Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best Books I Read in 2011

I've been waiting until today to write this post because I didn't want to risk reading an absolutely fabulous book after writing it.  I'm glad I waited, because one of the best books I read this year is one that I finished just last night!

I looked through my Goodreads shelf of 5-star reads to see which books I should include in this post.  I discovered there were 39 from this year, and that is far too many for me to list here, so I'm going to try to narrow it down to the 10 (maybe 11 or 12) best.  These aren't necessarily books that came out in 2011, but they are all books I loved.

Mindi's 2011 Top Ten (in no particular order:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I wasn't sure how into this book I would be, given that it is about mythical man-eating horses that emerge from the sea each November.  Once I began reading, though, I fell in love with Steifvater's story.  The little bit of romance that grew between Puck and Sean helped, too.  Look for a longer post on this one soon,

Shine by Lauren Myracle
This incredibly powerful story of homophobia and hatred in a small town was difficult to read, due to the subject matter, but I'm so glad I pushed through. This is an important story for teens to read and talk about with their parents, teachers, or each other.  You can read more about Shine here.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
I picked up The Running Dream last March after hearing Becky Anderson talk about it at the Illinois Reading Council conference.  The story centers around 16 year old Jessica who loses her leg in a tragic accident.  It's a story of perseverance and the power of friendship, and I loved it enough to push for it to be one of the choices for summer reading for our incoming seventh graders.  You can read more about The Running Dream here.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Buzz for Divergent was strong long before its release last May.  I was lucky enough to get my hand on an advance copy of the book and devoured it in one sitting.  It is often compared to Hunger Games, due in part to its dystopian story line, but Divergent is great enough to stand on its own.  The Chicago setting is a definite plus.  Can't wait for the sequel, Insurgent, to come out in May! You can read more about Divergent here.

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Okay For Now is one of those rare companion novels that I liked even better than the original.  In this story, Doug Swietek is trying to find his place in a new town, one he didn't really want to move to, and one where he doesn't really fit in.  Schmidt crafted a story that was both a great coming-of-age story but also a love letter to the healing power of art.  You can read more about Okay For Now here.

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
This book is a nominee for the 2012 Rebecca Caudill Award for Young Readers here in Illinois.  Each year, I read as many of the twenty nominees as I can, and this year The Rock and the River was one of my favorites.  The story of Sam, his brother Stick, and their civil-rights leader father was so engrossing, I thought Magoon was writing about actual people who lived in Chicago during the 1960s.  It wasn't until I read the author's note at the end of the book that I discovered the main characters were all fictional.  This is a great read.  You can learn more about The Rock and the River here.

Want To Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman
This was perhaps one of the most disturbing books I read this year, but also one of the most important.  In this story of a teenage girl who gets involved with an internet predator, Littman brought many of my deepest fears as a parent to the surface and forced me to think about the conversations I need to have with my daughters about staying safe in a risky world.  Every parent should read this book.  Learn more about Want to Go Private?  here.

The Watch That Ends The Night by Allan Wolf
This masterpiece is a novel-in-verse about the sinking of Titanic.  With the 100th anniversary of the disaster coming in April, we're going to see loads of books on the subject.  None will approach the brilliance of this novel.  Told in 24 voices, some real, some fictional, The Watch That Ends the Night is spellbinding. You can read my review here.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This was another book that was getting lots of buzz among my Twitter friends.  I knew the story was about a young boy whose mother was undergoing treatments for cancer, and I kept putting off reading it because I knew it would take me back to the grief I felt when my mom died of cancer when I was 21.  I finally decided I couldn't let 2011 end without reading it.  This book definitely lived up to the buzz.  It's incredibly heart-wrenching and sad, but well worth the read.  You can read my review here.

Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger
I just looked back at the books I've included so far, and I realized that all of them are about pretty heavy subjects.  To round out my ten favorites, I'm including Darth Paper Strikes Back, the sequel to The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda.  This book is funny, touching, and true-to-middle-school.  If you've not read Origami Yoda or Darth Paper, get thee to a bookstore!  You can read my review of Darth Paper here.

So there you have it; 10 of the best books I read in 2011.  If you'd like to see all of my 5-Star books, you can find my Goodreads shelf here.

Happy New (Reading) Year!


  1. Wonderful list, Mindi! I'm getting ready to read The Watch That Ends the Night right now. I really want to read The Running Dream; the premise reminds me of Izzy Willy, Nilly by Cynthia Voigt.

  2. Mindi - Great list. I have some of these on my TBR pile. Will bump them up.

  3. Mindi -- Terrific list and comments.

    I didn't know about Want to Go Private. That one goes on my TBR list.

    Thanks, and Happy New Year.


  4. I love that Darth Paper made your list!

  5. The Running Dream was so good. All of my children have run cross country, so it really hit home. Thanks for posting a great list!