Favourite Reads of 2011: Part Two

Not so very long ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “genre fiction”. Truth be told, I’m still not exactly clear on that concept. I’ve always been an equal opportunity reader, so to me, a book is a book is a book. Then I joined LibraryThing where I became obsessed with cataloguing and tagging each book I’ve ever read or owned (or at least the few that remain in my memory) and assigning them to various categories, such as genres. Tagging has become a strange passion of mine—it’s a sort of meditation; I derive great satisfaction from putting things into categories—sort of like that toddler game of trying to fit squares, triangles and circles into the corresponding slots. I’m as systematic as I can be about tags, though I’ve not refined my system to the point where I can find a perfect single tag for any one book; “more is more” has been my system so far. That would be nearly impossible—books are much like the people who write and read them and tend to have utter disregard for categories. Not so in the case of formula books, such as Harlequin romances (which I haven’t read since the age of 14 and don’t intend to read ever again), or the latest paint by number thriller of course, which are of no concern to us here. Some categories, such as “Classics” have nothing to do with genre. There are many opinions on what constitutes a classic. Here again, I’m quite liberal in my tagging, but for our purposes here, I’ve limited the definition to: novels written before the 20th century. Beyond that, all hell breaks loose, and you are just as likely to find the same book fits into ALL the categories—according to my less than perfect tagging system that is. In any case, here are some of my favourite reads beyond contemporary literary fiction, sorted out into categories, for better or for worse. All links lead to my reviews. 

Some stats:

Total books completed in 2011: 287
Classics: 39
Mystery/Crime Fiction/Spy: 54
Fantasy: 36
Graphic Novels: 22
Young Adult Fiction: 54
Children’s Literature: 96
Illustration: 63
Non-Fiction: 7

Favourites:

CLASSICS

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (re-read)
Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant
Emma by Jane Austen
King Lear by William Shakespeare
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Honourable Mentions: The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James, La Fortune des Rougons by Émile Zola, La Curée (The Kill) by Émile Zola, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

Most Read Authors: Émile Zola (6), Jane Austen (4), Charles Dickens (3),
Edith Wharton (3), Honoré de Balzac (2), Henry James (2), Rudyard Kipling (2)

MYSTERY / CRIME FICTION /SPY

Zoo Station by David Downing
The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Hunter: A Parker Novel by Richard Stark

Honourable Mentions: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris, Cocaine Blues by
Kerry Greenwood, Already Dead by Charlie Huston

Most Read Authors: Agatha Christie (5), Andrea Camilleri (3), Lee Child (3), Ian Rankin (3), Richard Stark (3), Josephine Tey (3), David Downing (2), Kerry Greenwood (2)

FANTASY

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Honourable Mentions: Dust by Arthur Slade, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart

Most Read Authors: Neil Gaiman (5), Philip Pullman (4), Shaun Tan (3), Lian Hearn (2), Benjamin Lacombe (2)

YA & CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo & Bagram Ibatoulline
The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg & 14 authors
The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Honourable Mentions: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins,
Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Most Read Authors: Benjamin Lacombe (14), Philip Pullman (6), Beatrice Alemagna (5), David Wiesner (5), Kate DiCamillo (4), Emily Gravett (4), Michael Morpurgo (4), Shaun Tan (4), Suzanne Collins (3), Jutta Bauer (2), Roald Dahl (2), Wolf Erlbruch (2), Neil Gaiman (2), Jacob Grimm (2), Lian Hearn (2), Shen Quifeng (2), Peter Sis (2), Ashley Spires (2),
Odile Weulersse (2)

ILLUSTRATION

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
Le carnet rouge by Benjamin Lacombe & Agata Kawa
Madlenka by Peter Sís
The Three Golden Keys by Peter Sís
Selma by Jutta Bauer
Un Lion a Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
Tigre le Dévoué by Shen Qifeng & Agata Kawa
Flotsam by David Wiesner
June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
Blanche Neige by Benjamin Lacombe
Grimoire de Sorcières by Benjamin Lacombe
Nasreddine by Odile Weulersse
Grandpa’s Angel by Jutta Bauer
Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett
Wolves by Emily Gravett

Honourable Mentions: Renard & Renard (Kleines Glück & Wilde Welt) by Max Bolliger
& Klaus Ensikat, L’enfant silence by by Cécile Roumiguière & Benjamin Lacombe,
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Favourite Illustrators: Beatrice Alemagna, Sophie Blackall, Max Bolliger, Laëtitia Bourget, Toni DiTerlizzi, Rébecca Dautremer, Klaus Ensikat, Aurélia Fronty, Emily Gravett, Bagram Ibatoulline, Roberto Innocenti, Agata Kawa, Benjamin Lacombe, Maurice Sendak, Peter Sís, Shaun Tan, Chris Van Allsburg, Odile Weulersse, David Wiesner

NON-FICTION

Sanderson: The Essence of English Decoration by Mary Schoeser
Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans
The Tiger : A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant

Honourable Mentions: Alexey Brodovitch by Kerry William Purcell,
What It Is by Lynda Barry (no review)

Coming Next in Part 3: Best Audiobooks & narrators

Back to Part 1 

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