The Best of Books 2011

Our favorite reads from the year's best slideshows.

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‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ by Mindy Kaling

On The Office, Mindy Kaling plays a ditzy customer service representative who is often lost in the show’s large ensemble. But Kaling is also a veteran writer for the show, crafting some of its best episodes (“Ben Franklin,” “Michael’s Last Dundees”). Now Kaling is striking out on her own with Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, a collection of her musings on friendship, one-night stands and corrupt cupcake shops. Order at amazon.com.

 

For 20 more memoirs that will make you LOL, click here.

'Salvage the Bones' by Jesmyn Ward

Irresistable Esch, who's 14 and pregnant, narrates this story, about a family of motherless children in rural Mississippi who must pull together in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina.

 

For more of 2011's hottest fall novels, click here.

'What the F*@# Should I Make For Dinner?' by Zach Golden

Stop stressing about your next meal and pick up this in-your-face recipe collection, which includes 50 recipes for indecisive meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.

 

For a roundup of books that will help you simplify your closet, your kitchen, your finances and more, click here.

Shakespeare

To download or not to download, that is the question. Forty-one plays, 154 sonnets, six poems, character quotes, a glossary and even supposed portraits of the Bard himself are all available on this free app. Our recommendation: download.

 

Revamp your reading list, network with fellow bookworms and celebrate your lust for language with these amazing apps.

Courtesy of iTunes

'Rightsizing Your Life' by Ciji Ware

Whether you're downsizing to a smaller home or cleaning out the garage, this book (with an introduction by Gail Sheehy) will help you pare down a lifetime of stuff.

 

Click here for a roundup of memoirs, manifestos and more that will inspire you to get organized and give up your unnecessary stuff.

Reading in Bed

The clever, cozy Bedtime Stories Duvet, printed with the story of Sleeping Beauty, adds a layer of warmth when you turn the page. Added bonus: extra large print!

 

Tiago da Fonseca, $106.89; etsy.com

 

Click here for a slideshow of more reading-inspired accessories—perfect gifts for book lovers!

'Darkly Dreaming Dexter' by Jeff Lindsay

"There is somethign strange and disarming about looking at a homicide scene in the bright daylight of the Miami sun," says Dexter Morgan, the narrator of Lindsay's brilliant, darkly funny collection of thrillers (amazon.com)  about a serial killer who hunts other serial killers. "It makes the most grotesque killings look antiseptic, staged. Like you're in a new and daring section of Disney World."

 

Click here for a roundup of sarcasm, social satire, dark comedy and other books that make you go hmmm.

'As Always, Julia' by Joan Reardon

Julia Child and her bestie, Avis DeVoto, bonded over cooking, of course: its gadgets, recipes, methods and more. This wonderfully intimate collection (amazon.com) of more than 200 letters sheds light on their lifelong friendship as well as the turbulent creation of Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

 

Click here for a slideshow of memoirs and biographies about the enduring bonds of friendship.

'A Confederacy of Dunces' by John Kennedy Toole

Toole's hilarious novel follows the adventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, an obese slob living in New Orleans. The book, submitted by the author's mother years after his suicide, was rejected by a string of publishers before it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. (amazon.com)

 

Whether they wrote one book or 12, the famous authors in this slideshow are known for just one hit.

'In Spite of Everything' by Susan Gregory Thomas

"For most of my generation—Generation X—there is only one question: 'When did your parents get divorced?' Our lives have been framed by the answer. Ask us. We remember everything," writes Gregory Thomas in her powerful, moving memoir about what happened when she and her husband of 16 years split (something she swore to herself, and her daughters, that she'd never do). (amazon.com)

 

Click here for 20 celebratory memoirs about transformation.

'Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty & Style' by Kim Barnouin

Barnouin has built a best-selling books empire on the b-word. In her latest addition to the Skinny Bitch series, she turns to the home, with tips for readers on how to create a sustainable wardrobe, how to read labels that claim to be "All Natural" and "Nontoxic," and more. (amazon.com)

 

For a slideshow of books that celebrate the "B" word, click here.

@TwitrLit

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. But how about by a first line? This feed posts a new first sentence at least once a day, with links to buy the book on amazon.

 

Sample tweet: "Women on their own run in Alice's family."

 

'Scanwiches' by Jon Chonko

The epitome of food porn, this irresistable homage to the mighty sandwich features full frontal photos of your between the bread favorites, both exotic and ubiquitous. Who knew the image of hamburger or a BLT could be so hypnotizing? (amazon.com)

 

Click here for a roundup of our favorite new cookbooks.

'Queen of Fashion' by Caroline Weber

When she took the throne, Marie Antoinette shaped not only the future of France, but also the future of fashion, experimenting with bold styles such as ballroom disguises, hunting gear and unstructured chemise dresses. She popularized the "pouf" long before Snooki did and dismissed the doudy sartorial choices favored by the court. Weber has written a richly detailed history of fashion and politics as well as a revealing character study of the infamous queen.

 

For a slideshow of more chic nonfiction reads, click here.

'Open' by Andre Agassi

"I hate tennis, hate it with all my heart, and still I keep playing, keep hitting all morning, and all afternoon, because I have no choice," the Grand Slam champ writes about his love-hate relationship with the game that made him a star. The most shocking revelation here: Agassi used crystal meth in 1997 and failed a drug test.

 

For more salacious celebrity tell-alls, click here.

'Then Came You' by Jennifer Weiner

Four women touched by the bonds of surrogacy are the stars of Weiner’s latest lady-centric novel. An unconventional, engaging love story emerges between these women and their new infant additions.

 

Planning a winter getaway? Click here for a slideshow of beach reads you'll love.

Courtesy of Amazon

'The Most Beautiful Walk in the World' by John Baxter

In this sparkling memoir, author and professional literary walking tour guide (think the beloved cafes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald; the favorite gardens of Gertrude Stein) recalls his pedestrian excursians in Paris.

 

Want to live like the French? Get inspired with this slideshow of 20 enticing tomes for Francophiles.

'Unlikely Friendships' by Jennifer Holland

If you love those precious photos circling the Internet of bunnies cuddling with cats or birds perched on dogs, then this book, a roundup of surprising animal BFFs, is for you. We promise, the fantastic photos and true tales from the wild will make your heart flutter. (amazon.com)

 

For more adorable animal books, click here.

'I, Claudius' by Robert Graves

Graves's wonderful historical novel of the glory days of ancient Rome is narrated by the emperor Claudius, a stutterer who let everyone think he was an idiot in order to survive the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and mad Caligula. (amazon.com)

 

Click here for more amazing books of biographical fiction.

'The Last Lexture' by Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." For Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, his last lecture took on even more meaning: he was dying of pancreatic cancer and had only months to live. In this funny, moving book based on the lecture he gave, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," Pausch writes not about dying, but living. (amazon.com)

 

Click here for a slideshow of self-help books to get you through the new year.

First Published December 13, 2011

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