Best and Worst Reads of 2011

It’s now 2012, which means it’s time for me to evaluate my reading experiences of 2011. For the most part, 2011 was a good reading year. I read 79 books, which is 25 more than I read last year. I attribute the significant increase to all the reading I’ve been doing for my Ph.D. qualifying exams. My goal for 2012 is to read more than 100 books. We’ll see if that happens.

This year’s lists are a bit difficult to draw up since I liked most of what I read. My selections for favorites, therefore, are based not necessarily on any sort of technical criteria, but on the pleasure I gained from reading them. The worsts list is comprised of clear losers all.

At any rate, here are my lists:

Five Best Fiction Books:
1. The Known World, Edward P. Jones
2. Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks
3. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
4. Bound on Earth, Angela Hallstrom
5. The Waterworks, E. L. Doctorow

Five Best Non-Fiction Books:
1. The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1
2. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction 1790-1860, Jane Tompkins
3. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois
4. Beneath the American Renaissance, David S. Reynolds
5. Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes

Five Worst Books
1. My Year of Meats, Ruth L. Ozeki
2. The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, Jane Smiley
3. The Open Curtain, Brian Evenson
4. The Curse of Caste, or The Slave Bride, Julia C. Collins
5. Beloved, Toni Morrison

I might catch flak for #5 on the worst list. I admire Toni Morrison and her writing a lot, but I’ve never liked her magnum opus. Great premise, terrible execution. Sorry.

So many great books did not make the best lists. Here’s a list of ten honorable mentions:

The Tree House, Douglas Thayer
The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall
Rift, Todd Robert Petersen
The Coming of Elijah, Arianne Cope
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
The Bondwoman’s Narrative, Hannah Crafts
The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym, Edgar Allan Poe
Kindred, Octavia E. Butler
Nightwoods, Charles Frazier
Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser


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