OK, I’m a slacker. I only read thirty-four works of fiction, and twelve books of non-fiction in 2011. Yes, I fell off my Read-A-Book-A-Week pace this year – but, hey, some of the books I read were really thick!
Let me tell you about the best of the books I read this year:
Absolute Favorite Of The Year: The Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly: I read one and I was hooked. Quickly read the first six books in the series and now I think I am in love with Harry Bosch, a hard-as-nails LAPD detective with a weakness for a jazz saxophone and strong women. The books are beautifully written, even if they are about murder, autopsies and betrayal. There is just something compelling about Harry Bosch, and I plan to read all seventeen books. I just can’t help myself.
Just Kids by Patti Smith: a coming of age story set in 1970s New York City, focusing on the love between two kids who would go on to change the world in their own ways – Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith writes like the poet she is – lyrically, magically, powerfully. Lovingly.
An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy: a beautiful story of love and longing, set in turn of the century India. Gorgeous language.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: I devoured all three books, which, like all great fantasy literature, take what’s real and makes it into what might be. I was immersed. In fact, I read each book twice, so maybe my annual count should be higher… they are that good.
The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny: A principled man of integrity solves crimes in Quebec. Simple premise. Anything but simple stories. I loved coming to know the cast of characters and to see how they evolved through all six books.
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman: At Masada in the first century, over 900 Jews committed suicide rather than submit to Roman rule. But contemporaneous records showed that two women and five children survived. This is their magical story.
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton: I have read every book since A is for Alibi. And, each time I have a vague worry that Sue Grafton will “phone it in” and slap together a book just for the sales. And with every book I’m happily thrilled that she has never done that. This book has private investigator Kinsey Millhone at her absolute finest – in her worn jeans, semi-clean sweatshirt and nail scissors haircut – solving a mystery that starts with shoplifting and ends in a surprising way.
Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick: If you, like me, have a weakness for historical fiction, then you will love the story of William Marshal – a landless second son who goes on to become Regent of England while his friend Richard the Lionheart is on Crusade.
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks: In the late 1600s, Puritans on Martha’s Vineyard sent a young man to Harvard College. He went on to graduate – the first Native American to do so – and Brooks tells the story of Caleb crossing from one culture to another, supported by the deep friendship of a young woman, Bethia. Beautiful imagery by the Pulitzer Prize winning author. I’ve never read a word she’s written that I haven’t loved.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: A fish out of water everywhere, Marina Singh finally finds her place in the remote Amazonian rain forest. Patchett is another favorite author whose voice is like a tonic.
Absolute Favorite Of The Year: Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer-Marie Rilke: Timeless advice on living from a great poet. I found myself marveling at Rilke’s insight and kindness, and his deep wisdom. Truly, you can pick this book up, open it to any page and have an ah-ha moment. Any page.
Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli: New rules for meetings that work. Who can’t use that?
Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Caroline Kennedy and Michael Beschloss: I learned some things reading this book. 1.) Jackie Kennedy was very smart, intuitive and sharp; 2.) Yet, in her eyes her most important role was helpmeet to her husband; 3.) Political issues and people flare into “news” but many of them barely make history. What makes history is the people who take the risks to do something new. And so I learned that Jacqueline Kennedy absolutely deserves her role in history.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu: I first read this volume when I accepted my first corporate job – who better to give me advice than an ancient warrior? The truths on leadership and managing conflict written over 2000 years ago still resonate today. It’s a good set of principles to have in any leader’s tool chest.
Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young: So many of my female clients struggle with The Impostor Syndrome – “if only people REALLY knew that I’m truly faking it, I’d lose everything” – and this book offers deep understanding of the Why of the imposter feeling, and practical paths out.
We Are All Weird by Seth Godin: This book reinforced my idea that anyone selling anything today must be prepared to deeply customize the customer experience. We Are All Weird, yes, and we are all individuals. Successful leaders, marketers and service providers must accept this new principle – or find their business going the way of the buggy whip manufacturing industry.
I want to thank the coaching group who sent me a Kindle as a Christmas gift last year. I have absolutely loved the convenience and accessibility of this little gadget, and think of your generosity every time I turn it on. Which is daily, so – see? – I’m thinking about you a lot! If anyone has been considering getting an e-reader for yourself, let me tell you that the Kindle has been fun, easy to manage and has helped me get out-of-print or otherwise elusive books this year. Love it.
So, what are you reading? What was your favorite book of the year? I want to hear from you (see, I’m always looking for something new to read…).
[Just a note, each of these books are linked to Amazon.com for your convenience. If you purchase via this link I will possibly make nineteen to twenty cents on each sale – this is called an “affiliate link” and by law I am required to disclose that I will make this humungous sum of money if you choose to purchase.]