With 2011 in the rear view mirror and tumultuous to say the least, I’m reminded of the books I read across the year. If you’re not a big reader, or you’re looking for a more colorful collection than your normal stock, look no further!
To be honest I don’t keep a list of novels that I read, so this one is really going to be the books I still have. I have been known to pawn off books I don’t really like to friends or family members, so the 5 listed were the most memorable:
Sunlight on a Broken Column by Attia Hosain
Set during and after the the Indian struggle for Independence, Hosain’s novel delves into the dual nature of British and Indian nationalism. Told through the eyes of Laila, this book tells a rich story about love and risk in the face of opposition. Already a gifted storyteller, Hosain pulls off a sucker punch at the beginning of the last part of the novel. Sunlight on a Broken Column is hard to find but worth the read.
On a weird side note, I wrote a midterm paper on this novel called Love and Reconciliation in Sunlight on a Broken Column. I loved that title (I came up with it!) so much that I stole it for use as the title of chapter (Chapter Ten: Love and Reconciliation) in my novel Someone to Remember Me.
Containment by Christian Cantrell
Another sucker punch novel, this book is about humanity’s lonely colony on Venus trying to become self-sustaining in light of a sudden and unexpected radio silence from Earth. Arik, teen prodigy, is tasked with getting the colony to produce more air. While unnecessarily lengthy at times Containment is an absorbing read.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Originally published in ’91 or something wild like that, this epic novel follows the construction of a cathedral in medieval England. As boring as that sounds the story is so enchanting because of how personable the characters are that you give a hoot about them finally building the damned church! Follett uses a priest, a builder, impoverished nobles, warring royals, and the omnipresent discussion of destiny to build a truly unique narrative. Epic in every sense of the word, I’m glad that a complete stranger recommended it to me!
The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan
After a deceptively pedestrian start in The Crown Conspiracy, Mr. Sullivan explodes his anything but ordinary fantasy world into a remarkable tale of the reconstruction of an empire, the rise of a monstrous theocracy, and the impending invasion of an ancient enemy. Sullivan blends the old with the new, infuses his works with memorable characters (Modina for the win!), and does so without descending his work into the overly familiar terrain of epic fantasy. The Crown Conspiracy is followed by Avempartha, Nyphron Rising, The Emerald Storm, and Wintertide. The final book of the Riyria Revelations, Percepliquis, is due out on Jan. 16th. Each of these books is available via iBooks and Kindle. UPDATE: As it turns out, Mr. Sullivan was picked up by a publisher. His books are no longer available individually; they are sold as Theft Of Swords (which contains The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha), Rise of Empire (Nyphron Rising and Emerald Storm), and Heir of Novron (Wintertide and Percepliquis). Each is $9 so get cracking.
The Kingdom Beyond the Waves by Stephen Hunt
A great steam punk fantasy novel that combines Indiana Jones with Heart of Darkness, the Kingdom Beyond the Waves follows Amelia Harsh’s quest for the legendary city of Camlantis. Ridiculed for believing in a myth, she attracts the attention of wealthy benefactor Abraham Quest. Elsewhere, kidnappings and murders keep pace with Amelia’s adventure, culminating in a devious plot to upset the world. I loved how invested I became in the characters and their adventures; as well as Hunt’s ability to world build without beating readers over the head. I went out of order with Hunt’s loosely connected series as he published The Court of the Air first and chronologically it occurred before The Kingdom Beyond the Waves; but there are only brief mentions of the prequel that don’t mess with the plot. I feel so bad that I still haven’t read the first one…
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
We are very lucky, as human beings, to experience profoundly changing moments across the span of our relatively short existences. I am a bibliophile so those huge moments are typically related to books in one way or another. The God of Small Things is a triumph of language, structure, and raw emotional impact. Told through the eyes of Rahel, as a child and later as an adult, Roy spins an intricate tale of heartbreaking love and loss that left me utterly speechless. I guarantee you’ll either love it or hate it; chances are you’re normal enough to hate it, but you just never know with these kinds of things. The God of Small Things was, easily and without question, the most triumphant piece of literature I read in 2011.
I guess a list of 5 is as good as any other (though I kinda cheated with Sullivan’s Riyria books but hey, it’s my website) to end with. While these do not constitute ALL the books I read in 2011 (see below) they’re the most memorable. I can’t recommend The God of Small Things highly enough, though, and really think that it is worth the try.
- The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. I originally read this in 2010 so it doesn’t count
- Starfinder by John Marco. A promising novel, but the young protagonist turned me off to the book.
- House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Jane Austen meets Gossip Girl; and I’m as confused as you are.
- Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. I had to read this book for a science fiction class and I did not get it.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. A great scifi novel that borrows heavily from the Cold War, it is available as an ebook but try finding the linked paperback if you can, the cover is beautiful.
Author’s Afterword: I know you can’t see this but do you know what I just did? What I actually almost allowed myself to do? I almost dual-linked each book to their respective locations on iBooks and Kindle. I was on Containment when I realized I’d forgotten Nook. At that point I gave up. I’m going to assume you know how to use the Googler machine by putting words into it. If not, email me and we’ll figure it out together.