Friday, January 6, 2012

Willa's 2011 Book List -- Fiction

Chari and I want to share our lists of books we read in 2011.   Chari is compiling her list.  She read less than I did last year because last year was especially busy for her and especially out of the ordinary for me.    I did a lot of traveling, and read in the car, in airports, and at the places we visited.   Also, I  got a Kindle with my Christmas money in January.

I tried to categorize them for this post, since it's hard to take in a random (long) list of things, and I am breaking it up into two posts.  This is the fiction list.  In a future post I will list the non fiction.  

Doing this took a long time!  Next year I'll be sure not to read so much : ).

By the way, I keep track of what I've read on Goodreads.   If you are on there please feel free to friend me, or give me your username and I will try to seek you out; I love seeing other readers' book lists.

Also if you want to talk about a book you particularly enjoyed, or ask about a book, or you have a blog where you've listed your 2011 reading, please do share.

So here's the Nearly Interminable Fiction Book List of 2011

Classic (Public Domain)

A classic!  I read this as a teenager, and even dressed my toddler brother up as the Little Prince and did a photo shoot  (a patient little kid).    I assigned it to my 15 year old, so I thought I would read it again to keep him company.  (this one actually isn't public domain; I did find an online version though). 

 Sir Walter Scott.  I was interested in the book because Charlotte Mason mentions it as an example of a novelist talking about education.  (I put some quotes here).  
I hadn't read anything by Tolstoy before, though I even took a class on Russian literature in college.   So getting a Kindle gave me a good opportunity, since I didn't have to lug around a huge book.   
I read this in college, but I thought it was a good time to reread.   
I liked this book!  Becky Sharp was like a heroine in a soap opera... incorrigible. 
I've read several George Eliot and thought I would read these after watching the movie versions with my daughter during the 2011 Christmas break.   
I read this during this year's Christmas break after watching the movie version with my daughter.   Good book!  I really liked it.   
By Henry James.   This is told from the perspective of a child, the young daughter of a divorced couple who are bitterly antangonist to each other.    Wow, this is a dysfunctional family and the girl is caught in the middle.  
A really interesting novel about two young women who are intentionally left penniless by their rich and eccentric uncle, who believes women should be able to make their way in the world without living off a man.  The story moves from Scotland to Australia and has a lot of twists and turns.   
I read this book really hoping I wouldn't raise children like this.  Mrs Day is widowed when her husband is convicted for business fraud and shoots himself.  Her three grown children and one younger son have to try to survive in the real world.   It's a romance as much as anything, and was interesting reading.   
A tale for children.  I blogged about it here.   
I blogged about these here.  
Both by Kathleen Thompston Norris.    Mother is about a girl who gets to have a glamorous career and the contrast with her mother who is raising a large family in relative poverty and obscurity -- nice SAHM message.  The Treasure is about the trials of an upper middle class wife and mother trying to find the perfect household servant.  Both light and short but interesting.  
Based on the case of Jack the Ripper, by Marie Belloc Lowndes, sister of Hilaire Belloc.   Somewhat creepy but doesn't quite qualify as a horror story.   
 I thought this was a Catholic book, but it isn't.   The "Rosary" of the title is actually from the title of a real song, which is sung by the heroine.  
I read some Christmas type stories and these were the public domain ones.  

Charlotte Yonge

This year I read a lot of books by Charlotte Yonge, who was an Anglican writer who wrote voluminously for children as well as adults.   These were fascinating.  She has an intense interest in education and many of the young people in the books are home tutored in one form or another, either by their parents or by tutors or governesses.    She was also very interested in character and in Christian living so many of her stories are deeply connected with moral and spiritual issues. 

Catholic Fiction

Poems by Thomas Merton.   Some really , really good, and some not so good.  I was lent this book by someone at my church.  I love his best poems but don't much care at all for his worse ones.

 By Graham Greene.  Sort of a book noir.  

I knew about JF Powers from reading Flannery O'Connor's letters.  He was a contemporary of hers.   This was a really, really good book, about a sort of worldly priest who changes during the course of the novel.  I loved it.     Highly recommended.
By John Cardinal Newman, a novel about life during the early days of Christianity.  Actually a really good book, will go on my bookshelf along with Fabiola.  
Evelyn Waugh's first novel.  Horrifying and funny.
By Cardinal John Henry Newman.  Semi-autobiographical novel about the conversion of a young Oxford scholar to Catholicism, and what happens as a result.  
This is an excellent Catholic novel that Chari recommended.  I'm not sure why it's not more of a household word among Catholics.  It is certainly very appropriate for teenagers, and has a nice love story as well as a depiction of a heroic priest and a not-so-heroic one. 
Another novel about the early days of Christianity and the persecutions under Nero.  Features Petronius, the real author of the Satyricon, and his fictional nephew who falls in love with a young barbarian Christian woman.

 Fantasy (YA)
OK book -- it was the sort of book written by a teenager, or in this case, a film-writer.
I read these because I had heard about Philip Pullman's atheism and his criticism of CS Lewis.  The books aren't bad.  Not all the plot elements came together at the end, but I can live with that when a trilogy has as many elements as this one does.    The bad part is that he was torn between his storytelling acumen and his desire to write anti-Theist propaganda.  So having an "Almighty" who turns out to be frail and pathetic is great, but identifying him as the Jehovah of the Old Testament is just silly.  And the same when he tried to make a case for immorality -- it just sounded contrived, especially since the plot only convinced when the characters worked with the basic moral compass.
This is a good author.  I really enjoy her books.   They are like fantasy fairy tales.

Science Fiction

CS Lewis mentioned this book.   It is very odd, almost Satanistic.
A reread.  A Catholic science fiction classic.   An older teenager could  read this.  I recommend it.  

General Fiction

Good first novel.  Probably everyone's heard of it.  There's a movie out but I haven't seen it.  
A collection of stories by a Chinese-American author, very good.   Mostly about the stress of immigration and how it affects various families. 

;By Anne Lamott.  A good first novel, semi-autobiographical, about an odd set of siblings whose faither has brain cancer.    Some language and sex.
;I think this was about an alcoholic wife in a troubled marriage but I can't remember for sure. 
Two free Kindle books I read during Advent.  Both pretty OK.
I found these two Jodi Piccoult books on my library discard match.   Page-turners, fun light reading, I skip through the romance scenes.
A pretty good romantic story about a widower raising a small son.
I didn't much like this book by one of the authors of Left Behind.   There are two parallel stories, one about a failing pastor whose daughter has lost her faith and whose wife is diagnosed with cancer.  The other is about a juvenile delinquent.   I liked both the storylines, and both struck me as very plausible, but the pacing was sort of plodding, and the ending was just implausible and religiously wrong to me.
A Regency Romance, quite good.   Until the end you really don't know which of the three main guys in the book will be "the one", which made it interesting and different.  It had a Christian emphasis too.


My Mom gave me these ones (above)  after she read them.   I like Margery Allingham and Alexander McCall, and liked these books, very readable airplane fare.   First Family was all right if you like fast paced thrillers.
These last ones were all free for a limited time on Kindle and they were all fairly decent light reading.

Literarily Yours,



  1. Thank you for sharing! I'm definitely going to read some, I may even join goodreads:)

  2. Wow, Willa, so many of these titles look so good! I envy you your ability to read so quickly. Charlotte Yonge looks good as do some of the others. I've asked St. John Henry Cardinal Newman to be my patron saint for 2012. I'd love to read his books especially. Also Betrothed and A Canticle for Leibowitz have been on my radar screen for a few years but I've never gotten around to reading them! Maybe this year! Thanks so much for taking the time to list these books out.

  3. What a great list Willa, thanks!! The name Charlotte Younge sounds so familiar, I think I just came across her name in a First Things article about children's books. I have never heard of her, but since you've mentioned her too, I've got to find out more : D Are the Charlotte Yonge books you've mentioned appropriate for a middle schooler?

    Just in case you're curious about the article:

  4. Grace, what a fascinating article!! Thanks for the link. The writer's taste is a bit sharper than mine --- I like AA Milne and find Lemony Snickett way too arch and self-conscious-- but I certainly have some new authors and books to look up after reading the article.


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