Reader’s Choice 2011 – what are your picks?

What did you read in 2011? What authors and series did you discover? Were there books you loved and would recommend to anyone? We’d love to hear!

We put this question to our followers on Twitter, and received some great recommendations back. Here they are, together with a few Reader’s Choice reviews we received through the year. We always love hearing what Wellingtonians are reading (and getting ideas for our own reading lists!), so if you discovered your new favourite author in 2011, or found a wonderful new title – let us know!

Picks from Twitter:

Syndetics book coverThe complete Maus / Art Spiegelman.
Published to mark the 25th anniversary of the original publication of Maus, this was @sidcarter‘s pick – a “beautifully drawn comic”.
Here’s a review from
“The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times). Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.” (

Syndetics book coverThe broken book / Fiona Farrell.
@sarahjbarnett’s pick. Our catalogue says:
“The Broken Book consists of four essays about life and walking, bookended by a preamble and an afterword, and interrupted by 21 poems about the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath” (Publisher description)

Syndetics book coverThe help / Kathryn Stockett.
@jopsonb chose The Help – on the New York Times Bestseller list in 2011 & 2009, and also made into a feature film in 2011.
Here’s a summary from our library catalogue:
“Aibileen is a black maid, raising her 17th white child, but with a bitter heart after the death of her son. Minny is the sassiest woman in Mississippi. Skeeter is a white woman with a degree but no ring on her finger. Seemingly as different as can be, these women will come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.”

Reader’s Choice Reviews:

Syndetics book coverThere should be more dancing / Rosalie Ham.
Reader review: “Should be required reading for all middle-aged children wondering how best to cope with elderly parents! Fiction, but a lot of truth as well”.
And here’s a plot summary from our catalogue:
“Margery Blandon was always a principled woman who found guidance from the wisdom of desktop calendars. She lived quietly in Gold Street, Brunswick for 60 years until events drove her to the 43rd floor of the Tropic Hotel. As she waits for the crowds in the atrium far below to disperse, she contemplates what went wrong; her best friend kept an astonishing secret from her and she can’t trust the home help. It’s possible her firstborn son has betrayed her, that her second son, Morris, might have committed a crime, her only daughter is trying to kill her and her dead sister Cecily helped her to this, her final downfall. Even worse, it seems Margery’s life-long neighbour and enemy now demented always knew the truth. There Should be More Dancing is a story of Margery’s reckonings on loyalty, grief and love.”

Syndetics book coverThe last 100 days / Patrick McGuinness.
Reader review: “I thought this book was enthralling, terrifying and very funny. Partly autobiographical, this is the story of a young student caught up in the pre-Revolution madness of Bucharest as the insane, corrupt Ceauşescu “vampire” and his wife bring the country to its knees.”

Syndetics book coverSalvation city / Sigrid Nunez.
Reader review: “This book is a winner! I picked it up by mistake (not my sort of interest, fundamentalism), but found the characters real, the writing precise and thoughtful without sentimentality, and the process and journey very satisfying. Read from cover to cover in 3 days flat – read this book!”
And here’s a review from
“After a flu pandemic has killed large numbers of people worldwide, the United States has grown increasingly anarchic. Large numbers of children are stranded in orphanages, and systems we take for granted are fraying at the seams. When orphaned Cole Vining finds refuge with an evangelical pastor and his young wife in a small Indiana town, he knows he is one of the lucky ones. Sheltered Salvation City has been spared much of the devastation of the outside world. But it’s a starkly different community from the one Cole has known, and he struggles with what this changed world means for him. As those around him become increasingly fixated on their vision of utopia – so different from his own parents’ dreams – Cole begins to imagine a new and different future for himself. Written in Sigrid Nunez’s deceptively simple style, Salvation City is a story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness, weaving the deeply affecting story of a young boy’s transformation with a profound meditation on the true meaning of salvation.”

Syndetics book coverRagnarok : the end of the gods / A. S. Byatt.
Reader review: “The crux of this narrative is the relating of a number of Nordic myths by a child in wartime England. Not a re-interpretation but rather some straight-forward retellings. Though the material feeds familiar, the treatment of the myths through the ideas of the ‘then child’ were enchanting and compelling and made me able to read the myths as if for the first time once more.”

Syndetics book coverEmily, alone / Stewart O’Nan.
Reader review: “This book was a really moving and insightful consideration of old age. Older people as real people, with feelings and attitudes, rather than just the bit-characters they usually are in a younger person’s world or story. Excellent – not sentimental.”

Syndetics book coverDouble Dexter : a novel / Jeff Lindsay.
Enjoy the Dexter television series? Here’s a review of the latest in the series of books this popular television show is based on: (This book was reviewed multiple times…)
“This definitely lived up to the example set by the author’s prior novels. […] Great plot: twisted and darkly humorous as always, Dexter Morgan at his best. The best bits would have to be the descriptions – right down to every gory detail; uncensored and honest.”

Syndetics book coverThe invasion year : an Alan Lewrie naval adventure / Dewey Lambdin.
Reader review: “Very entertaining, a good continuation of the series. Bit of a slow first half that warms up to an exciting finish. Dewey Lambdin is an excellent writer.”
And from our catalogue:
“Lambdin’s latest high-seas adventure takes Captain Alan Lewrie from the shores of Haiti to the English Channel to defend Britain from Napoleon’s planned invasion.”