Best ‘New to Us” Books in 2011: Dan B.’s Picks

This week we’re trying something new for our book-a-day blog, which is to present our favorite “New to Us” (older) books that we discovered this year. Last week we told you some of our favorite new books published this year. This week different staff members will take turns letting you know their top 5 favorite older books that we each read for the first time this year.

If you’re familiar with my previous posts you’ll know that I love Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Classics. My picks for the 5 best “New to Me” books from 2011- presented in no particular order – certainly reflect my reading tastes:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
While not the first book in the series, it is one of the most famous Poirot stories, in part due to the movie and TV versions. In it M. Poirot finds himself on a train when the first class car is fully booked in the dead of winter. Naturally, a murder occurs, and Poirot must put his “little grey cells” to work solving the crime. The evidence is gathered in a very methodical and linear way, complete with a map of the train car. Although many pieces of evidence and testimony from the passengers contradict each other, Poirot once more solves the insoluble. Read my full review.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
I picked Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation as one my favorite books of 2011, but I wouldn’t have read it had I not discovered Mr. Scalzi at the beginning of the year with this book. On his 75th birthday John Perry did two things: he visited his wife’s grave and then he joined the army. Earthlings are told that those 75 years old who volunteer for the Colonial Defense Force will receive a new body and can retire as a colonist on another world after their service is completed. Of course, they are not told everything about life out among the stars. Scalzi’s writing is top notch, combining thought provoking and touching moments with humor and plenty of action. Fans of Ender’s Game, The Forever War or Starship Troopers will love it. Read my full review.

The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo
After having had this book on my “to read” list for a long time, I listened to the audio version this year, narrated by the estimable Jeremy Irons (who my wife always refers to as Uncle Scar from The Lion King). The story is that of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, who wishes to travel and see the wonders of the world. He travels from Spain to Morocco to Egypt and gets stuck or finds obstacles seemingly in his way throughout the journey. He eventually meets the fabled alchemist who helps Santiago discover his dreams and leads him to his happiness and treasure.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
One of the best Fantasy books of the past decade, but don’t take my word for it! Kvothe (pronounced like “quothe”) was once the most legendary and powerful wizard the world has known. But, his troubled life has led him to seek anonymity running an  inn out in the countryside. The spreading evil that he thought he had left behind soon makes it’s way to his part of the world, as does the Chronicler of Stories, who discovers Kvothe’s true identity and persuades him to tell his life’s story. The book has been compared to Harry Potter, as well as to the Fantasy novels of Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin, but those comparisons only paint a part of the amazing picture that Pat has written for us.  Read my full review.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
If anyone can give us a good look at what life was like for Americans during The Great Depression, it’s Steinbeck. The Joad family farm in Oklahoma has suffered because of the Dust Bowl, and banks who foreclose on families who have worked the same land for generations. Now the Joads must make the long, difficult trek across the country on the famous mother road, Route 66, in search of promised ease and plenty in California. What they find is not easy and the only thing that’s plentiful is too many people in search of too few jobs. The Joads face many hardships, but this quintessentially American novel shows how they persevere in adversity.  Read my full review.

So, have you by chance read any of these books? If so, please leave us a comment to let us know.

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One Response to “Best ‘New to Us” Books in 2011: Dan B.’s Picks”

  1. Lee Says:

    I have recommended “The Alchemist” to so many friends…..great read!

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