My Favourite Reads in 2011

Happy New Year! I hope that you’ve had a wonderful few weeks and are enjoying 2012.

I’ve already posted about my favourite books published in 2011, but last year I also read a lot of fantastic books published in previous years.

Here are the best:

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy

Gormenghast – Mervyn Peake

Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake

My favorite reading experience of the year was my Gormenghast read-along. The first two books in the series were leagues above anything else I’ve read recently and it was wonderful to be able to share the reading experience with so many other readers.

I highly recommend these atmospheric books. They are packed with the most vivid characters you’ll ever come across and I’ll never forget reading about their adventures in that spooky, sprawling castle.

Mountain People

The Mountain People – Colin Turnbull

The Mountain People gives an insight into a society with a very different structure to our own. In times of trouble could we ever leave our closest family members to die? This is a shocking, but thought-provoking look at the way one African tribe copes with a famine.

Things Fall Apart (Pocket Penguin Classics)

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

This African classic shows how a traditional community was torn apart by the arrival of Europeans. It is one of those books that everyone should read.

The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

You wouldn’t have thought a book about a child who tortures animals could be so good, but somehow Iain Banks manages to create something that is both enlightening and entertaining.

Leviathan – Philip Hoare

This book contains everything you’d ever want to know about whales. Nearly a year after reading this Hoare’s enthusiasm for his subject is still affecting me.

Independent People – Halldor Laxness

This isn’t an easy read, but I think it is worth the effort. The remote Icelandic community cope with many difficulties in ways I often found surprising. More people should read Laxness.

Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks

This book about how a small village is affected by the arrival of the plague is both gripping and devastating. It is historical fiction at its best.

Have I tempted you to read any of these books?

Do you love any of them as much as I do?


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  1. Tony says:

    Halldor Laxness is one writer I’m definitely keen to try out in 2012 – too many good bloggers have praised him for me not to give his books a go :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Tony, I’m sure you’ll love Laxness. Enjoy!

  2. Aths says:

    So glad to see Wasp Factory on your list! Even though it didn’t make my favorites list, it was a favorite of mine last year.

    1. Jackie says:

      Aths, I’m so glad I influenced your decision to read it. We may be 30 years late, but at least we discovered it in the end. :-)

  3. Simon T says:

    This is more my sort of list, of course, but.. I have read none of them! Maybe Leviathan would have made me more enthused about Moby Dick…

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, It was reading Leviathan that persuaded me to read Moby Dick in the first place. I’m sure that the knowledge contained in Leviathan increased my enjoyment of Moby Dick – you should give it a try.

  4. Year of Wonders was one of the best of the year, when i read it some years ago. I wasn’t part of the Gormenghast readalong, but you could tell it was a good one, so immediately added them to the wishlist.

    I’m doing less challenges and more readalongs this year. Are you planning to organise anything?

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, I will probably arrange a read-along or two at some point during 2012, but I’m afraid I don’t have any firm plans at the moment. I mentioned doing a Shogun readalong with the Book Whisperer, but we haven’t done any more than that yet. Do you have any specific books you’d like to read-along with me? Perhaps we can arrange something as I enjoy read-alongs a lot more than challenges too.

  5. I loved Year of Wonders when I read it a few years ago. And since I’ve seen a lot of posting about Gormenghast this year, I’m keen to try it sooner than later. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, Gormenghast is quite intimidating + complex in the beginning, but please don’t be put off. It doesn’t take long to get used to the writing style and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. I really hope you decide to give it a try and enjoy it as much as I did.

  6. Caroline says:

    Great second list.
    Turnbull is someone I haven’t read in a while but his books are interesting.
    That’s a Laxness I haven’t read yet. I will read the Glacier this year. “Professor Batty” whose blog Flippism is the Key is on my blogroll has a general and a Laxness blog. I think he tries to link to all the Laxness reviews out there. I’m sure he would love to read yours.
    I got Gormenghast and Things Fall Apat here.

    1. Jackie says:

      Caroline, Thanks for letting me know about Professor Batty – I hadn’t come across him before, but will go and introduce myself later. I’ll try to read more Laxness this year too. Not sure which ones yet., I don’t own any so I’m guessing it will be whichever one I stumble across next :-)

  7. Sandy says:

    I really enjoyed Year of Wonders. Plagues make very good reading! I’m interested in the Iain Banks novel as well.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Yes, I share your weird love for plagues! Hopefully I’ll find a few more plague books in 2012!

  8. Amused says:

    What a great variety. I do love Geraldine Brooks! Happy 2012!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amused, Year of Wonder is the only Geraldine Brooks book that I’ve read. I’m sure I’ll love her other books so will have to get to them in 2012. I hope you have a great year too!

  9. Chinoiseries says:

    Halldor Laxness has been on my authors-to-read list for a while, and I think that 2012 is the year that I should read one of his books. Have you read any of his other books, Jackie? Unfortunately, I haven’t heard of the other books in your recommended list. But they do sound like books I’d be interested in!

    1. Jackie says:

      Chinoiseries, I’m afraid I haven’t read any of books by Laxness, but I plan to change that in 2012. I hope you enjoy your first one of his books.

  10. Ellie says:

    I think Leviathan went on one of my wishlists. I seem to have them scattered across several websites now, I really should condense as they all ahve different books on!

    I will pick up Gormenghast again this year, I think I’m about halfway through the trilogy now but it was a bit much for me in one go.

    1. Jackie says:

      Ellie, I congratulate you on actually having your wishlist on several different websites – mine frequently ends up on bits of paper which I can never find when I want it!

      I can see why reading Gormenghast all at once was a bit much – it is heavy reading in places. I hope you make it to the end (of the first two books at least) and enjoy it as much as I did.

  11. Ros says:

    I think Year of Wonders is Geraldine Brooks best book, but would be interested if others feel differently. I may be biased as I live only a couple of miles from Eyam, where the book is set. And I have Laxness on my TBR pile. I missed your review of it but now I know you enjoyed it so much, I’ll move it up my pile!

    1. Jackie says:

      Ros, I don’t live near Eyam, but I have been there and I think that does increase appreciation for the book. I’ll be interested to see how her other books compare, but I prepare myself for them not to be quite as good.

      Enjoy the Laxness!

  12. Alyce says:

    I read Things Fall Apart in college and thought it was very good. I should probably read it again to refresh my memory. Year of Wonders was fabulous except for the ending.

    1. Jackie says:

      Aylce, I agree about the ending of Year of Wonders – I try to forget it exists and pretend that the book finished a bit earlier – I’m tempted to remove those last pages from my copy so anyone who borrows it doesn’t have to read them ;-)

  13. Kathleen says:

    I’ve been interested in reading Things Fall Apart since my son read it for his high school class last year and raved to me about it. I’m glad to hear it was one of your favorites.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, Your son has great taste! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

  14. stujallen says:

    I loved leviathan my self ,I ve the laxness on my tbr pile Jackie ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I think you’ll enjoy the Laxness. I look forward to reading your review.

  15. Steph says:

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Jackie! I hope you all had a lovely holiday together and that you found your blogging break restorative! Because of you, I’ve put The Wasp Factory and Year of Wonders onto my TBR pile, AND I’m going to bump Things Fall Apart up my queue. I’m always so impressed at the way you manage to balance current reads with back catalog stuff as well!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, Those three books are all very different in style/content so I’ll be interested to see which you enjoy the most. I hope you have a wonderful 2012 too :-)

  16. JoAnn says:

    I really liked both Independent People and Year of Wonders. Hope to read Things Fall Apart eventually.

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, It took me years to get to Things Fall Apart too. It is worth the wait!

  17. Wendy says:

    I loved When Things Fall Apart and also Independent People which is such a wonderful classic. The other books on your list are mostly unfamiliar to me…I guess I have some research to do LOL! You always read the most interesting books, Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Wendy, I’m surprised that you haven’t heard of the other books. I guess they are all very British so are much more well known this side of the pond. I’m glad you think I read interesting books as I often worry I’m a bit predictible. Enjoy your research into my books!

  18. Michelle says:

    I read YEAR OF WONDERS in 2010 and loved every second of it. Definitely a great read!

    Happy 2012!

    1. Jackie says:

      Michelle, Year of Wonders is one of those rare books that is both easy to read, but powerful and informative. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it as much as I did.

  19. Wholeheartedly agree on ‘Year of Wonders’, the only title on your list I’ve had the opportunity to read. It’s a story that stays with you long after reading.

    1. Jackie says:

      Booklover, It isn’t a story I’ll ever forget.

  20. Things Fall Apart is one of those books that I have been meaning to read forever.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, It was on my shelf for years too. It isn’t as intimindating as it looks so I hope you manage to find the time to read it soon.

  21. I do love nebbing into other people’s best of lists. You’ve reminded me that I want to read Gormenghast at some point and I’m intrigued by The Mountain People. Thanks for the round up Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Novel Insights, I think you’ll really enjoy The Mountain People. It is very different to anything else I’ve read and is quite shocking. I hope you decide to pick it up.

  22. Thanks for the overview. I haven’t read many of those, but Independent People I read years ago and found it difficult and slow, but interesting. Year of Wonders was a book I very much enjoyed.

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I agree that Independent People is a difficult read. I did find it hard going in places, but once I’d finished it I was very proud of myself and I find myself thinking about certain aspects of that story frequently. (I can’t imagine having to wait until my neighbour offered a favour if I needed help with a sick relative.) I agree – interesting stuff.

      1. Another Scandinavian book about neighbours (and family feuds) is The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley. Another slow read but one of my favorite books. It plays around the year 1,000 in Greenland (about Icelanders who have settled there).

  23. Jenners says:

    I’ve always meant to read Things Fall Apart … mostly because of the title. Glad to hear it is as good as the title seems!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Yes – it is one of those titles (like Skippy Dies!) where the title gives everything away! LOL!

  24. Beth F says:

    I read Independent People decades ago — isn’t it a wonderful book? The characters and the starkness of the landscape are still in my mind.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, Yes – everything about that book will stay in my mind for a long time. Glad you’ve enjoyed it aready. :-)

  25. Parrish says:

    Glad you loved Peake & Banks, both great book choices.

    1. Jackie says:

      Parrish, I’ll have to read more from both authors soon. :-)

  26. JoV says:

    Years of wonders and things fall apart is definitely on my list!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.

  27. Somehow I wouldn’t’ve guessed that Peake’s trilogy would have been a favourite of yours (where did I get this impression? because it’s fantasy? or am I just totally off-base with that idea?) but now, having wanted to read it in a very vague way before, I am truly intrigued. I’m hoping to read a lot more speculative and fantasy fiction in 2012, so perhaps I can squeeze in these as well (if you can say ‘squeeze’ with books that size!). Thanks for all the recommendations (I’ve not read any of the others, either, though I’ve eyed several.)

    1. Jackie says:

      Buried In Print, You’re right – I don’t read much fantasy. But I will read any genre if the writing quality is good enough and in this case the writing far exceeds my minimum requirements :-) At the moment I’m reading another amazing fantasy series (The Lyonnesee Trilogy) I’m loving it so perhaps I need to try much more fantasy in future.

      I hope you manage to squeeze in some Gormenghast and enjoy it as much as I did.

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