In 2011 I read 160 books. Yep, 160. Although I've been keeping track the whole way through, I'll admit that it surprised me a little bit. It's a significant increase over last year when I read 138, and I think I can attribute it to being in school for the entire year. For one thing, I had to read school books in addition to books for fun, and I also had two hours in the car to listen to books every time I went to Provo (I probably should have listened to the news or my NPR podcasts-- I felt spectacularly uninformed about current events in 2011). Although I only read 23 of the 35 Whitney finalists this year, that also boosted my total.
Best Nonfiction: There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene. Back when we were deciding to adopt, this book stole my heart and took it to a place that has changed it forever. I never thought I'd have five kids and certainly never thought one of them would be an abandoned infant from China, but here we are, and Greene can take some of the blame and some of the credit.
Best Series AND Best Audiobooks: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. I wish there were more than eight books. I also wish that Winspear would allow Maisie to see that love and career don't have to be incompatible with each other. Orlagh Cassidy is the perfect running companion-- she is a pitch perfect Maisie. I was shocked to learn that she's an American!
Best Book by an LDS author: The Scholar of Moab by Steven Peck. This book was both ambitious and entertaining. I hope to see more work by Peck and similarly strong female characters coming from LDS authors.
Best YA: Wolves, Boys and Other Things that Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler (ok, I know Chandler is LDS too, but the book is not overtly LDS). My biggest disappointment with the Whitneys this year is that Chandler did not walk away with a prize. I wanted it to sweep all three categories it was eligible for (best YA, best new author, and best overall). I'm excited to read her newest book.
Best Memoir: Bossypants by Tina Fey. I know, it was light and I feel like I should pick Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris or Jana Riess's Flunking Sainthood (both of which are more earnest) but no book made me laugh harder in 2011 than Bossypants.
Top Five Fiction Reads: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, and Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig.
Favorite Book of the Year: I doubt this will be a surprise to anyone who knows me because I've been singing its praises all year, but I absolutely loved Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. Yes, it may possibly break my cardinal rule of fiction, but by the time I got to that point, I was so in love with Marina Singh and with the Brazilian jungle that I just didn't care.