Friday, December 30, 2011

Ten Best Books I Read In 2011

At the end of every year, I will create a blog post of the ten best books I read throughout the year. These books do not necessarily have to have been published and released to the public in 2011, but they were books that were read throughout the year. On average, I read close to twenty books a year, give or take a few books. This year, I was fortunate enough to be able to read thirty, which to me is always a plus. I'm on my thirty first book at the moment, Stephen King's 11/22/63, but will probably finish it in 2012, unless I find a wide amount of time to simply commit to reading. I don't see that happening with the plans on my radar. Coincidentally, I began reading Stephen King's IT at the end of 2010 and completed it in 2011. Reading Stephen King books to complete the year may end up being an unintentionally trend then, eh!

My top ten include books of all kinds. Some of the books are from the horror fiction genre of which I find to be a lost art, a lost art that I hope to pursue success. Some of the books simply caught my eye, whether it be on the mainstream market or because of their simple impression of popularity with the reader's community. Some of the books were simply me broadening my horizons and trying new things. Finally, there were some books that were simply recommendations from other people. If you recommended a book to me and you see it on my top ten list, then I offer my thanks for the recommendation and look forward to exchanging books and titles in the future.

I will present the list in a countdown format, as it increases excitement. Hopefully you thoroughly enjoy the list for what it is. We shall now begin!

#10- Dead Sea by Brian Keene- I discovered Brian Keene when I bought this book at the flea market. He seems to show strong interest in adding his two cents to the zombie craze that is oh so popular at this time. Horror fiction is becoming such a lost art and authors who write in the genre (with the exception of Stephen King and occasionally Dean Koontz) are often looked over. If you like zombies, don't overlook Keene. The protagonist is Lamar Reed, who is black and gay. He realizes that this is the double whammy that makes him somewhat of an outcast to society, but he's a guy that I would most definitely want to hang out with on a regular day. He is blunt and he hates those that add fuel to the stereotypes of blacks and gays. The land becomes uninhabitable, invaded by zombies, and everyone is forced to live in a ship heading out to sea. However, escaping zombie life in the apocalyptic world may be a far more daunting task. Dead Sea is a strong take on a zombie novel that comes off as a light read, but at the same time will keep your attention.

#9- Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle- It may be a book of pure insanity. The point of the matter is that this novel is a satire that delivers such a strong message. Take Animal Farm, move it into a laboratory, and you got Doctor Rat. The premise of the novel is animal experimentation and the animals of all kinds (rats, dogs, horses, etc.) have had enough of being used for mankind's experiments. The only animal that sides with the humans is Doctor Rat. He comes off as being a philosopher of sorts and delivers his message with jingles that come off as being hilarious. His motto, which makes sense, is "death is freedom." Makes sense, because you can constantly be tortured, but when you die, you no longer have to live through the torturous hell that comes with experimentation in the lab. The animals engage in a rebellious revolt and can ultimately be summed up with a dose of common sense, something that even a young reader can realize is reasonable (though I would suggest that you don't use this book as a bedtime story for your young one. Enjoy it all to yourself).

#8- When The Wind Blows by John Saul- I am officially a fan of John Saul. His writing can keep you up for much longer than you need to be up and you care for the protagonists and despise the antagonists. In this novel, Christie Lyons moves in to the haunted home of Diana and her mother, Edna. Diana is thrilled to have a new adopted daughter, but Edna is far from thrilled, and does not believe Diana is fit for motherhood. In some instances, she is right. Christie, who is nine, sleeps in a nursery in which she is locked, and in an area haunted by the ghosts of dead children. Things aren't what you would expect in this area. Some of the events that happen in this novel could come off as being shocking. You do have to admit, though, that this novel will attract your attention if anything else. This novel was difficult to put down and it was read through completely in about a week's time. Buy this novel and it'll be very likely that the same will happen for you.

#7- The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde- I've heard plenty about this novel from several people, but have not had the chance to read it myself. After the novel was recommended, I completed it in a week and enjoyed the story of Dorian Gray and his self-consciousness. My issue with classic literature has always been wording. You really have to think deeply when it comes to reading the novel and pick up what is being described in the story. There are also monologue's that generally wouldn't occur in everyday life. I know that I don't walk in my window and give a monologue about the color of the sky and how it compares to my emotions. This novel crosses the paths of such topics as masked homosexuality, the consequence of a misdeed, self-consciousness, and symbolism. The way the novel ends ultimately makes for a strong message.

#6- Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by J.K. Rowling- I never read Harry Potter in my life. I watched the films, but never read the books. I didn't have interest, because my strong interest in reading began during my sophomore year of high school, and by that time I was mostly reading adult fiction. I met somebody who happened to be strongly into the series and strongly wanted me to read the series. I did so and did it in less than two months. I enjoyed the fourth to six novels the most, but enjoyed The Goblet Of Fire the most. This is the novel in which the Triwizard tournaments between the many schools is being held, and while his participation is illegal, Harry Potter is mysteriously chosen in compete. This novel is the key turning point in the series and shows the most evidence of a bridge that connects the young adult to regular adult readers. I read the series, enjoyed this book, thought the series was well written, and feel that J.K. Rowling could be considered a literary genius. I am not a fanatic, however, and feel that the series was interesting while it lasted. You will not find me on Pottermore or at any Harry Potter convention.

#5- Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury- Bradbury originally wrote Dandelion Wine and Farewell Summer as one product. However, the publisher told him that he could only publish the first so many words and would have to wait to publish the rest. The first part happened to be Dandelion Wine and was released in the 1950s. It would be another fifty years until Farewell Summer was published. The novel could be extremely difficult to grasp, but the premise is just so magical. The summer has lasted forever and Douglas Spaulding does not want to grow up. He decides to declare war against time itself, but time is an unstoppable force. I finished this novel in a single day. This is a very light novel is a very innocent premise that reminds me of a good breath of fresh air. Bradbury has done a fine job capturing the essence the summer time innocence that comes with childhood. I have thoroughly enjoyed his literary genius that he continues to spread to this day.

#4- Dark Mountain by Richard Laymon- I discovered Richard Laymon and his work by engaging in some web surfing of horror fiction authors. I found Laymon's name, bought some of his books, thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and have been collecting ever since. This novel starts with two families going on a camping trip. They encounter a few obstacles, but their key obstacle comes when they confront a monster manchild, whose mother puts a curse of all of them. They return home and encounter several instances of horror. Enough to finally return to the camping grounds and confront the monsters. Richard Laymon's work are a pleasure. His works are much like Burger King, in the way that it doesn't play like the classics, but it's just so enjoyable nonetheless. There is a fair amount of blood, gore, nudity, sex, and what ever the what not, but that's adult horror fiction for you. The novel is just enjoyable to read and will indeed keep your attention.

#3- Life Itself by Roger Ebert- Roger Ebert may very well be the greatest film critic that has ever lived. I enjoy his reviews and how they are casual, yet formal at the same time. I check his take on the newest films each week and collect his yearbooks and other publications when they come out. With that being said, I had to check out his autobiography. He writes about his life and the highlights in it. It isn't necessarily a traditional autobiography, but that's a good thing. Ebert writes about the things that he felt were most important. He writes about his upbringing, going to Catholic school, his alcoholism, his early relationships, his favorite people in the cinema world, Gene Siskel, Chaz Ebert, as well as the cancer and surgeries that left him without a jaw and unable to speak, but still a devoted fan to cinema. Ebert fills us in with things that stood out in his life, and that was what was truly worth reading.

#2- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson- I finally decided to begin reading the Millennium trilogy that Swedish author Stieg Larsson wrote and was published after his tragic death. The novel was supposed to be ten novels, but Larsson died midway into writing the fourth novel, which was never published. As for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, originally called Men Who Hate Women in Sweden, is about journalist Mikael Blomkvist and how Henrik Vanger wants him to look into the disappearance of a relative. Blomkvist is assisted by computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, who has several tattoos and piercings, but not much of a personality. The complete series has been adapted onto the big screen in Sweden and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was adapted in America just this year. The novel delivers much excitement, as well as much of an intelligent background toward each little detail. Including the family tree of the entire Vanger family most definitely helps when it comes to referring. I am definitely convinced to read the remainder of the series.

#1- Destiny Of The Republic by Candice Millard- I have been interested in information about the U.S. Presidents since the first grade. James Garfield, our 20th president, happens to be one of the extremely vague presidents who is not remembered for much, except being in office for a few months and then murdered. There's much more to Garfield than that. Destiny Of The Republic shows the kind of personality Garfield had, his personal life, the people who stood as conflicts (such as Stalwart leader Roscoe Conkling), and ultimately being shot by Charles Guiteau. Even more, it wasn't Guiteau that really killed him, but it could have very well been the doctors and their unsanitary and narrow-minded practices that killed him. This story opens up several doors that only the historians really pay attention to. Destiny Of The Republic is more about the assassination of a president. It gives us far more substance that history books overlook, and presents recognition that is often ignored in favor of the assassinations of more familiar presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. This book will make for an excellent history lesson.

Here is my top ten. It was a bit tougher than you would think, but that's the way lists are. The toughest part was between the ten and eleven area, as that would be the deciding factor. 2011 was overall an excellent year for reading. I strongly hope that 2012 is just as excellent, if not, far more excellent, because reading could only become better. Hope you enjoy these selections and if you have yet to check them out, check them out and enjoy!

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