Please note: This list is compiled in no particular order. It is simply a list of my favorite books for this particular genre in 2011.
• Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (20th Century American Literature, Novel)
This is my favorite Steinbeck, full of lively characters and touching scenes. There are few characters in literature as well-written as Mack and his gang of hobos. The town of Cannery Row comes alive in Steinbeck, and is, itself, a wonderful character full of life and sorrow. I read this novel in college and was pleased to find that I enjoyed it even more on my second reading this year.
• Persuasion by Jane Austen (19th Century British Literature, Novel)
A so-called old maid’s second chance at long lost love. An absolutely lovely novel that shows the consequences of letting one’s family get in the way of your own desires. Another classic Austen.
• Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (20th Century American Literature, Play)
George and Martha. Sad. Sad. Sad. This classic play doesn’t pull any punches when showing the destructive nature of George and Martha’s marriage and their attack on a young couple in wild night of drinking and revelations. Highly recommended along with Mike Nichols’ film adaptation starring another doomed married couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
• Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Audio, read by Gary Sinise) (20th Century American Literature)
Another wonderful novel by John Steinbeck. I had seen the masterful movie adaptation starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich 20 years ago, so I was delighted to listen to Sinise reading the novel in its audio version. Heartbreakingly sad story. I love Lennie and George.
• Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 by William Shakespeare (16th Century British Literature, Play)
I’ve read almost all of Shakespeare’s dramas and comedies, but shockingly had never read any of his histories. I’m seeking to remedy this maladie (Shakespeare’s spelling) and began with Henry IV. I was a little rusty in my Shakespeare dialect, but after a half hour, my pace picked up, and I was right back into reading between Shakespeare’s lines. Falstaff is as amazing as I’ve heard, and this play lived up to its reputation. As with all Shakespeare, highly recommended!
• Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (20th Century American Literature, Novel)
Quick read that I really enjoyed. Was a bit tragic in its depiction of a love affair between a married country man and the young cousin of his wife. The resolution was surprising, I never saw it coming, and it proves to be one of the most honest and pitiful endings I have ever read!
• The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (20th Century British Literature, Novel)
The first of two Ishiguro novels I read this year, both wonderful. Marukami shows the life of the downstairs help of a turn-of-the-century estate through the narration of a classic butler who reflects upon his life on a drive to visit the former housekeeper of the house. Beautifully written and surely an inspiration to one of my favorite movies, Gosford Park and the television series Downton Abbey.
• Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (19th Century British Literature, Novel)
The best book I’ve read all year! I can’t believe I’ve been sitting on a copy of this for 10 years. Loved the plot, loved the characters. One of the finest novels I’ve ever read. Just received a beautiful hard cover copy from my husband for Christmas, so I’m itching to read it again!
• Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (19th Century British Literature)
This might be my #2 favorite book of the year. Very amusing classic written in the vein of Austen. The characters are excellent, the plot is solid, and I laughed out loud numerous times. I highly recommend this novel to fans of classic novels.
• A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (20th Century British Literature, Novel)
Really loved this classic. Read my review here.
• Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (20th Century British Literature, Novel)
I absolutely loved Rebecca. I had never seen the movie, but had a slight knowledge of the plot as the film is regularly listed in “Best” lists. The novel proved to be even better than I expected, offering intrigue, mystery, malicious characters, and a love story. Very much highly recommended!
• Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (19th Century British Literature, Novel)
This is an excellent novel, though I despised most of the characters. Heathcliff is one of my top literary bad guys, and Cathy wasn’t much better. However, I do consider this a must-read, even if the love story it depicts just incited my fury. I’ll never forget it, and that’s what makes it good.
• And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (20th Century British Literature~Mystery, Novel)
The best of the best in mystery. I ate this book up! Here is my review.
• Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (19th Century British Literature, Novel)
Oh, how I love those Dashwood sisters! And Willoughby, that rogue. I don’t hate him, he is just lily-livered. You must read this book. It is essential.
• Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville (19th Century American Literature, Novel)
Have not yet reviewed this quirky story, but I will next week. I’ll just tell you right now that I couldn’t stop commenting on it to my family as I was reading it, and it was like nothing I have ever read. Highly recommend this novella!
Tomorrow’s Post: Top Adult Contemporary and Young Adult Fiction Read in 2011