This year has been stellar for good book finds. Not all of these books were written in 2011; however, I read them in the past year. In fact, I loved more then the ones on this list. But Each of these received a five-star rating when I reviewed them on Goodreads.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Beautiful creative non-fiction. By capturing the oral histories of three individuals who experienced it, Wilkerson paints a captivating picture of the Great Migration of African-Americans from the Southeast US to Northern and Western cities. She used an interesting circular storytelling style that in less adept hands may have been repetitive. For me it just kept placing and re-placing the main characters back into the lens of history.
This is another mind blowing piece of creative nonfiction. Henrietta lacks was a poor Black woman in Maryland who unknowingly had DNA/cells taken out of the cancer growth that killed her. Those cells, called HeLa in the science world, have been used in a majority of modern cellular science-earning thousands of dollars for labs and companies, and putting an indelible stamp on scientific history. yet, the family that Henrietta left behind had no idea that their mothers cells had played such an important role in history. Furthermore they were never compensated in any way. This book blends Henrietta’s history with the story of her cells, and the lasting impacts on her family. Super accessible. Super interesting. And super awesome.
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close
At the time that I read this book, my entire review was that I found it stunning. The main character and his stories captured my heart similar to the main characters of The History of Love.
This book successfully uses a 5 year old boy as the narrator in a way that you really get a sense of his voice and his sense of self. Definitely had a hard time putting this book down- its alternately suspenseful, sad, touching, funny and compelling.
The Lacuna By Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver manages to bring together years of history from two sides of the US/Mexico border with ruminations on art and its connection to politics, and a critique of media sensationalism in an engaging and beautiful way.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
I remembered seeing this on all the “Best of” lists last year and kind of assumed it might be overrated. So I was pleasantly surprised when it was funny, touching, and even included an element of dystopia-fueled fortune telling.
Honorable Mentions (books I gave 4 stars)
Freedom by Jonathan Frazen. I’ve seen a lot of others call this book too depressing. And in a way, I can see that. I read it during my own bout of down-in-the-dumps-ness. But it also felt real/honest in a way I appreciated.
Blame. A story about the mistakes people make and how to move through them. Some of the secondary characters were pretty great.
Mary Ann in Autumn. By Armistead Maupin. Not sure if this deserved four stars or I am just always happy to return to the Tales in the City universe.
The Other Wes Moore. by Wes Moore. Race and class analysis meets memoir.
Did I miss any of your favorites? Help me make a list for 2012!