Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top Ten Books to Read in 2011

On New Year's Day I posted a list of 20 books from the five-year Read From the Stacks project that I hope to finish in 2011. Below are ten books not on that particular list that I am most anxious to read this year.

1. David Lodge's Man of Parts. I can't find a U.S. publication date for this, but it comes out in early April in the U.K. A novel about H.G. Wells's life, it will dovetail nicely with my ongoing Rebecca West project. I'm more excited about this one particular title than any other new book in 2011.

According to the product description:

Sequestered in his blitz-battered Regent’s Park house in 1944, the ailing Herbert George Wells, ‘H.G.’ to his family and friends, looks back on a life crowded with incident, books, and women. Has it been a success or a failure? Once he was the most famous writer in the world, 'the man who invented tomorrow'; now he feels like yesterday’s man, deserted by readers and depressed by the collapse of his utopian dreams.

He recalls his unpromising start, and early struggles to acquire an education and make a living as a teacher; his rapid rise to fame as a writer with a prophetic imagination and a comic common touch which brought him into contact with most of the important literary, intellectual, and political figures of his time; his plunge into socialist politics; his belief in free love, and energetic practice of it. Arguing with himself about his conduct, he relives his relationships with two wives and many mistresses, especially the brilliant student Amber Reeves and the gifted writer Rebecca West, both of whom bore him children, with dramatic and long-lasting consequences.

2. Jaimy Gordon's Lord of Misrule.  Actually, I'm planning a Triple Crown month with books about race horses including the Gordon, Jane Smiley's Horse Heaven (how have I not already read this?) and Willy Vlautin's Lean on Pete.

3. David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. I was so excited to read this one last year that I pre-ordered it in 2009. Now it's slated for a tandem read with my friend W., but we have to read The Waves together first.

4. Connie Willis's All Clear. I'm almost finished with Blackout for the library staff bookclub and I'm definitely going to need to read the second half of the story to find out what happens to all the time travelers.

5. Jean-Christophe Valtat's Aurorarama. I love the idea of steampunk, but wasn't terribly engaged by a usually-tauted title in the field last fall. I'm hoping this one will be a better fit for me.

6. The Robert Fagles's translation of Virgil's The Aeneid. I'm embarrassed by how little of this I've actually read, just the bits we translated in high school Latin.

7. Paul Murray's Skippy Dies. Yet another book I was so eager to read in 2010 that I preordered in 2009. No more languishing on the shelf: Skippy must die for real in 2011!

8. Jane Gardam's God on the Rocks. Because I must read more Jane Gardam. This one was a finalist for the Booker and has been reissued by Europa. French flaps!

9. Johanna Sinisalo's Birdbrain. The last character I encountered traveling about with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness met a tragic end. I don't expect things to go so well for the Finnish couple hiking in New Zealand in this book either.

10. Andrea Levy's Small Island. I may suggest this one again for book club. . .

Be sure to check out all the other top ten lists at The Broke and the Bookish.


  1. I already have the David Lodge on pre-order from the library. He was unlucky with his book on Henry James. It came out at the same time as Colm Toibin's 'The Master' which was so good the Lodge rather got lost. I very much enjoy his work, so I hope he has better fortune with this one.

  2. Anonymous6:33 PM

    I was reading something about Skippy Dies last night and I've requested it from my local library.

    I'd like to read Small Island too

  3. Annie, I agree. The only Colm Toibon I've ever read was The Master and it seemed so definitive I couldn't bring myself to read Lodge's take on James, even though I quite like Lodge.

    1girl, I'll be looking for your reviews once you've read them.

  4. Aren't those Europa books beautiful? I love the way they look. I've got a couple of Gardam books and look forward to discovering her.

  5. I just bought Small Island. And I am going to read it - sometimes.. ;") I DO NOT KNOW where all these books in my flat came from.. I think there must be a squirrel hiding them in my place for winter.. ;")

  6. Looks like we will both be reading the Mitchell, Valtat and Murray books this year. And looks like you will be another one of my favorites too - The Waves. Just love the excitement of a clean reading slate every January.

  7. I'm excited to see that you will be reading the Aeneid and can't wait to see what you think! I read it recently, was blown away, and my response is what inspired me to start my classics reading plan.

  8. Reading Blackout and All Clear AS ONE BOOK is, I think, crucial. I didn't like Blackout much because I judged it as a complete novel. Now that I've read All Clear, I take it allllll back.


As a reader I cherish the fantasy of one day stopping acquiring books, of subsisting only on what is already stashed away in the crammed lar...