2011: That’s a Wrap!

Well, this week has been a fun trip down literary memory lane. Unlike last year, I (thankfully) didn’t read enough egregiously horrendous books to warrant a Worst of 2011 list, so I modified last year’s end-of-year survey and decided to end with a bunch of randomness that didn’t fit in anywhere else:

Oldest book read: A Vindication on the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft, first published in 1792.

Longest book read: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir; my edition clocked in at 976 pages.

Most-read review: Surprisingly, it was She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor. Who would’ve thought? But I have a feeling if I’d published my review of Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar earlier in the year, it would easily win in a landslide.

Favorite bookish moment: Meeting Sandra Cisneros, then finding out she linked to my blog from her Facebook page! That remains the most-viewed post of all time on this blog. But seriously, I could care less about the stats…I met Sandra Cisneros!

Guiltiest pleasure: Sweet Valley Confidential. The writing is atrocious, but the book rocks my world. And you know what? I don’t even feel guilty about saying that! 😀

Most pleasant surprise: The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad felt almost surreal. I loved it.

Favorite blogger recommendation: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which came recommended by Heather of Capricious Reader. That book slayed me.

Most disappointing: Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Sex, edited by Erica JongIt made me really mad.

Biggest triumph: Hands down, The Second Sex! Gawd…there were times I didn’t think I was gonna make it. But I’m glad I did!

Favorite reread: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I’d forgotten how much I loved that book!

Most disturbing: I know I keep saying how unsettling Bonnie Nadzam’s Lamb is, but Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels also had its moments. The book is incredible. Seriously disturbing, but incredible. And Jamrach’s Menagerie…I really wasn’t prepared for what happened. At all.

Favorite new-to-me authors I discovered in 2011: Jennifer Haigh, Manuel Muñoz, Michael Chabon, Ernessa T. Carter, Francisco Goldman, Margo Lanagan, and Jesmyn Ward.

Favorite book covers of 2011:

Book cover: Wildwood by Colin Meloy    Book cover: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan    Book cover: Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011: Cherrie Moraga’sXicana Codex of Changing Consciousness was major for me in terms of Chicana identity politics and the importance of embracing the past. The Arab and Arab American Feminisms anthology was eye-opening and led to many book purchases; I’m especially dying to read more books by Palestinian authors.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read: East of Eden. I’ve had it on my shelf for years, and I never read it…PURE MADNESS! I think it’s one of my favorite books of all time now. Also: you can officially consider me a Steinbeck groupie.



  1. Alison

    I was a HUGE devourer of Sweet Valley books as a pre-teen/teen (started with Sweet Valley Twins, then moved on to Sweet Valley High, as well as some of the “special” entries, like the “Super” editions and the thrillers and such). I kept thinking about picking up Sweet Valley Confidential and then second-guessing myself and being all “OMG I couldn’t do that NOW, at this age…” – but aw hell, we’re all allowed some fluff and silliness, right? I may just go for it 😛

    Re: The Second Sex (which I haven’t read but have always thought about reading) – when you say you didn’t think you’d make it, was that just because of the length? Or were there things about it that you didn’t like or didn’t work?

  2. Heather

    I love this post so much, and not just because I was your favorite book recommendation. (Score!) There are so many good books here, some I’ve read, some I haven’t! I just requested Sweet Valley Confidential. I loved the series growing up, despite how terrible they were and was putting SVC off because I just knew it was awful. But I trust you. If you love it so much, I have to give it a try.

    And I am SO impressed you made it through The Second Sex. You should be proud!

  3. Melissa

    @Alison: Some parts of The Second Sex are really repetitive or just written in the most convoluted way possible. I do think it’s worth the read because she’s brilliant, but at times I really had to force myself to push through it.

    @Marie & Lu: Yes! My school brought her down for Latina/o Heritage Month, so I got there hella early and got a front row seat. (Good thing, too, because there were so many people that even the auditorium across the street where they were streaming a live feed was packed to capacity!)

    @Heather & Alison: You’ll probably laugh at the writing (and rightfully so), but I think it’s worth it just for Steven Wakefield alone!

  4. de Pizan

    On the Second Sex, there’s been two translations, one done last year, the other a few decades ago. There are a lot of reviews and critics that complain that both translations butcher her writing and her ideas, so I wonder how much of the repetitiveness or convoluted writing is hers and how much is due to a poor translation. It’s an absolute shame if that’s true since it is such an important work in the feminist movement, you’d think there would be more, or at least better, translations out there to choose from.

  5. amymckie

    Great wrap-up here. As with you, Sugar in my Bowl made me kinda angry too – I mean, I liked many parts but some parts made me livid. And A Monster Calls, so true. I really want to read more of your favorite authors and the books that had the biggest impact on you. And I really can’t wait for Ernessa T Carter to publish something new!

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