Thursday, December 8, 2011

Work in Progress: My Favorite Books of 2011

Luckily, I don’t have to be as rigid as other “best of” lists that must restrict themselves to books that were published during a particular year.  Also, I don’t have to fill out the list to make a round and tidy ten or winnow down to five.  These are simply the books I most enjoyed reading this year and, also, less simply, books that changed my writing life in a profound way.  Flipping through the pages of my book journal, it was immediately evident which books would end up on this list.  In chronological order of when I read them:

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell:  the tense, insular world of the proud and poverty-stricken Ozarks

Normal People Don’t Live Like This by Dylan Landis: mother and daughter navigating their relationship and growing up in 1970s New York City

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black: short stories about the desperate, private griefs of everyday people

The Dry Well by Marlin Barton: lightly linked short stories set in rural Alabama

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James:  vibrant, young Isabel Archer leaves America to find herself in Europe

The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge: Scott’s doomed expedition to Antarctica, as narrated by several members of the travel party

Atonement by Ian McEwan: a young girl misinterprets an action and lives are changed forever

How are these books similar?  An emphasis on setting that puts me into a world I’m unfamiliar with, a focus on precise and interesting language, and a whole, whole lot of sorrow.  I guess that’s my formula!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.