Buy Irresponsibly – My Best Reads of 2011

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Top That! (Michael Summer CC By-Nc-Nd)

Welcome to my buying guide for 2011, also known as my annual best read of 2011 list. I like calling these buying guides because that’s what most of the Best Books of 2011 lists really are. They come out now so that a business (Amazon, B&N, etc.) can talk customers into buying stuff for Christmas. This is one of the few times of the year where I’m going to get specifically promotional about books. I think you should read these books.

These are not books published in 2011. They are books I read since Thanksgiving last year. In fact, one of them won’t be out until January. In no particular order…

Fiction

Slow River by Nicola Griffith
Immensely readable science fiction starring a woman kidnapped from her ultra-rich family. She escapes but chooses not to return to them and instead lives outside the law herself, though she eventually tries to go straight. She works in a water treatment plant supplied by the corporation owned by her family, and her superior education and knowledge of the company’s products combined with her arrogance make it hard for her to pass. Class differences are the most prominent part of the book, but Ms. Griffith doesn’t shy away from commentary on gender or sexuality either. (Amazon , review)
The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter van Tilburg Clark
This isn’t what I thought a Western would be. Sure there’s a posse and riding horseback across a dry western landscape. But the meat of this book is a morality tale and a psychological drama that plays out in the head of the narrator who at first appears to be merely an observer. (Amazon, review)
The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction
Gods meddle in the affairs of men. Women and men fall in love. Several murders. These are the kinds of stories told in lurid prose that the folks at Blaft have put together. (Amazon, review)
Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge
In the future, governments and companies try to use virtual reality to imprison criminals. Why pay to lock someone up when you can plug them in and they are locked inside their head for all they know. And what are the consequences of that? The protagonist goes from running the project to do this to convicted terrorist and crash test dummy for the technology. (Small Beer Press, review)
Defending Jacob by William Landay
I haven’t even published my review and the book won’t be out until January, but there’s no way I can leave this book off the list. It will inevitably be compared with Presumed Innocent partially because some of the elements of the book resemble it, but also because the publicity material sent out by the publisher makes the comparison. Mr. Landay mixes up the staid gentility of a courtroom drama with a bit of Boston’s rough and tumble crime scene. A father must come to terms with the legacy of his murderous father when he defends his son against charges of killing a classmate. It’s rare that I read an ending done so well. Pre-order this book. (Amazon )

Non-Fiction

Devices & Desires by Andrea Tone
Did you know that for years Lysol was the best selling contraceptive in the United States? (Actually, I did because I have lots of friends who tell me that sort of thing.) You’ll find out about the sordid history of Lysol in Devices & Desires as well as how condoms came to acceptable use during World War I, the medicalization of contraception and how it was a good thing at first, and much much more. (Amazon , review)
A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A classic of feminism argued that the quality of women’s writing would be improved by women being financially independent of men. (Amazon, review)

Normally I include a bonus worst book of the year for those of you who want to inflict pain on your extended family. Fortunately, I haven’t read anything really that bad this year, so I cannot make any recommendations in this regard. Huzzah for me!

Now, go forth and buy readable things. Or check them out of the library. Or take a book away from your little brother and ignore his crying because dammit, reading is fun!

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