All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to Amazon.com through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cats and a Book Names Top Ten Books of 2011

Happy New Year’s Eve! It's time once again to name Cats and a Book's favorite books of the year. Narrowing down the list to ten is always challenging, but here are the books that are most noteworthy (not in any particular order): 

1.  Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward.  This powerful book is the deserving 2011 Winner of the National Book Award.  Ward uses her formidable skills to weave a story about a Mississippi family that is raw, realistic, and hopeful in spite of tragic circumstances, which includes facing Hurricane Katrina. 

2.  The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.  A delightful novel, The Night Circus will captivate readers with its lush and whimsical settings. Apprentice wizards compete in Le Cirque des Reves (the Circus of Dreams--only open at night) as their dark and mysterious supernatural connection intensifies. 

3.  The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  Written for pre-teens and teens, The Hunger Games is the first novel of a trilogy.  Its lively action, good versus evil story line, and futuristic setting engages readers of all ages. 

4.  Emily, Alone, by Stewart O'Nan.  Emily, Alone follows O'Nan's novel Wish You Were Here.  O'Nan is a masterful storyteller, creating characters the reader can recognize with interaction among friends and family members that is realistic and heartwarming.  Both books are good choices. 

5.  Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray.  Skippy Dies begins with the death of Skippy Juster, a student in a private school for boys in Dublin.  Murray's writing is lyrical and wry, and his treatment of the deceit and grief which pervade the novel is artful and thought-provoking.

6.  A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan.  Time is the goon in this futuristic novel.  Egan does a masterful job delivering the pieces of Bennie's story, a successful music producer, while leaving the reader to puzzle it together as she goes along.  While it may feel disjointed at first, readers will quickly find the thread and be delighted how it falls together. 

7.  The Widower's Tale, by Julia Glass. The Widower's Tale is another gem from Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Whole World Over.  The widower is Percy Darling, a retired reference librarian and curmudgeon, whose finds his world changing around him, much to his chagrin.  Glass allows us to experience Percy's transformation, reluctant though it may be, as well as his confusion, dismay, and eventual recommitment as he finds his way in a new world. 

8.  My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme.  My Life in France is not a current book, of course, but is a classic memoir of Julia Child, and the book upon which the blockbuster movie Julie and Julia was based.  It is delightful and uplifting, and casts Julia Child in such a favorable light, it is no wonder the "Julie" from blog and movie fame felt an attachment to her. 

9.  Charming Billy, by Alice McDermott.  Charming Billy was published in 1998, and is the winner of the National Book Award and deserves a read if you haven't already.  It is a complex book about having enough, with themes of generosity and commitment, along with resignation, guilt, and deceit. 

10.  Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese.  This fascinating novel is written by a doctor, so readers can expect a medical overlay on the story, but Verghese makes what is technical fairly easy for the layperson to understand.  Cutting for Stone is the story of twin boys born to a disgraced nun and her doctor lover, who work in a mission in Ethiopia.  The novel is the intriguing and engaging story of one of the twins and will keep readers enthralled until the end. 

Since it's so difficult to identify only ten books from fifty-two, here are a few honorable mentions:

Bossypants, by Tina Fey, is hysterically funny.  Fey offers some good advice, too.  The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass, captures the reaction and mood after 9/11 very well.  The book doesn't center on this tragic event, but it does significantly impact the characters' lives, just as it did our own.  The Watery Part of the World, by Michael Parker, features a relationship between elderly neighbors on a barrier island which isn't easy to explain or understand. The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake, is the story of a young doctor who volunteers to work in England during World War II and the correspondence between him and his newlywed wife, who makes a home in New England and awaits his return.  Prayers for Sale, by Sandra Dallas, is an uplifting story with appealing characters.  Set in a mining town, the harsh reality of daily life needs spiritual intervention. 

Thank you for reading my blog this year.  If you're interesting in expanding your library, would you consider purchasing your books from the Cats and a Book Bookstore?  It's located at the bottom of each blog page and is affiliated of Amazon.com--in other words, Amazon.com fulfills your order.  None of your personal information is retained or processed by Cats and a Book so your privacy is assured! 

Look for the Cats and a Book Book Club Guide coming soon!  I hope your New Year is filled with joy and laughter.  Forgive yourself and others, and let kindness carry you through your days!  Happy reading!

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