These were some of the books that kept me in very good company this past year. Some of them were funny and some of them were sad, some of them made me think and some of them entertained me entirely. They may not be "the best" books of 2011, but they were the best books I read this year.
1 The Boy In the Moon by Ian Brown
Toronto writier Ian Brown's memoir about being a father to his severely disabled son, Walker. Sweet and poignant and honest, this is book is beautifully written and well worth reading.
2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese The story of twin brothers who grow up in Ethiopia during the '70s and become doctors. This is a story about family and siblings and love, and even though I had a hard time getting into it, I'm glad I persisted.
3. The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis Who in their right mind said "I know, a novel about Canadian politics and Parlaimentary procedures! Why hasnt' anyone done that before?" But it works, and really well. This novel was funny and dry and really quite entertaining. Really, who knew?
4. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley This is the third book in the "Flavia de Luce" series, a series which I am enjoying very much. A murder mystery set in England shortly after the war, which kept me highly entertained. The fourth one just came out, so expect to see it on next year's list.
5. Bossypants by Tina Fey This sort-of-memoir was sharp and funny and very good. I laughed out loud a number of times, and it also made me think. A winning combination, always.
6. At Home by Bill Bryson I'd read almost anything by Bill Bryson, and this history of the home did not disappoint. From telling me about how people treated their servants to how wallpaper was invented to why we call big houses a "Hall" to the important ratio of rise to stair, this book was fascinating and delightful. My mother was reading it at the same time when we were in Florida on vacation, and we'd both say things like "did you get to the part about the bathrooms yet? OOOO, wait 'til he talks about indoor plumbing!", like we were reading a juicy novel.
7. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein The narrator is a Golden Lab who tells the story of his owner and their life together. I really enjoyed this book, and I've never looked at any dog the same way again.
8 One Day by David Nicholl This story visits two friends on the same day, every year, for twenty years, and explores the ups and downs of two people who grow up, grow apart and grow together. And you would not believe the day I started this book! Friday July 15th, the day the book starts! It was meant to be!!
9 The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell One of my clients gave me this book for Christmas, and I felt duty-bound to give it a try. And I was glad I did; it was good. Dutch merchants and Japanese citzens try to co-exist in 18th Century Nagasaki, and the societies of both are never quite the same because of that contact. This time and place really came to life.
10. Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle Switching back and forth between Italy during the war and the present day, this historical mystery was very compelling.
11 A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg My father has been quite sick in hospital for the past few weeks, and I've been too preoccupied to read much. Big Liver Girl gave me this memoir/cookbook to read, and I fell head over heels into it. Sitting in the ICU waiting room, drooling over the recipes, I also enjoyed the stories and memories that went with each one. I wanted to eat this book, she made everything sound so, so good. It was exactly the right book that I needed, and I enjoyed it very, very much. The only problem I had with it is that I have to wait until the summer to make the Cherry, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad that I will crave every day until cherry season.