2011: Even More Recommendations!


After (Storytime) Hours

2011Though I’m a youth services librarian, I spend many reading hours poring over books aimed at adults. So what does the storytime lady read when she’s not entertaining a group of kids with Bark, George or acting out “I’m a Little Teapot”?

Throughout this long and eventful year, I read a mix of fiction, graphic novels, and nonfiction. Many books are by favorite authors; many more were recommended to me by friends. The following is a list of books that I particularly liked. With this list, I tried to focus on books published in 2011 and 2010, but couldn't resist tacking on a few “classics” as well!


Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2010) by Barbara Demick - A detailed, and often painful, look at life inside this repressive country. Also available in audiobook and Playaway formats.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) by Rebecca Skloot – A reporter’s incredible journey to tell the story of Henrietta Lacks, the original source of HeLa cells (immortal human cells grown in culture). See Mary Wilmes’s Henrietta Lacks blog post for a complete review. Also available in audiobook, ebook, and large print formats.

Just Kids (2010) by Patti Smith – A personal look at rock singer Patti Smith’s memories of artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith completely transported me to another era, and spoke volumes about the bonds of friendship. For more details see a previous blog post, Glory of Love. Also available in ebook and audiobook formats.


2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America (2011) by Albert Brooks
Scary, all-to-possible, and still funny (it is Albert Brooks, after all). Read a longer review in this previous Albert Brooks blog post. Also available in audiobook format.

The Queen of Water (2011) by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango
A book marketed toward young adults, but nevertheless a fascinating read for adults. A Quechua teen is forced to serve an upperclass Mestizo family in Ecuador. Based on a true story, this book chronicles the teen’s painful entry into adulthood and her escape from indentured servitude.

A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion: A Novel (2011) by Ron Hansen
A riveting account of Ruth Snyder and Judd Grey’s adulterous affair that lead to the murder of Snyder’s husband, the couple's conviction, and ultimate trip to the electric chair. This fictionalized account is based on the 1920’s scandal that rocked New York and inspired James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity.

The Borrower (2011) by Rebecca Makkai
A children’s librarian takes a runaway patron on a strange and soul-searching journey. It’s not all serious stuff though—Makkai’s writing often had me giggling. A perfect road trip book for people who love books. Also available in audiobook, Playaway, and large type formats.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (2010) by Walter Mosley
A 91 year old recluse and a 17 year old caregiver form a strong bond in South Central Los Angeles. Part mystery, part love story, this absorbing novel shines a light on an often overlooked part of society. Also available in audiobook format.

The Madonnas of Echo Park (2010) by Brando Skyhorse
A large cast of characters are featured in short stories that center around the accidental shooting of a young girl in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Graphic Novels

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt (2011) by Caroline Preston
An artfully done historical novel that will have scrapbookers, antique lovers, and ebay/Etsy enthusiasts in awe. See Stephanie’s blog post for more details.

The Walking Dead series (ongoing) by Robert Kirkman, etc.
Zombie graphic novels that are disturbing, exhilarating, and full of surprises.

Peter Bagge’s Other Lives (2010) by Peter Bagge
A humorous look at virtual reality from the author of the Hate comics.

Blacksad (2010) by Juan Diaz Canales
Dark, moody, and stylish crime stories featuring anthropomorphic characters, set in the 1950s.

X’ed Out (2010) by Charles Burns
Surreal dreams plague a burnout named Doug. Very weird, very Burns (author of Black Hole).

Serenity, Volume 3: The Shepherd’s Tale (2010) by Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon
For Firefly fans: the mysterious story of Shepherd Book is revealed—finally!

Noteworthy “Classics”


Author Bio:

Karen Choy is looking forward to her 2012 reading list and appreciates any recommendations.


More recommendations

I see you're interested in North Korea and like to read noir mysteries. Then you'd probably want to read the Inspector O books by James Church. The newest (though maybe not the one to start with) is The Man with the Baltic Stare (2010). In it, Inspector O has retired and is called back to work in the capital, Pyongyang, because the 2 Koreas are planning reunification and a murder stands in the way.

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