Saturday 24 December 2011

Best of 2011: Part The Third.

Welcome back to my Best Of 2011 posts, where I am highlighting my favourite book from each month of the year.  


The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree is the story of two Western women in India at different times.  American Evie has moved to India in 1947 with her scholar husband Martin, and whilst she is there she finds a cache of letters written by two Victorian women, Felicity and Adela.  This is a very evocative book and both stories are delightful.  You'll definitely want to visit India after reading this one.  Recommended for armchair travellers and fans of historical fiction.


Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

This is hands-down the best history book I've read all year, the one that has the best balance between being readable and satisfying history buffs.  It's full of great little facts and manages to place Cleopatra's life in the context of the time in which she lived, rather than mythologising her.  A good introduction to reading non-fiction if you're not a regular reader.


The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway

This is simply a beautiful book about normal people and normal life during the worst siege of modern times.  When death becomes a random act and the person next to you is gunned down by a sniper whilst you survive, how can you continue to live as normal?  Quite a philosophical book, it still has a story that is devastating in places.


Purge by Sofi Oksanen

There's not much I can say about this book apart from: it's amazing and go and buy a copy right now.  It's a harrowing story about the abuse of two Estonian women during the late twentieth century, but it also has lots of elements of a psychological thriller and one of the creepiest characters I've read about in a long time.  Go and read it!

I hope you've enjoyed this run-down of my favourite books of the year, I've certainly enjoyed reading the lists on other people's blogs.  I'll be celebrating Christmas with my family over the next few days, so see you all on the 27th...Merry Christmas!


  1. I loved The Sandalwood Tree too! Such evocative writing -- made me feel as though I have been to India. I was so sad to learn that the author passed away this year.

  2. I've been meaning to read The Cellist of Sarajevo for quite some time. Hopefully I'll accomplish that in 2012. Also, Cleopatra has been calling my name. I like these brief, but important, posts of the best of the best for you.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Well, it's undeniable: you've read a lot of beautiful books this year, Sam!
    Best wishes for a joyful Christmas time and a great 2012 full of gripping, wonderful reads! MG

  4. I also have cited The Sandalwood Tree as one of the many I enjoyed this year.

    Happy Christmas, and I have enjoyed your blog and the books you read are ones I would never give a second glance to but now I do!

    Look forward to 2012 and all it brings.

  5. I read The Cellist of Sarajevo a few years back and still have images of it in my mind- the courtyard, the street crossings, so powerful.

    I wonder if I can squeeze this Purge book into my 2012 Around the World reading challenge. I keep hearing about it, but your review is the first that made me really want to read it. It kind of sounds like one of those books that I may enjoy, despite it being a genre outside of what I usually read. (Plus I dont think I've ever read a book set in Estonia!)

    I hope you've had a Merry Christmas by the time you've read this comment. I've enjoyed following your blog in 2011, and I'm looking forward to another year of reading and blogging!

  6. TheBookGirl, I was sad about that too, I found out after reading her book. I hope to read the other book she wrote in 2012.

    Bellezza, Merry Christmas to you as well. Hope you get the chance to read many great books in 2012 :)

    Maria, enjoy Christmas!

    Jo, I have enjoyed reading your blog as well this year. I've been introduced to some books outside my comfort zone because of it, which is always a good thing.

    Jenny, the street crossings were the bits that got me. I do hope you get to read Purge - it's definitely the only book I know set in Estonia! Merry Christmas to you and yours as well :)

  7. I have 3 of these 4 selections on my WishList...thanks for the reminder to move them a little closer to the top :) Merry Christmas to you and enjoy your family time :):)

  8. I have not read any of these! Now I am filled with book envy ;) Looking forward to the next installment...

  9. I still need to pick up The Sandalwood Tree. Merry Christmas, Sam! Hope it's been a happy one. :)

  10. I've really enjoyed following your favorites list, and I got lots of great recommendations! Thank youuuu! I hope it was a wonderfully merry Christmas for ya!