I ended 2010 with the insane goal of reading a book a week in 2011. What was I thinking? Much like any thing resembling a new year's resolution, I failed. But I still read some great books in 2011.
In 2011 I discovered that, much to my surprise, I really do enjoy reading books on the iPad and iPhone. I have always said that I preferred paper books. But I quickly learned that e-reading (yuk, that is such a lame term) is awesome. For starters, I can read at any angle, without having the pages fall back down on my face. Secondly, I love grabbing a few pages on the iPhone when I want to. Plus, there's the added benefit of being able to carry a bunch of books with me... and being able to flag and highlight a page or a word... awesome!
Another change in my reading habit this year was the library. You know what those are? The buildings with all the books in them. Yeah, they still exist. And they are awesome. Well, ours are! I can go online and find a book and have it pulled from the shelf for me. Then, I just go to the library and it's waiting for me to pick up. Easy peasy. And get this, it's all free! What a concept.
I can't say that I will get all of my books from the library from now on but I can't imagine buying another physical book. If I must buy, I'll just buy the iBook (nah, don't like that term either).
So, (insert drum roll) here is my favorite of 2011.
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
For the first time, my favorite book of the year is fiction. Yes, I realize it was published in early 2009 but I only heard of it this year. I didn't know what to expect from this book but was mesmerized by the story from the first page. The opening chapter is written in the voice of Aibileen, one of the three central characters of The Help. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the sixties, the world she described could not have been further from the life I knew growing up in northern California.
The story is about a young writer telling the story of what it's like to be an African American maid, from their perspective.
The characters are gripping and so real. The dialog between them is amazing. The pain, anguish and fear jump from the pages to the very core of my soul. I know that's pretty dramatic, but it was truly a powerful book.
I read the book mostly in airports and airplanes, traveling to Buffalo, Sioux Falls and Memphis. I met so many wonderful people that had read or were currently reading the book. I've never been in a book club but it felt like I was in one.
When I boarded a flight home to SFO I met an elderly couple in Salt Lake City that raved about the book. One of the men had just started the paperback and told me how much he, too, loved the opening chapter. The other man, his husband, said he read it on his Kindle more than a year before. The two gentlemen exchanged a look only married couples do and the Kindle husband said "I kept telling him he would love it. He never listens to me".
When we finally landed just after 2 AM I got off the plane and sat alone in the desolate terminal and finished the last few pages. I sat there and cried my eyes out, stood up, wiped the tears from my face and headed out to catch the bus to my car.
The Help made me laugh and cry. But mostly, it made me think about other groups of people that our society treats poorly. It made me hopeful that someday, we would all look back and realize we were all as foolish as Miss Hilly Holbrook.
I did, of course, read mostly non-fiction this year. One of my favorites was The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. I didn't really like his previous book, Crush It, but thought I'd take a chance on this one. It did not disappoint. More than being a book about how smart companies use social media, I read it as a view into what customer service will look like in the future, what it's starting to look like now.
A few of the books I am looking forward to finishing soon:
What was your favorite book in 2011?