What I read in 2011: A literary soundtrack

It has been one year since I graduated with my MA in English. I remember thinking, “YES! Now I have time for “fun” reading (aka reading that is not required, not that my MA reading wasn’t fun….sometimes). 
So, I started this little reading log because I wanted to remember the books I’ve read. It’s funny because looking back at this list is like “listening to” a literary soundtrack to my life–like when you hear “that song” you remember where you were and what you were doing at the time? I have some good memories attached to these books. 
I am a little embarrassed about how short this list is–but these are the NEW books I read. I didn’t record the books that I read over again (um….like reading the entire Harry Potter series in the month of August? Good times). Maybe in 2012 I’ll record all the books I read and just to add to that “literary soundtrack.”
So, here are the books and my (brief) thoughts about them. Maybe you’ll want to add some of these books to your reading list for 2012!

Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte: I can’t believe I had never read this–hence it is the first book on my reading list. Loved it! Romantic in a totally unhealthy way, sadistic, and violently beautiful–amazing. If you have not read it, DO IT! 
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) by Oscar Wilde: I really liked this–a lot! After I finished this book, I updated my status on FB to, “haven’t read such a thought provoking book in a long time.” Even though this book was written over 100 years ago, it has a timeliness to it that is applicable to all generations. Except for the very beginning and one really long dull chapter in the middle, I couldn’t put it down. It was exciting, deliciously depraved, mysterious and haunting. I definitely recommend it. Plus it isn’t very long. 
Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures (2009) John Granger: Ok, I admit it: I LOVE Harry Potter everything. And I loved this book by John Granger. He has written several books analyzing the Harry Potter series and I really enjoyed his thorough and unique literary analysis of Rowling’s works. Plus, he had a chapter about Jane Austen’s influence on Rowling’s writing which was just the icing on my English-nerd cake. AND I learned about a completely new type of literary analysis: literary alchemy. Must learn more about this.  
Marie Antoinette: The Journey (2002) by Antonia Fraser: This book earns the award of taking me the longest to read: several months. I had to check it out 2-3 times before I finished it. It was really long for one thing: 544 pages. If it was a novel, I could whiz right through that (Harry Potter anyone?) but a biography can be pretty weighty reading. I really enjoyed it though. I wanted to learn more about the French Revolution and I love learning about history though biography. And wow! Marie Antoinette was a fascinating woman. Eccentric, passionate, tragic, and misunderstood. I was brought to tears a few times while reading. Antonia Fraser is an excellent and thorough writer and biographer. I would definitely recommend this book but give yourself a lot of time to read it. 
The Days of the French Revolution (1999) by Christopher Hibbert*: See that little star? That means that I didn’t finish this book. This is another one I checked out numerous times. It wasn’t very long and was pretty easy to read but was definitely not a novel. I would like to finish it though. This one is going on the 2012 reading list. 
Walking on Water (1982) Madeline L’Engle: This book, by the celebrated author of A Wrinkle in Time (and a HOST of other wonderful books) was a mixture of inspiration to artists, devotional, and personal memoir. I have very peaceful and contented feelings attached to reading this book–I read it before bed every night. Delightful. 
North and South (1854) Elizabeth Gaskell (read 7/8; saw movie): I should have a * by this book because I didn’t finish it but I was so ready to have the darn thing over with! Elizabeth Gaskell is an English Victorian author. And no, it is NOT about the American North and South (um, because she is English). I would give a detailed synopsis of the book but honestly, just watch the movie. Yes. This English teacher just told you to watch the movie. The book was really long and s-l-o-w. The heroine was kind of snobby and annoying. And Gaskell had a social agenda throughout most of the book that got old. So….watch the movie if you are interested in this book. 
Till We have Faces (1956)C.S. Lewis: I actually thought this book was one of Lewis’ theological works but several (better read) friends of my informed me otherwise. I truly loved this book. It was different from anything else I had ever read by Lewis. In fact, it was different than anything else I had ever read, period. It is based on the myth of Cupid and Psyche (and I LOVE me some Greek mythology). When I think about reading this book, I feel pensive and quiet. Simply beautiful. 
Agnes Grey (1847) Anne Bronte: After reading Wuthering Heights, I decided that I wanted to read more Bronte novels. After all, I loved Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte) and Wuthering Heights (by Emily Bronte) so I decided to move on to sister #3, Anne. Eh, I could have done without this book, though I did finish it. It was depressing and a bit boring. If you are interested in the plight of Victorian governesses (one of the only professions offered to educated women of Bronte’s era), then it is good. If you want a good story that trots right along, not so much. I’ll have to try some other Bronte books in the coming year–I haven’t given up on them yet. 
The Princess and the Goblin (1872) George MacDonald: This is actually a children’s book by a late Victorian author. George MacDonald was actually one of C.S. Lewis’s literary heroes so there was immediate appeal.  Growing up, my family had this book on our bookshelf but I never read it. I wonder why? It was really good! A delightful fairy tale with some wonderfully subtle Christian undertones. I actually recommended it to a friend with a little girl and they enjoyed it too. (I tried to read The Princess and Curdie, the sequel to this novel, but I couldn’t get into it. But The Princess and the Goblin is excellent!). 
Rebecca (1938) Daphne Du Maurier: I read this FB list of books that all people “should” read, or whatever, and Rebecca was on the list. Oooh! This book was so good! If you love mysteries, this book is for you! It read really quickly and was full of romantic angst and deliciously dark unsolved mysteries. I was truly surprised at the end of the book when “all was revealed.” Loved it! 
The Help (2009) Kathryn Stockett: This one had been on my “to-read” list for a long time. And it was worth the wait! Memorable complex characters, unique plot, and satisfying and thought-provoking development. It is a must read for those who love modern, literary fiction. I also saw the movie–it was good but the book, in this case (as in most cases), was definitely better. 
The Great Divorce (1945) C.S. Lewis: After reading Till We Have Faces, I went on a bit of a Lewis-fiction kick. I have actually owned this book for many years and tried to read it after my freshmen year of college. At that time, I thought it was really difficult to get into and hard to understand. This time around, no problems. In fact, I zipped right through it in two sittings. I guess this book is just a testament to how much I have matured as a person and a reader. This novel has a really interesting premise (residents of Hell taking a bus for a day-trip to Heaven) and challenged me theologically too. It is one of those books that you could read again and again and have new realizations each time. Plus, George MacDonalad (Lewis’s hero, remember?) makes a cameo appearance. How fun is that? 
Out of the Silent Planet (1938) C.S. Lewis: Still on my Lewis kick. I thought, hey, I love the Narnia series (in fact, I re-read Prince Caspian during this time) and the other Lewis novels I have read this year have been winners: time to move on to his Space Trilogy. While I like fantasy, I really have not read (or read and enjoyed) a lot of science fiction, so this was a new genre for me. It was interesting, kind of fun, kind of weird. It wasn’t a page turner for me and I’m not dying to read the next two in the series, but maybe one day. 
The Hunger Games (2008)by Suzanne Collins: Yes, I jumped on the bandwagon and you should too because this book is amazing! In fact, this novel wins the award of “book-I-read-the-fastest” this year: 6 hours (and considering it is 384 pages, that is pretty quick!). This book was also the first one I read on my new Kindle. I could not put it down. Literally. Amazing plot, unique character twists, and frighteningly appropriate themes for today. Read it. 
Catching Fire (2009) by Suzanne Collins: I read this book the next day. If The Hunger Games was a 10, this one would be a 9. Still flew through it and couldn’t get enough. 
Mockingjay (2010)  by Suzanne Collins: The one took me the “longest” to read–I read it over two days. The novel was kind of depressing but appropriate and I loved how she ended the trilogy. Satisfyingly good books and a wonderful way to spend the majority of 4 days. In fact, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these books. 
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2005) by Rick Riordan: Yes, this book is a kids book (target age: Middle School). And yes, I read it in two days and stayed up late last night to finish it. Loved it! Fun and completely unique, great characters, and amazing way to integrate Greek mythology into a modern setting (and like I said before, I loooove Greek mythology; I felt especially proud that I recognized most of the myths and supernatural beings after having assisted with a World Literature class this semester!). Just plain fun. And no, I’m not ashamed to check books out of the children’s section of the library. Looking forward to checking out #2 in the series next week. 
Ok, I said above that I was a little ashamed of how short this list is but this break down of all the books took me a long time to write! Whew! And here’s a little disclaimer before you scream “throw off that mask of false humility, you “I-am-a-little-ashamed-of-how-short-this-list-is” woman! I haven’t read a book in…umm….when was(were) my child(ren) born? Yeah, before then.” 
This list seems short–for me! I mean, I am an English “person”. Reading is, well…what we DO. In fact, my husband guessed 10 books higher when I told him to guess-how-many-books-I-read-this-year. So for me, I’m slackin’ (ok not really). 
(And if you read more books than me this year, give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy your warm and smug feelings). 
I really love to read. And it has been great remembering the new books I’ve read in 2011. Looks like I love the English Victorian era (1850s-1900ish), C.S. Lewis, pop fantasy fiction, and young adult literature. Oh, and Harry Potter. Yep. Pretty much sums me up. 
So looking forward to a year full of reading new books. In fact, my fingers are inching toward my Kindle now–two new novels are calling my name!
What did you read this year? Do you keep a reading log to record the “literary soundtrack” of your life? 

  1. Brittany! LOVED this post, and looking at what you read. It is so addicting to read lists of what my friends read! Wuthering Heights and Rebecca are also two of MY favorite books. Ever. Rebecca is just insanely good to me. So dark!

  2. Haley, thanks for commenting! I thought more of my literary-minded friends would make comments so I am so glad you did! This post was so fun to write! I am enjoying adding to my 2012 list. Miss you!

Comments are closed.