Here are the books I bought/read in 2011, in no particular order:
susan hill: all the inspector simon serailler series. the first I read was the pure in heart, and it was so good that I immediately read all of them, ending with the most recent, the betrayal of trust. sometimes her town, lafferton, seems a little too crowded with people to care about, but mostly that means she's a good novelist and not just a genre-ist. recommended.
best american poetry 2011: I will be using this to teach with in the spring. some fantastic stuff in there, including a poem by sherman alexie and three sonnets by olena kalytiak davis.
walks through lost paris: a journey into the heart of historic paris (leonard pitts): so interesting. I was maybe hoping a little for a sense of the medieval paris, but this focuses on the transformations of the haussmann era, which were vast. lots of amazing pictures.
understanding style (glaser). I heard this was more accessible than kolln's rhetorical grammar. this remains to be seen. I will (maybe) report, once I've taken a closer look.
fearless speech, foucault: bought because I saw it featured on brian kubarycz's website. the historian read it immediately, so I have his report on it. I must, in fact, retrieve it from his desk.
the kingdom of ordinary time & what the living do (howe): I heard marie howe read at awp last year and loved her. these poems are beautiful and plainspoken.
kindertotenwald (franz wright): to read for this month's book group. I really enjoyed wright's walking to martha's vineyard, so am looking forward to this.
an uncertain place (vargas): the latest installment in fred vargas's commissaire adamsberg series of police procedurals, which are, to my mind, almost folkloric, mythic in their uptake of the genre. I am reading it right now.
at home: a short history of private life (bryson): for book group this fall. still to read.
great house (nicole krauss): I really loved this. four characters and their circles are connected by a large writing desk which is in each one's possession for a time. in retrospect, I can understand the critique that the voices of the four characters should have been more differentiated, but I loved the intricacy of the plot and found the entire story very moving.
a visit from the goon squad (jennifer egan): as dr. write says, perhaps this would have been better as a novel, with the most interesting stories more fully worked out. yet, just as she did, I loved this book anyway--there were so many parts that really seized my heart, and she's a very good writer.
wanderlust (elizabeth eaves): I recommended this book to my book group on the strength of an npr interview with its author. sigh. it was better conceptually than it was in execution. still, readable, especially if you slide over the iffy parts.
onions in the stew (macdonald): another book in the unending quest to find the one book that was in my parents' house growing up--it wasn't a children's or young adult's book, it was a novel or perhaps a memoir, I loved it, read it multiple times, but cannot remember the title or author or anything about it except that it had a yellow cloth cover and an illustrated flyleaf. alas, this is not the book I remember, although it does have a yellow cloth cover. betty macdonald was the author of the mrs. piggle-wiggle series, in case you want to know.
eeei (byrne): "envisioning emotional epistemological information," is what the "eeei" stands for. david byrne uses powerpoint as an art medium. I love that.
modern english grammar (oxford): everybody needs one.
crossing state lines: an american renga (bob dolman, carol muske-dukes): dolman and muske-dukes coordinated a massive renga project, where fifty-four poets wrote connecting stanzas of the same poem. an awesome undertaking, don't you agree?
I think I love you (pearson): for book club. loved this book--found it enormously moving by the end. featuring david cassidy as a character.
I don't know how she does it (person): after reading the above, I felt I had to read this. I read it in one fell swoop--it disturbed me and worried me and I found it quite good by the end.
the mystic arts of erasing all signs of death (huston): recommended to me by middlebrow. a little gory and a little unsettling, but ultimately this story of a guy who works for a crime clean-up crew and (of course) gets tangled up in some actual crime--pretty awesome. this charlie huston can write.
come on all you ghosts (zapruder): loved this. heard matthew zapruder read at awp, part of a panel on using history to write. his was the least literally historical, but I loved the flat yet somehow still capable-of-liftoff qualities of his voice, particularly in the title poem.
5 very good reasons to punch a dolphin in the mouth: comics and illustrations and other visual awesomeness. from the oatmeal, aka matthew inman.
that this (howe): bought this book as a consequence of hearing susan howe read at awp (sensing a theme here...). I don't know that this book is "readable," exactly, but it is beautiful--it has as a centerpiece text-collages taken from the jonathan edwards archive.
bird lovers, backyard (field): I have dipped into this. it has poems/essays using factual and scientific material, blended with poetic and fictive means.
sacred sites: the secret history of southern california (suntree): adding this epic/historic poem/essay to my collection of works about southern california. there's a lot to learn, especially about the pre/non-historic.
the book of ten (wood): this book of poems comes highly recommended. now if I can only find where I put it...
wise men's fear (kingkiller chronicles, day 2) (patrick rothfuss): I read this compulsively on my trip to scotland last March. it's the sequel to the name of the wind, which was the better book, maybe, but this had lots of pleasures. now rothfuss needs to get on that third volume, and make it snappy.
electronic monuments (electronic mediations) (ulmer): I love greg ulmer because he is an optimist. this is a fairly recent book, his meditation on the act of monumentalizing, especially in light of the debate about how best to officially commemorate the events of 9/11 in new york. he sees the memorials created by ordinary people as an alternative method of memorializing.
kiki smith: a gathering, 1980-2005: a volume to accompany a retrospective of kiki smith's work, which we saw at the walker art center in minneapolis. fantastic.
instant indesign: designing templates for fast and efficient page layout: still learning.
the bridge (remnick): a wonderfully readable book about obama's life and political rise, ending with his election. I loved reading pretty much every word of this tome.
kraken (mieville): still in the middle of this. I love mieville--this centers on a squid-worshipping cult in london, and the theft of a giant specimen from the natural history museum. fast-paced, squalid, funny...also, there is a giant mess of a plot, which I may or may not be a little lost in. just saying.
bossypants, by the inimitable tina fey, who is so dang smart it is ridiculous. I loved this book.
the troubled man & the man from beijing (henning mankell): the last of the wallender novels and a non-wallender novel. both very readable and intelligent. may I politely say, one last time, that I don't find mankell to be the most amazing writer ever? I did love the character of kurt wallender, and the settings and the crimes, but I thought the books were uneven, or rather, some books were not as good as others. however: I did read each and every one of them. so there's that. adios, wallender. I will miss reading those stories.
the financial lives of the poets (jess walter): swell. just swell. a little absurd but still: swell. in that vein,
the anthologist (nicholson baker): also just swell. I loved both of these books that are, in part, about the literary life.
I think there are probably some more...for instance, I may or may not have reread each and every one of the harry potter novels at a time of great stress. I found them comforting. but this list will do.