Back in August I discussed the best non-fiction books and best fiction books I’d read so far in 2011. In total, I ended up reading about 87 books in 2011. Here's my reading summary for the second half of the year.
Best Fiction (since August)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
What a charming book! It's hard to believe that Simonson's tribute to love, politeness, and the importance of a nice cup of tea is a debut novel (and knowing the publishing world, it might not be). But Simonson's gently-humorous account of the forbidden love between a retired English major and an English-Pakistani shopkeeper is a winner. The story stumbles in the final two chapters (perhaps this was a debut novel after all), but for the most part, this is a lovely, well-written comedy with heart. Think "Bend it like Beckham" with books instead of football.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
This is one of my "I really should have read this, shouldn't I" reads. And yes, I should have. Russell's tale of a Jesuit missionary expedition to an alien planet is gripping and poignant. I found the first half more compelling than the second, and was left a bit cold by the ending, but there's no doubting Russell's talent.
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
A gorgeously-written character study of two misfits who find each other, but who struggle to act on their feelings. There's a lot of soulless "literary" writing out there, where well-crafted sentences substitute for originality and a strong narrative. Giaordano's novel is the real deal. His imagery surprises, but his observations also strike home. I can't say I *liked* these characters, or what happens to them, but I believed in them and found their journey a poignant one.