Books Read in 2011

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

Once again: I can read quite quickly and I tend to read a lot. Since 2004 I’ve made an effort to track my reading, for a sense of scale of the whole enterprise. This list covers only the books I’ve read, and it will be in reverse chronological order. Let’s go!

Click on the table headers to sort!




January 6

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel


January 16

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin


January 19

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
It's weird that the first two books to arrive from the VPL in 2011 have "happiness" in the title. But unlike the first book, I can definitely say this one was really good! Tony Hsieh is an irreverant, straightforward writer, and it's clear Zappos' unusual corporate culture has really been a directed evolution honed by the sharp instincts of its leadership. Brilliant segments on how to deliver excellent customer service and pursue a passion too. If I had a signature rating like "two thumbs up," this would be where I would use it. Six "hell yeahs"? Four butter chickens? Three mango bubble teas?


January 24

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta


January 29

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
Another classic sprawling Irish Binchy book. Like all her others, it's compulsively readable. However, all the callbacks to earlier books got a bit confusing over time: I haven't read enough of her back catalog, so it felt like there were a lot of plot holes and in-jokes that I didn't quite get.


February 3

Devilish by Maureen Johnson


February 5

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Gripping, like all LHA's books tend to be. The characters are just so vivid and real.


February 7

Making stage costumes: a practical guide by Tina Bicat
Sturdy, practical guide for the novice charged with costume design!


February 9

Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol
Pretty good! My favourite part was all the good sewing tips: only about 30% of the projects were really my style.


February 13

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
Practical and insightful writing advice that really applies far beyond the genres of science fiction and fantasy.


February 17

Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin


February 19

Healthy Mum, Happy Baby by Annemarie Templeman-Kluit


February 19

Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and the Families Who Love Them by Emma Waverman and Eschun Mott
Liked this! The recipes look both tasty and easy.


February 19

Babycakes by Erin McKenna
Vegan baking! My friend made some of these recipes and they were quite good: the recipes do seem pretty great.


February 20

Dr Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Dr Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman


February 20

Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer
Some good practical advice in there in the back half of the book.


February 20

The Baby Book by Dr William Sears and Dr Martha Sears


February 21

Diaper Free before 3 by Jill M. Lekovic, M.D.
You're probably sensing a theme, no? This one was more interesting than the other Diaper Free book owing to its review of Western medical history and straightforward writing style. Did you know that pre-1960s, most babies were toilet trained by 18 months? I sure didn't. However, this one was super oriented to using a potty rather than other strategies, which felt a bit narrowly focused. Interesting read nonetheless.


February 27

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty


March 1

The Costume Technician’s Handbook: A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Technicians by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey
Wow: a fantastic, comprehensive garment construction manual. Includes a quick course on flat patterning! I should probably buy this.


March 4

Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton


March 8

Infant Potty Training by Laurie Boucke
Thought this was going to be flaky, but it was actually really practical. Lots of interesting case studies and anthropological research!


March 13

Switched by Amanda Hocking


March 19

Fashion Inside Out by Daniel Vosovic
I was expecting this to be mostly a glossy picture book, but it's a hugely practical and insightful look into the world of fashion design, covering how to go from inspiration to fully fleshed out line, punctuated by interviews with all the people you might need to work with along the way. And of course Tim Gunn does the intro and a fantastic piece in the middle. Nice work, Daniel V!


March 21

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten
This was really good: it starts out as a somewhat zany road trip, but then shit gets real pretty quickly, in a pretty awesome way.


March 26

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Just lovely. Olive is a fascinating, harsh but tender character, and the book does a magical job of weaving her story among the tales of her fellow townspeople.


March 27

An Off Year by Claire Zulkey


April 3

The Birth House by Ami McKay
A good read.


April 4

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
God, this book was stunning. That should come as no surprise, considering how many bestseller lists and awards this book is on, but truly all those sales and awards are really well deserved. Who knew childhood could be this bleak and beautiful all at once?


April 7

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Ahahahahaha. A fun read. Reminded me of Woody Allen or Steve Martin's comic essays, albeit more grounded in reality and with a decidedly female bent. The lady-focused essays were my favourites, though it was nice reading about Don Fey and the history of 30 Rock too.


April 8

C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark by Ryan Knighton
This was just lovely. Ryan Knighton's writing is funny, sharply focused, and moving without being overly sentimental. It's also an added thrill that it's set in Vancouver---it's fun knowing all the locations. PS: if you are reading this book, and you are seven months pregnant and prone to emotional extremes, have a box of tissues handy. I'm just saying.


April 10

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks


April 13

White Cat by Holly Black
Good! An old fashioned moody YA with a nice sci-fi/fantasy twist. I'd read more about what those wacky curse workers get up to in the future.


April 15

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do by Clotaire Rapaille
The title is a bit of a misnomer, as the entire book is really about why Americans do things the way they do, with the occasional example of how other cultures see Americans. An interesting read for its basic idea though: that the way our cultures talk about certain concepts provides a decent shorthand for understanding how they will react in many situations.


April 17

Makeshift Metropolis by WItold Rybczynski
Ideas about modern cities! I learned a lot and loved the writing, of course: I'm a Witold superfan.


April 18

How to Have Your Second Child First by Kerry Colburn and Rob Sorensen
I really liked this. Super levelheaded, sane and with a sense of humour.


April 20

Slackjaw by Jim Knipfel


May 2

Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton
This is Ryan Knighton's memoir of his youth and (literal) blindness: I picked this up after reading his parenting memoir, C'mon Papa. Cockeyed is a really good read, as Knighton has such a clear, direct voice and a view of the world that is moving without being overly sentimental (yep, I wrote that in the C'mon Papa review, but it bears repeating). In short: A++, would read again!


May 6

Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper’s Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity by Steve Dublanica


May 8

The Survival Guide for Rookie Moms by Erica Wells and Lorraine Regel
A nicely organized book with lots of practical, specific advice for both baby and mom. I also very much liked that it was written from a Canadian perspective, with metric measurements and all!


May 22

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal


May 29

The Costume Designer’s Handbook by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey
A comprehensive guide on how to interpret and enhance stage plays through costume design, plus a ton of useful info on design inspiration resources and where to get actual costumes and material. A wee bit out of date now (lots of handwritten charts and suggestions to get librarians to help you search databases --- hello, Excel and Google Image Search!) but on the whole the basics are superb and continue to be sound.


June 8

Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting by Sarah Deveau


June 8

The Stay At Home Survival Guide by Melissa Stanton
This was really quite good! Melissa Stanton takes a thoughtful look at what it means to be a stay at home parent and offers effective and useful advice on how to manage the transition. It really seemed like Melissa was a smart, career-driven woman who has been thinking long and hard about moving to full time stay-at-home motherhood, and the book is a real credit to her intelligence.


August 28

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
Fifth and last book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Sort of a "meh" book, but certainly not a bad read if you have nothing else compelling around.


September 2

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Wow, this was fantastic. A clear-eyed, engrossing discussion of memory and its meaning in the modern and ancient world. And Josh Foer actually competed well in the world memory championships!


September 17

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro


October 1

Last Harvest by Witold Rybczynski
All about the development side of real estate! A fascinating read, actually: you see how complex the permitting stage is and the negotiations with the municipal authority, which I'd never really considered. Makes me wonder how much the development process contributes to high housing prices in the Vancouver region. Also, it makes me want to talk to a Vancouver developer to see what that's all about here.


October 18

The Best of Family Portrait Photography by Bill Hurter
This book has a lot of advice and samples of studio setting photography, but oddly it didn't seem to illustrate the more technical aspects of family photography well. For example, there were long paragraphs describing complicated things like lighting, but then there would be no accompanying diagram to show where the specific lights should be placed. Or at one point the author references a very good Photoshop brush tool to fix a certain portrait problem, but there's no before and after shots to help us judge for ourselves what the tool might do. Which would have been extremely helpful! Also, this book is very similar to another Hurter book, the Children's Portrait Photography Handbook.


October 20

Children’s Portrait Photography Handbook, 2nd Edition by Bill Hurter
After reading Bill Hurter's Best of Family Portraits book, this one seemed like basically a rehash, albeit with a few extra points on posing kids.


October 21

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
GAH. On one hand, Michael Lewis is such a magical writer: you want to gobble up his words as quick as you can. And on the other hand, the story is just so sick! Good Lord.


November 1

Built by Wendy Coats and Jackets: The Sew U Guide to Making Outerwear Easy by Wendy Mullin


November 2

Bend the Rules with Fabric by Amy Karol
This was good! A totally handy intro to the idea of customizing your fabric for craft projects and clothes. The unfortunate thing is that I probably can't do some of the more ambitious projects because it seems to require a backyard, or some other well ventilated space that isn't readily available in an apartment.


November 2

Digital Portrait Photography: Art, Business, & Style by Steve Sint
Out of several portrait photography books I read, but this one was by far the best. Steve is exuberant but exhaustive on the topic of digital portrait photography in a studio setting, and explains every piece of technical equipment with clear illustrations and insightful advice. Or in other words: "A+++ WOULD READ AGAIN!"


November 3

No Time to Sew: Fast & Fabulous Patterns & Techniques for Sewing A Figure-flattering Wardrobe by Sandra Betzina


November 3

Simple Sewing with A French Twist by Celine Dupuy
An abundance of beautifully illustrated, chic yet simple projects. However, I must say that the success of many of the projects is really based on excellent fabric choice. Which might be a problem if you're in a limited selection area, as the project might get kind of expensive to source the right stuff. At that point, buy a lamp instead of finding beautiful French jacquard!


November 13

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
A super funny book from excellent lady Mindy Kaling.


November 20

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
A portrait of a fascinating man, meticulously researched and multifaceted. I don't envy Isaacson's task, stringing together so much source material and still trying to maintain perspective. Also, I hope this doesn't usher in an era of business leadership where everyone tries to emulate Jobs's obsession with perfection and his tendency to shred people to ribbons if he didn't like them. Call me a softie, but I do think he could have been nicer sometimes!


December 1

The Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally
A funny, vivid, and incredibly useful book on lighting pictures with small flashes. It's structured as a series of stories, which doesn't necessarily sound like a good manual, but it totally is: there's such a wealth of information you glean from each case study about the broad range of situations and solutions you can come up with. Plus Joe is a hilarious raconteur. Now to get an external flash, a dome diffuser, warming and cooling gels, an umbrella, softbox, etc....


December 4

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
I'm late to the Klosterman party, but no matter! He's a crisp, clear writer, and all of these essays illuminated pop culture subjects in a way I hadn't thought of before. Also, he's not just an essayist---he's got a solid background in journalism, which infuses the work with a lot of considered research and common sense. Oh, and one more also: the sleeping machine! What is it like?


December 5

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
Loved it, especially the essay on ABBA and the one on Rivers Cuomo/Herzog/Nader/literalism/irony.