My Top 11 Reads of 2011


Sadly, I am confident that none of the three books I think I might still finish by the end of the year will make it onto my best of list for 2011. This of course means that I am at liberty to unveil My Top 10 Reads of 2011 with 11 days left to go.

I did more re-reading in 2011 than I typically do and many of those might have made the cut, but I decided not to include them in the running. If I had you might have been likely to see two Brookners, another Cather (The Professor’s House),  As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross and The Ark by Margot Benary Isbert.

Honorable mentions: My Life in France by Julia Child, Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather, The Group by Mary McCarthy, Travelling Light by Tove Jansson, and They Were Sisters and Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple.

The New House by Lettice Cooper
I loved the narrative structure of this novel that takes place in one day. I also love a book that has a good personal breakthrough/transformation.

Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson
This was hands down the book most made me want to jump up and down out of sheer reading pleasure.

A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert
The Dead by James Joyce
Two from the Art of the Novella challenge in August. I can’t exactly put my finger on why these two stand out but I found both of them beautiful and moving in their own ways.

A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
One of the best unreliable narrators of all time. That girl is a mess!

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff
I found this one not only sweet and poignant, but I also found myself identifying with the main character.

The Skin Chairs by Barbara Comyns
I was on the fence about putting this on in the top 11 instead of Whipple’s Because of the Lockwoods. I think there are similarities in both content and quality, but since this was my first Comyns, I decided to give the berth to the newcomer.

The Magnificent Spinster by Mary Sarton
Second year in a row that a Sarton novel makes it onto my year’s best list. I think Rachel at Book Snob might agree on this one.

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
Beautiful, touching, transcendent.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
Such an amazing tale of and really great writing. If I had to choose one novel on the list that approaches being “art” I think I would choose this one.

The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sherriff
Such a wonderfully cozy, kooky, sad/spooky tale of the moon slamming into Earth. Loved it.

14 thoughts on “My Top 11 Reads of 2011

  1. bookssnob December 20, 2011 / 6:30 pm

    I'd certainly agree with you wholeheartedly on the Sarton, Thomas, and there are several other favourites of mine on your list too. You've reminded me of one I have been meaning to read as well – A Month in the Country. Must get to that!


  2. Carol December 20, 2011 / 7:11 pm

    I, too, love Mary Sarton. The only odd one on your list is the one by Jenn Ashworth. I really enjoyed this book and to say she is a mess, is putting it mildly. It doesn't seem to fit in with the others, but I guess that's what makes this type of list interesting.


  3. StuckInABook December 20, 2011 / 8:29 pm

    Great Top 11, Thomas – and we have one crossover, as you'll discover when I unveil my list! Well, I'll tell you now – it's the Comyns.


  4. JoAnn December 20, 2011 / 9:46 pm

    Your list makes me want to reread Sarton's The House by the Sea. The Dead was a highlight of The Art of the Novella Challenge for me, too. Also loved a couple of your honorable mentions (The Group, My Life in France). Guess it's time to start thinking about my list…


  5. Aarti December 20, 2011 / 10:03 pm

    I so want to read D. E. Stevenson's book- your review put it immediately on my wish list!


  6. Mrs. B. December 21, 2011 / 2:51 am

    Fantastic list! I see many Persephones I haven't read. I did read and love Miss Buncle. A Month in the Country has been on my to buy list for ages. I must remember to get it soon. I'm curious about the Glass Room. I've read mixed reviews however if you have it on your list then I must check it out.


  7. Verity December 21, 2011 / 5:54 am

    Nice to see so many Persephones in there. Maybe you should get a Persephone out to read after the ones you're ploughing through at the moment


  8. Darlene December 21, 2011 / 9:04 am

    My library must have seriously misplaced its copy of The Magnificent Spinster as my hold request hasn't budged since Rachel tempted me with her review.

    I remember your post about enjoying Miss Buncle so much while you were on a lunch break at work or something like that. Loved the image. Thanks for posting your list, Thomas!


  9. pagesofjulia December 21, 2011 / 10:57 am

    Yay for best-of posts! I've read none of yours, which is not totally shocking, and at least some were already on my radar… thanks for the list. (We all need another list of books, right?)
    Your choice of 11 for 2011 is very neat; makes me feel that maybe I got a little exuberant with my list of 22 (!)… something to think about… wonder if I could pare it down…


  10. Karen K. December 21, 2011 / 11:07 am

    I loved those Persephones too. I wasn't sure I would like The Hopkins Manuscript but I really did. Quite unlike most of the other Persephones I've ever read.

    I own A Month in the Country but still haven't read it.


  11. Thomas at My Porch December 21, 2011 / 3:13 pm

    Rachel: I hope you do a best of list for 2011. (Or have you already? I should go look.) I would love to see what made to the top of your list for the year.

    Carol: It sounds like you are telling me that my list is too homogenous withe the exception of the Ashworth. And I think you may be right.

    Simon: Since I took my Comyns cue from you, not surprised she will be on your list. Although I would have assumed that you had read this one previous to 2011.

    JoAnn: I loved The House by the Sea. This year I read her journal Recovery. There were parts I found lovely, but overall didn't interest me as much.

    Aarti: It is such a fun read.

    Mrs B: I am sure literary types may have quibbles with The Glass Room, but it is definitely worth the read.

    Verity: Part of my problem is that there was a Persephone that kind of bored me which kind of led into my reading slump…I will be posting about that soon.

    Darlene: (I just mistyped your name as “Darelene” which I kind of like. It suggests a daring alter ego for Darlene (or maybe there is nothing alter about it) or it could referring to daring Darlene to do something. By the by, the Sarton is worth bugging your library.

    Julia: The two I would choose for you would be A Kind of Intimacy and The Hopkins Manuscript. Although I can also see you enjoying Miss Buncle when you are in the mood for something light.

    Karen: I hope I didn't oversell AMITC, but it is worth the read even if I did.


  12. Ruthiella December 21, 2011 / 3:49 pm

    I read both Miss Buncle books this year based on your enthusiastic review and I liked them both very much. For some reason they reminded me of the Miss Pigglewiggle books I read as a kid. I also purchased this year May Sarton's Journal of Solitude when I found it at the Goodwill. My library has lots of titles as well, just need to get around to reading them.

    And of course, I won The Fortnight in September from you! Definitely will read in 2012.


  13. StuckInABook December 22, 2011 / 7:10 am

    I am pacing myself with Comyns novels, because I can't cope with the idea of running out…


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