Great Books I Read in 2011

I read 59 books this year, one more than last year. I’ve been tracking my books read since 2004, always with the goal of reading at least 50 books. What follows are the books I most enjoyed this year.

Jaw Breaker – Gary Berntsen – a really fascinating and fun tell-all by the lead CIA operative in Afghanistan.

John Adams – David McCoullough – An incredible American story and deeply inspiring.

True Grit – Charles Portis – Extremely fun although the ending didn’t sit very well.

Making Movies – Sidney Lumet – Worthwhile.

Islands in the Stream – Hemmingway – Strong and innovative writing; humorous dialog and fun adventure.

Carry On, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse – Always a complete delight – Wodehouse is pure genius.

The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck – Really engaging story told with straight-forward powerful language; she’s fluent in Chinese and English so her language seems to reflect Chinese syntax and values.

Daydreaming and the Creative Writer – Sigmund Freud – more of an essay but makes great points equating the writing process to daydreaming, wish fulfillment, and the hero as the ego of the writer.

The Zombie Survival Guide – Max Brooks – In my opinion, this is the book that originated the current zombie fad in popular culture.

The Future of an Illusion – Sigmund Freud – Pretty astonishing work; he rather bravely asserts that religion and God are an illusion resulting from psychoanalytic needs and that the progress of humanity – from a standpoint of psychological maturity – rests in recognizing this illusion and embracing science.

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell – His stories and studies are fascinating and fun – always a pleasure.

Shooting to Kill – Christine Vachon – A specific and useful description of what an indy New York film producer does to actually produce a movie.

Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast For Crows, A Dance With Dragons – George R. R. Martin – Extraordinary plotting and world building; brutal on the protagonists and therefore the reader. But an overwhelming literary accomplishment.

Tess of the D’Ubervilles – Thomas Hardy – Compelling and innovative in its day.

The Naked Sun, Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire – Isaac Asimov – Fun, clever, and wonderfully plotted.

Island – Aldous Huxley – Lots of interesting ideas, but absolutely no plot whatsoever.

A House Boat on the Styx – John Kendrick Bangs – A Bangsian fantasy comprised of compelling sketches.

Cities of the Plain – Cormac McCarthy – So much skilled dialog and his usual fantastic writing sense.

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston – Some fascinating writing – rich and colorful description and delightful dialog.

Unfamiliar Fishes – Sarah Vowel – Always enjoy her voice and point of view.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee – Dee Brown – devastatingly good. Every American should read it – astonishing stories.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt – some really good prose writing.

The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War – Leonard Richards – Pretty interesting how everyone in congress in the 1800’s was packing guns and knives and dueling and brawling at every political debate.

Les Fleurs du Mal – Charles Baudelaire – Some of the poems are sensational; finding profound and beautiful ways to express new ideas on new topics, and influencing every poet who came after.

Michael Strogoff – Jules Vernes – He really created the art of modern adventure story-structure.

Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut – Interesting.

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown – When it comes to plot, he’s the best.

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