Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2011: Mary P.’s Picks

Hi again from Mary P.  Last week you may have read  about the best books I’ve read published in 2011, take a look at some books published previously that I discovered this year and loved.  I’ve especially enjoyed discovering some authors that have been around a while and read both their old and new material.

At Home: A Short History of a Private Life by Bill Bryson
This is the year I discovered Bill Bryson.  For many of you, this may be old news, but Bill Bryson is great.  I read four of his books this year, and some, like At Home, are quite thick.  Bryson writes nonfiction with a humorous slant that usually involves some aspect of his life.  In At Home, Bryson covers the vast history of human homes and houses based around the history of his own home in rural England.  This book is packed full of unusual stories and fascinating tidbits on human history ranging from the evolution of the meaning “room and board” to why we have salt and pepper on our kitchen tables.  All the while, Bryson packs in this information with his trademark style that will leave you laughing and amazed.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer by Seth Grahame-Smith
Abraham Lincoln has be the subject of many books.  This is the first that images the Civil War as a bigger battle and Lincoln as a key factor in the defeat of the vampire scourge in America.  Seth Grahame-Smith is no stranger to the reworking of a famous idea into something novel (pun intended) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer does not fail to satisfy.  In Grahame-Smith’s world, young Abe loses his mother to the Vampiric plague and vows to fight back by killing every vampire he can find.  This decision takes Abraham forward towards presidency in a world where the history mirrors the one we know, but also shows a hidden world that we never knew could exist.

Unbroken: A World War II story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption  by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken has been on the New York Times best sellers list for 51 weeks. One more and it’ll be a year.  Can it really be that good?  My answer is unequivocally yes.  Hillenbrand tells the amazing story of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner turned World War II airman.  His story is itself almost beyond belief; it alters the idea of the limits of human survival and strength.  However, the power of the story is complemented by Hillenbrand’s excellent storytelling.  The book at time literally took my breath away and deserves the praises it has received.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is being made into a movie.  I am super excited about this as it is one of my favorite books.  However, I am a little tense, because the movie comes out in January and I want everyone to read the book before they see the movie.  This book is so heartening, so poignant, so beautiful that I want everyone to experience it as it is before seeing the movie changes how it is read.  The book centers around Oskar Schell, a nine year old pacifist and physicist who excels at tambourine.  After losing his father in the attacks on September 11, 2001, Oskar finds a single key among his father’s things. With only the clue of “Black” written on the key, Oskar sets off on a mission to find the keys home and discover more about his father.

Black out and All Clear by Connie Willis
I also discovered Connie Willis this past year.  She has been an award winning Science Fiction writer for years.  Her two newest books, Black Out and All Clear, are just as celebrating; she won both of Science Fiction’s highest honors, the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best novel (it’s really one story split over two books).  Set in Oxford in 2060, three historian are traveling back in time to London during the Blitz of World War II.  Sent back in time to study the past directly, their presence is not suppose to change history.  Yet when their portals back to the future are not working, all three must find each other and find how to get back in time before they cause something disastrous like the outcome of the war.

If any of these titles interesting you, they are linked to the Wake County Public Libraries catalog so you can find them at the libraries.  And if you have read any, please feel free to add your opinion in the comments (but only if you agree with me…Just kidding).


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