Favorite Reads of 2011 Part 1

This week I thought I would share with you a selection of our favorite books from 2011. While most of the books were not newly published, they were read by staff in 2011 and are among our favorites. The books can all be found in our collection either on the shelves or as downloadable titles on Overdrive.

Wesley the Owl: the remarkable love story of an owl and his girl by Stacey O’Brien (recommended by Tiffany) : This is the heartwarming and engaging story of a young biologist who finds herself mother to a tiny, orphaned owl. Over the course of the book she unfolds the relationship between herself and Wesley the Barn Owl, sharing with the reader the ways in which their relationship impacted her life and her beliefs. It confirmed my belief that animals are individual and intelligent souls everybit as important and unique as humans, just packaged a little differently. One of the things I found most interesting was that Wesley was able to pick up the concept of time in relation to language. He understood what “two hours” and “tomorrow night” meant. This is remarkable to me.

I listened to this title as an audio book, and the narrator did an amazing job, which made all the difference. Available as a downloadable audio book via Overdrive.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (recommended by Stephanie) : In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart. Available in our collection at FIC SEE and on Overdrive in ebook and audio format.

Miss Entropia and the Adam Bombby George Rabasa (recommended by Tiffany) : I found this novel to be both engaging and beautiful. As I was pulled through the story by the entrancing narrative of Adam, a mentally ill and highly intelligent individual recounting his one obsessive experience with love, I felt like a passenger on a train being told an intimate story by the stranger sitting next to me, one that is part confession, part self effectuation and entirely sincere.

I especially appreciated how mental illness, while being a large part of both the plot and the two main characters, did not overpower the story. As Adam told his tale, his mental illness as well as Miss Entropia’s own disorder were little more than the way things were. He would recount his unusual actions or insane episodes so matter-of-factly that I had to mentally prod myself to classify such actions as abnormal. Insanity fits the two main characters of this story like expensive well-tailored suits.

While the ending is tragic, which is something foreshadowed in the first few pages, by the end of the story I would wish it no other way, and the last two lines bring the novel to a close so perfectly that the weight of Adam’s transgressions lift themselves like a dissipating fog. Available in our collection at FIC RAB.

The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larrson (recommended by Stephanie) : It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age—and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it—who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism—and an unexpected connection between themselves.

It’s a contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of them forced to face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives. Available in our library at FIC LAR and on Overdrive in ebook and audio format.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (recommended by Tiffany) : While Pi Patel and his family are crossing the Pacific Ocean via boat in order to transport their zoo from India to America their boat tragically sinks and Pi finds himself aboard a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger. Soon the only ones left aboard the ship are Pi and the tiger, and they find themselves sharing the boat in order to survive.

This book is a mesmerizing testament of the human spirit with an ending that will leave the reader thinking long after the book has been closed. Available in our collection at FIC MAR.

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