My favorite 2011 books .... that I haven't read yet!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Between now (seriously, people, it's actually too early now) and the middle of February (sometimes, even that late), we'll be seeing a ton of Best-Of lists jumping out at us from every corner of the book industry. In fact, didn't Amazon decide to have an early year-end party a month ago when it released its Best Books of 2011 list? Now that's something I can understand if this were 2012, because the world might be ending soon and everyone wants to get the word out already. So, while being forced to reckon with deciding the books that made the most impact on me this year, I keep getting distracted by the books that I didn't get to.

The one book I wish I had stood in lines for on its release date and hunkered down in my bedroom for hours with is Murakami's 1Q84. This book has been receiving a lot of buzz since months earlier, and while that had made me very curious, I didn't exactly share that fascination then because I hadn't read any of his books. Until Kafka on the Shore, which I read couple of months back, and which I admit quite abashedly that I didn't fully understand, but the brilliance of the book and Murakami's indifference to the rules of fiction simply stood out. Since then, I've been looking forward to reading more of his books, and 1Q84 quickly climbed to the top of my must-read list. Sadly, it has stayed there since, because I can't quite churn out the time to read this monster of a book at close to 1000 pages!

One of the books that was much talked about during BEA 2011 was Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. Said to be about baseball to baseball-fans and not about baseball to the non-fans, it is a book that I've heard had a lot of good stuff packaged for both camps. To a non-sports fan like me, the word 'baseball' in the blurb alone turned me off, but then when I read glowing reviews from others who also didn't much like baseball, I was intrigued. I still have my big fat ARC copy sitting in my ARC shelf, waiting for me to someday pick it up.

By now, some of you may know about my love for Craig Thompson. His previous book, Blankets, is one of the best graphic books I've ever read, and I have been waiting for his next one ever since. I actually read a few pages of Habibi when I went to B&N once, and much as I wanted to walk with the book to the cashier, grinning as if Christmas came too early, the price tag scared me away. Firstly, the artwork on this book is just so beautiful. And secondly, can I just say how much I love the font of the title on the book's cover? - how well it mixes the Arabic alphabet with the English! (The 'b' in the title are actually Arabic characters - since they have the dots below them).

Orientation by Daniel Orozco was another book that I wish I had already read by now. I'm not exactly sure why I'm drawn to this book - I guess the colorful cover has something to do with that. It has enough diversity, quirks and uniqueness that makes me feel that this is a book worth spending some time with. Orientation is a book of short stories about the hidden lives of a cast of characters who are as different as can be. And since characters are the make-or-break-deals of a book for me, and since I love books with multiple protagonists, this book held enough of a fascination for me to want to read it.

I have a big appetite for immigrant stories - probably because I identify with them best - the culture clash, the feeling that you don't belong anywhere, the frequent questioning by people on both sides about where home is. My Korean Deli wasn't so much about immigrants, but about the author's experience managing a store that his wife buys as a gift for her immigrant parents. I read a chapter of this book at my bookstore (I really should stop just reading and go ahead and buy the books too), and found it laugh-out-loud funny.

Something about the mind and the way it works engages the intellectual in me. I very nearly considered doing a part-time 'fun' major in brain science, but I'll stick to books like The Psychopath Test instead (I don't think I can go through another hormonal intensive graduate course). I usually feel that psychopathic tragedies are preventable, but they are also the hardest to stop once started, since psychopaths don't feel remorse nor are their scales of right/wrong the same as the rest of the sane world's. Although I came close to reading this book many times, I never really got to it.

And finally (finally, just so that I can end this post somewhere, not for a lack of books I wish I had read), Reamde by Neal Stephenson was the last book to make that list. My brother loves Stephenson so much, that I won't be surprised if he has a secret man crush on him. But for some reason, I had never read this guy yet. I probably wouldn't have been too eager about it, if not for falling head over heels in love with Ready Player One. Cyberpunk is becoming my new favorite. At close to a thousand pages, this is another book that will just have to wait awhile before I can get to it.

So these are some of the books that I wish I had read and possibly rave about (assuming I would enjoy them). Maybe they should be my first picks for the next year, when I can finally get some reading downtime, but until then, I'll resort to living vicariously through some of you.

So which book(s) do you wish you had read by now? 

19 comments:

Tanya Patrice said...

The only book on this list I've read is Orientation - which I thought was just okay. I want to read 1Q84 too.

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

Great list!  I didn't realize Craig Thompson has a new book out - I'll have to look for it.

Nicki said...

I also adored Thompson's Blankets - his drawings are so dream-like.  I'm looking forward to Habibi, though I probably won't get to it by the end of this year.

zibilee said...

IQ84 is one that is on my list for the new year, as are a few others that you've picked out here. It sounds like if you stuck to just these for the first few months of the new year, you would have an exceptional reading time! And you weren't the only one who was scared off by the price tag of Habibi. I browsed it at the bookstore, and almost took it home, and then thought better of it. Maybe next year!

Jackie said...

My list is growing every day! 1Q84 & The Art of Fielding are on there, but I also want to read The Wandering Falcon, Before I Go to Sleep, Tideline, The Family Fang and about 20 other books! Why does everyone leave it until the last minute to rave about books - I wish everyone produced these lists in about June so I could get started on them!

Ti said...

I loved 1Q84. My review posts on Monday. I think you could knock it out easily between now and the end of the year. I took forever because I didn't want it to end. 

I have The Art of Fielding, but my daughter spilled water on it so it's all rippled and crinkly. I haven't been as anxious to pick it up because of that. I have to read it though. I begged the publisher for a copy and they were kind enough to send it, so it will get read. Soon. 

Helen Murdoch said...

I really want to get My Korean Deli. It scares me to think of the book I want to read and haven't gotten to yet!

Athira / Aths said...

Aww, I had lots of hopes for Orientation. Maybe I'll just lower them now. 

Athira / Aths said...

He does! I hope you get to read it. I'll be looking for your thoughts! 

Athira / Aths said...

I won't get to it either, but I'm also looking forward to it.

Athira / Aths said...

You're right - maybe I should just stick to these books for the first few months of the new year. They are probably fabulous books - might as well get to them as soon as possible! 

Athira / Aths said...

I want to read Wandering Falcon and Family Fang too! I just read Before I go to Sleep couple of weeks backs, so that's off the list. But the number of them I wish I had read by now! 

Athira / Aths said...

I really really wish I could read 1Q84 now. It has a fabulous opening sequence, and I know I will enjoy the book. But I only have two horribly busy weeks between now and my trip to India, and then it's the last minute preparations for the wedding. So, soon as I am back, it could be among the first few books to be read. 

Athira / Aths said...

I think I have too many of those books - books I wish I had read by now. Either all copies are out at the library, or they don't have copies, or they are only out in hardcover yet. Well, someday, I will get to them! 

softdrink said...

I thought Reamde was much better than Ready Player One, and I LIKED Ready Player One.

Tea Time with Marce said...

Psychopath Test is on my list, I was excited to see it nominated for a few awards already, next year.  I look forward to all the lists.

Zohar said...

I actually pre-purchased 1Q84 on my nook.  I figured a 1,000 pages book is exactly what the eReader was made for. Great book by the way (http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=3667)

Meghan said...

The Art of Fielding is on my more extended list too! And Reamde looks good, although I've never read Stephenson. I'll look forward to seeing what you think when you do read it!

mike draper said...

One of the books you mention, "The Art of Fielding" is going to be the first read of my wife's new book club.
I ordered two copies today.
The second book will be my own novel which is finally coming out in the next few days. YES!!
Mike