Best Of….

That title is a little misleading. As we hover on the edge of 2012, the books I’m thinking of are those that made the deepest impression on me in the old year, that impacted or changed me in some way.

— Frances Osborne’s The Bolter, which set me off on my Kenya project.

— Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton, which introduced me to a whole new historical/modern hybrid.

— Beatriz Williams’ Overseas, which reminded me how compelling a well-written love story can be.

— Robert Graves’ Good-Bye to All That. I’m always thought of Graves as the I, Claudius guy, but his memoir of his time in World War I opened my eyes to the realities of that war as no history book had.

— Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika, a fictionalized memoir of her childhood in Kenya. I’d seen the mini-series with Hayley Mills back in the day, but what really caught me about the book was the writing style, with its keen but kindly sense of humor. Her voice reminded me a great deal of L.M. Montgomery– and there really just isn’t enough of that out there.

I realize, looking over these, that they’re all attached, in one way or another, to my current writing project (aka “the Kenya book”).

There were plenty of other books that I savored just for fun: Eloisa James’ When Beauty Tamed the Beast, Rosemary Clement-Moore’s The Splendor Falls, Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden, Tracy Grant’s Vienna Waltz.

Which were the books that meant the most to you in 2011?


  1. Sheila on December 31, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I’ve read, or listened to, so many that I enjoyed on several levels, including some of the ones in your list, but the one that has stuck with me the most is Room , by Emma Donoghue. Not light reading in any sense, but telling the story of an adult’s kidnapping from her child’s point of view is done very well.

    Just for fun, other than rereading your books, I really enjoyed To Fetch a Thief, by Spencer Quinn. Again told from an unusual viewpoint, this is the latest in a series of humorous, mostly, detective novels. An incredible dog named Chet narrates. I wouldn’t want to meet the person who doesn’t find Chet charming.

    For a long historical saga, you can’t beat Cynthia Harrod Eagles’ The Morland Dynasty, finally now in Kindle format. 34 books!! What an accomplishment, and I have enjoyed every one I have read so far…I do it in groups of three.

  2. Céline on December 31, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I’ll have to say that your books, Lauren, make the top of my list. The year has been quite difficult, and your books always gave me something to look forward to and helped me through the hard days. For this, I have to thank you.

  3. Cho on December 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus both stood out to me as some of the most compelling novels I’ve read in my life. They were both of the “must read whole book who cares about food and water” ilk. I would highly recommend them.

    Your books, Lauren, and those of Julia Quinn are always on my list of things I can’t make it through the year without rereading, as is Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin.

    I suppose the Harry Potter books should have a place on this list, especially as I rediscovered just how good they were this summer (I knew there was a reason I was obsessed with these in middle school!).

    I’m sure there are others, but these are the few that came immediately to mind!

  4. aniko on December 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I think it might be Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati – a great find!! I also now adore Susanna Kearsley. I read The Winter Sea and Mariana. I made a list of my reading experiences this year on my blog. I haven’t read as much as I felt like I had.

  5. Carole Rae on December 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Ummm…I have a pretty big list. But my ultimate favorite of the year was ‘Mistress of Rome’ by Kate Quinn. My four other “nominees” were ‘The Orchid Affair’, ‘Fools Crow’ by James Welch, ‘My Dangerous Duke’ by Gaelen Foley, and ‘The Snow Fox’ by Susan Fromberg Schaffer.

    Happy New Years!

  6. Joanne M. on December 31, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    So many great books read this year, but two novels that I absolutely loved and recommend to everyone are Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman and The Violets of March by Sarah Jio. Both have a lovely writing style and created memorable characters with beautiful storylines.

    Happy New Year!

  7. leslie on December 31, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I read so many books this year it’s hard to remember, but here’s my list.

    “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” knocked me off my feet!

    Julie Buxbaum’s “The Opposite of Love”
    is a bittersweet first novel that stayed with me for days.

    “The Orchid Affair” I am crazy about that book. I want a sequel!!

    For the first time this year I read and enjoyed C.S. Harris, Tasha Alexander, Deanna Raybourn and C.A. Belmond, thanks to this wonderful website.

    Thanks everyone, I wish you love, happiness and good fortune for the New Year. Cheers!

  8. Gina on December 31, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    The most powerful book I’ve read this year was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I already sort of raved about on the reading round-up, but seriously, it’s so beautifully written.

    I also rediscovered Bill Bryson this year, in a completely different genre, and that’s had quite an effect on how I want to live my life.

    One other book, by Elise Turcotte, called Le Bruit des Choses Vivantes (The Sound of Livig Things) and it’s incredible. I’m assuming it’s probably been translated into English, too.

  9. Gina on December 31, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    *The Sound of Living Things, oops.

  10. Jessica C on January 1, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I got hooked on two series this year – The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R R Martin. I owe many late nights to these books – so good that I literally could not put them down.

  11. Am7 on January 1, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist
    The first Inspirational romance I ever read. I always thought Christian romances were not for me. I was wrong.
    Three more Christian books that I loved:
    The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
    a gothic Christian soap opera. Awesome!
    An Eye for An Eye by Irene Hannon
    Romantic suspense at its best.
    Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck
    Raved about this one before. Loved it!

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Not a favorite of all time by I really liked this one. Glad I read it.

    Started the Eve Dallas series. Addicted maybe but not in love.
    Read the first two the Rev. Clare Fergusson books Am somewhat in love. Fell in love with Georgie Rannoch in the first 4 books.

    Finally just classicly good:
    Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
    Unveiled by Courtney Milan
    Nine Rules to Break While Romancing A Rake by Sarah MacLean
    The Iron Duke by Meljean Brock
    Sea Change by Darlene Marshall
    Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

  12. Elizabeth (aka Miss Eliza) on January 2, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Night Circus, hands down.

  13. jeffrey on January 3, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I could go on and on so I’ll limit this to my 3 favorites:
    1) The Orchid Affair! The introduction of those sweet children did something sentimental to my heart and made this particular story so very-very special.
    2) The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath. I gave this 5 stars in my review and would have given it more if I was allowed because it was frankly one of the best P & P sequels I have ever read. A 224 page little masterpiece.
    3)The Cantebury Tale by Stephanie Barron: With a highly sophisticated and brilliant writing style somewhere between Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Ms Barron’s latest Being A Jane Austen Mystery is simply superlative in every way. In my naive’ inexperience, I had no idea that she had written an entire series of these and I had picked up the last one! What a delight now to look forward to reading the others!

    I wish everyone who visits here much reading pleasure for 2013. AND to you Lauren, continued fame and fortune because you are so generous, kind, and attentive to all of your admirers.

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