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01 March 2012

2011's best books


Late as it is (I seem to be living, like the young lady above, in a bubble), I present to you a list of the books I most enjoyed reading in 2011.  Most were first-time reads, but I always find myself revisiting a few books every year.  (All artwork in this post was made by the amazing Emilia Szewczyk).


  1. Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marías.  The three-volume masterwork of the 21st century.  Our Proust. 
  2. The She Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya.  See my post on this intriguing novel.
  3. Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez.  Who ever thought a book about a 90 year-old man with a penchant for whoring with under-aged girls could be such a tender and beautiful love story?  I hope there is yet another book left for the master to write.  Each one is a gift to the world.
  4. The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by Alvaro Mutis.  A romantic fatalist?  Maqroll is the descendant of Quixote and Don Juan, a man who chases dreams, opens his heart, and accepts life and death as traveling companions.  Funny, moving, brilliant tales of an adventurer who, after I read the stories, seemed more real and alive than most people I have ever met.
  5. King Lear by William Shakespeare.  “Nothing can come of nothing.  Speak again” (I.i.92).  I have a soft spot in my heart for Hamlet, but this may be the most complex, and honest, of Shakespeare’s plays.  The idea of loving one child more than another, notions of betrayal by the ones we love most, our silly vanities, our legacies...these all come into play.  I still think about certain lines.


  1. Moscow 1812: Napoleon’s fatal march by Adam Zamoyski.  Brutal folly, tender mercy, ruthless treachery.  A great read of a turning point in history.
  2.  How to be an Existentialist by Brian Cox.  A fun little book on my favorite philosophy.
  3. Ideas That Matter: the concepts that shape the 21st century by A. C. Grayling.  An opinionated, sometimes amusing, and always erudite guide to key subjects of the modern world.
  4. A Thousand Times More Fair: what Shakespeare’s plays teach us about justice by Kenji Yoshino.  The NYU law professor provides an intriguing look into the bard in light of our modern ideas of justice within and outside of legal systems.
  5. Shakespeare the Thinker by A. D. Nuttall.  The best book on Shakespeare in the last 25 years.

In a category by itself

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.  This is the greatest novel ever written, and for me, the most profound.  When the errant knight dies, I literally wept.  I will be reading it again this, and every, year.
So, grab a cup of coffee and read something.