2011 in Review — Jenny’s List

It’s time to take a look back at the reading we did during 2011. Teresa and I have developed a tradition of making, not exactly a “Best of” list, since we can never decide on a set number of “best” books, but a list of books that made an impression in one way or another. Without further fuss, here are mine!

Book I regretted most when it was over: Endless Things by John Crowley. This was the marvelous denouement of a wonderful, enchanted, dreaming tetralogy that I’ll never read for the first time again. But there’s always re-reading…

Books that made me laugh right out loud, causing others to look at me funny: Metamorphoses by Ovid; The Sibyl in Her Grave by Sarah Caudwell; High Rising by Angela Thirkell; Exercises de style by Raymond Queneau.

Book with the most satisfyingly foreseeable happy ending: (a tie!) The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery; The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Author that made me gush on and on to relatives, friends, fellow bloggers, students, and strangers on street corners, making them shift uncomfortably as I went on and on and on about how wonderful he was and how he turned my mind inside-out and took all the carpet-tacks out and rubbed my brain up the right way and put the tacks back in: Vladimir Nabokov. Sigh.

Most fascists: Jo Walton, in her splendid alternate-history trilogy, Farthing, Ha’penny, and Half a Crown.

Most seals (or were they?) : The Inn at the Edge of the World, by Alice Thomas Ellis.

Best classic: this is always the hardest category for me, especially since I spent the summer reading Greek and Roman classics I’d never read before. The Oresteia? The Metamorphoses? The Iliad? The Mill on the Floss? Oh, no, no, I just can’t.

Prettiest book: All Over Coffee, by Paul Madonna, with its lovely pen-and-ink views of San Francisco.

And last but not least, winning the title most recently held by John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, we have Worst Sex: the hands-down winner, even pushing out Lolita, is On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan. Oh dear me. You just want to get the poor kids a handkerchief. Or two.

I’ve had a wonderful reading year. There were one or two books I kicked out of bed for eating crackers, so to speak, but overall, I’ve read some of the most wonderful things I can remember. This year has introduced me to Nabokov, to Hoffmann, to Greek and Roman classics I ought to have read ages ago, to Ghosh, to Machado de Assis, and to dozens of others. I carried out my resolution to take second helpings of authors I’ve loved in the past, and to plan a little more so that I can read more, think more, write more. May it go just as well in 2012, for me, and for all of us!

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29 Responses to 2011 in Review — Jenny’s List

  1. Harriet says:

    Nice survey and interesting choices of which I have read just two (The Shuttle and McEwan). Yes indeed may 2012 bring more delights, literary and otherwise.

  2. litlove says:

    Always fun to read the best-of (even if your list is not quite that – or rather, more interesting than just that). I am a Nabokov convert too, and hope to read more of him in 2012. A very happy and contented new year to you, Jenny!

    • Jenny says:

      And to you! I always get so much from your lovely blog (including insight about Lolita.) Thank you so much for everything you write, and happy New Year!

  3. Lisa says:

    I had to laugh at your category starting, “Author that made me gush on and on to relatives, friends, fellow bloggers, students, and strangers on street corners” – at least blogging has given me a place to do that, so people no longer start to back away from me with a glazed or slighly panicked look in their eyes.

    I read several of the books on your list after reading your reviews here, and am reminded of more I meant to get to – as well as the Jo Waltons on my TBR pile.

    Happy New Year!

  4. krismerino says:

    A great list… and definitely agree about the “worst sex” pick, and I really like McEwan.

  5. Teresa says:

    Well, at least the bad sex in On Chesil Beach is intentionally bad and dramatically necessary. Is that the case with the Updike?

    • Jenny says:

      Oh, agreed! With the Updike, I’d say it’s intentionally bad — well, louche and unpleasant, anyway. It doesn’t leave you with the ferocious pity the McEwan does, but rather with a bad taste. With Lolita, on a third hand, it leaves you with both the pity and the bad taste, and also admiration of sheer mastery, and a sense of unease at your own admiration. Maybe the award should have gone to Nabokov after all! But I loved the McEwan.

  6. Nicola says:

    Good review. Happy New Year!

  7. Christy says:

    Just checked out Farthing recently from the library and have started on my first Thirkell book yesterday (County Chronicles). I like your category approach to your reading retrospective. Happy New Year! May 2012 be full of just as great reads as the ones you found in 2011.

  8. Rebecca H. says:

    It sounds like you had a great reading year! You make me want to read more Nabokov :)

    • Jenny says:

      Oh, I hope so. You most definitely can’t go wrong. Happy New Year, Rebecca! One of my resolutions is to comment more and lurk less over chez toi :)

  9. Cori says:

    Guess I finally need to break out the Nabokov…

    Happy new year!

  10. Melwyk says:

    Very entertaining list. I agree with you on the Nabokov effect. Gushing does result ;) I’ve been meaning to read the Crowley tetralogy but have been endlessly putting off because I don’t want to finish it and ruin the feeling of still having it to read!

  11. Jenny says:

    Love your categories! I keep thinking I’ll do a 2011 wrap-up, but 2011 has been such an unexceptional reading year I don’t even know what I’d say. Maybe I’ll think of good categories if I keep browsing through my books of the year…

  12. Simon T says:

    Hahahaha… you’ve just brought that McEwan scene right back into my mind. Ta for that…

  13. Blue Skies says:

    The Blue Castle ROCKS!!!! :) I read it every 3-4 years. Think it’s time for another read. :)

  14. Blue Skies says:

    I’m a big FHB fan, but I’ve never heard of “The Shuttle”. Thanks for the tip. Will be on the lookout for it. :)

  15. Alex says:

    On Chesil Beach – lol! So true, poor them… and the movie is in the works. It’s going to be painful to watch.

    This is the year that The Shuttle is coming out of the TBR. Lolita was one of the best of 2010, what do you recommend I read next by Nabokov?

  16. rebeccareid says:

    I love your categories! I really need to revisit Nabokov now.

  17. amymckie says:

    Thanks for sharing your favorites, I’m really excited to see The Blue Castle there, such a wonderful read!

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