. Try the original movie as well.
3. Ian Fleming - Casino Royale **** A classic of the spy genre, the first Bond book. Great read.
4. H.H. Kirst - Night of the Generals **** An excellent war mystery and also an excellent movie.
5. Alistair MacLean - When Eight Bells Toll *** A re-read from my early teens. Entertaining story.
6. Nicholas Freeling - King of Rainy Country *** A new author for me, no classic, but still I enjoyed.
7. Iris Johansen - Deadlock ** I finished it, but it didn't make me want to read any others of her books. Tried much too hard and failed.

Biography/ History/ Travel

4 Stars

(No real outstanding books in this genre this year, but all were interesting)

8. Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything **** A favourite writer of my wife, she particularly enjoys his travel books. My first and I enjoyed his style, his humour and the information he presents. Another of his on my 2012 list.
9. Tony Hawkes - A Piano in the Pyrenees. **** Another author from my wife. Nicely humorous and entertaining.
10. Simon Winchester - Krakatoa, The Day the Earth Exploded **** I've read others and he's always informative and presents interesting subject matter.
11. General Rick Hillier - A Soldier First *** One of Canada's most popular Chiefs of the Defence Staff. A well-written informative auto-biography.
12. Terry Jones - Barbarians *** Historical tome from one of Monty Python's alumni, interesting take on the Roman history.
13. Max Boot - War Made Easy *** Interesting historical look at how specific weapons and tactics influenced historical events.


5 Stars!
14. Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird ***** This was a re-read and once again made me realize what an excellent book it is and why it is my all-time favourite book and also movie.
15. S.E. Hinton - The Outsiders ***** This was also a re-read for one of my genre challenges; Young Adult. It's a moving, touching story and survives the test of time.
16. Audrey Niffenegger - Her Fearful Symmetry **** As good as even if a different feel from her first book, The Time Traveller's Wife. Totally enjoyed.
17. Leo Rosten - The Return of Hyman Kaplan **** Light, humorous touching story about immigrants trying to learn English at night school.
18. Timothy Findley - The Pilgrim **** Interesting story, with psychological bent. I didn't know what to expect from the story and it didn't disappoint.
19. Graham Greene - Brighton Rock **** Tense thriller, interesting characters and well-written story.
20. Sara Gruen - Water for Elephants **** One of my first books of the year and I loved it. Well-written, emotional and tense at times.
21. E.M. Forster - Howard's End *** Interesting story, a new one for me.
22. Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray *** A classic that I'd meant to read many times. It was not one of my favourites of the year, but at the same time, still interesting.
23. George Orwell - Burmese Day *** I'm more familiar with his SciFi classic, 1984. Set in Burma during the British colonial period, it explores the lives of and the clash of cultures of the time. Interesting.

Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror

5 Stars!
24. Nevil Shute - On the Beach ***** Does it qualify as SciFi or Fiction? I put it here as it deals with a dystopian future. An all-time favourite of mine and a re-read. Once again it didn't let me down.
25. Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451 ***** Another classic of the SciFi genre. I'd read many moons ago and wanted to re-read. Enjoyed just as much this time.
26. John Wyndham - The Seeds of Time **** A collection of short stories from one of my favourite SciFi authors. Enjoyed them all.
27. Roald Dahl - Tales of the Unexpected **** Another collection of short stories. This was a TV series in the UK. Nice twists and turns, enjoyed very much.
28. Robert Louis Stevenson - The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde **** An early classic in the genre. It was the first time I'd read. Not what I expected and I enjoyed very much.
29. William Gibson - Spook Country **** I enjoy his SciFi for the most part. I liked this story, good characters, a nice mystery, entertaining.
30. Jim Butcher - Fool Moon **** Number 3 of the Dresden Files series. Entertaining, interesting, great characters and plots.
31. Linda Buckley-Archer - The Time Thief **** This is the 2nd in the Gideon stories. Interesting tale of time travel and adventures. Suitable for youngsters too.
32. Fred Hoyle - The Fifth Planet **** I've read a few of Hoyle's stories and generally enjoy them. This one took me some places I didn't expect and I enjoyed it very much.
33. Phillis Gotlieb - Sons of Morning and Other Stories **** I discovered Gotlieb's unique style only in the last couple of years and I enjoy her stories; somewhat cheeky and always interesting. This collection of short stories was also very readable.
34. Whitley Streiber and James Kunetka - Nature's End **** A great follow-up to War Day. They write very well together.
35. Ursula K. LeGuin - The Lathe of God **** My favourite LeGuin story will always be The Left Hand of Darkness, however, I enjoyed this story very much also. Nice to read another LeGuin story.

To Be Continued tomorrow.. :0)


  1. I'm glad to see that someone uses the same star rating system as me! It seems like you've had a good year for books and I look forward to tomorrow's post.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I've been checking out your Blog out as well; I may have to add some of your books to my TBR list.. :0)


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