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My Books of the Year 2011

2011 has been an exciting year for book buying. As well as reading lots of excellent stories in books, I have had the chance to read stories on a Kindle, the common denominator being the stories. I still read paper books as well as electronic books and I can’t say I really have a preference. However, the advantage, for me, of the Kindle, is the ability to read sample chapters before buying. This is great for the reader, and raises awareness of the need for great opening chapters from authors.

I’ve read a selection of genre this year, from literary fiction to crime to fiction. I made a point of reading the Booker shortlist, and caught up on some books I have meant to read from previous years. So *drum roll* my books of the year are as follows:

Literary fiction: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes. Several people have mentioned plot holes and inaccuracies in the work, and I too found this, but as the book is partly about the accuracy of memory construction, perhaps this is a plot device rather than a plot hole? I don’t know. But I thought this story was wonderful.

Crime: Cold Light, Jenn Ashworth. Great read set in the North West of England. I loved Jenn’s main character, who I felt brought the book to life. The plot is believable and the friendship between the girls in the book uncomfortable, which adds to the tension.

Fiction: Juliet Naked, Nick Hornby. I’m not sure why I like this book so much. Maybe it’s because, like the novels above, manages to maintain and ordinary quality whilst telling a story really well.

Runners up were, in no particular genre: A Stranger’s Child, Alan Hollinhurst; Popco, Scarlett Thomas; The Tiny Wife, Andrew Kaufman. All these books are outstanding and occupied my spare time wonderfully.

A special mention to We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I read this book in preparation for watching the film and it’s a powerful novel. This book has been on my shelf for a while, but neither the publicity for the book nor the word of mouth recommendation managed to evoke the strength of the story.

I beta-read for other authors and amongst my favourite reads this year have been unpublished manuscripts that have, since my reading them, been submitted to authors or publishers and rejected. While I understand that everything can’t be published and there has to be a standard, I am sometimes at a loss as to what that standard is. I would certainly buy some of the novels I have beta read. There’s been a lot of complaining about self published e-books and how the market is becoming saturated by sub-standard work, but I think that next year I might experiment with some of these electronic novels, as surely this is the route to publication for those who have been rejected by the traditional route.

So here’s to a happy 2012, with lots of great stories and exciting plots, and risks being taken with fresh new authors as well as established greats.