Is it just us or did 2011 fly by? If the year was such a whirlwind of busy activity that, among other things, you didn’t have time to get to all the books on your reading list, we don’t blame you. There were so many great books released (especially debuts) that it would’ve been impossible to read them all. Read on for the five must-reads from last year that you should add to your list this year.
In case you missed them last year…
One is about family drama and another about friendship drama. There’s one about the drama of early adulthood. There’s also a mystery, and even one about Jane Austen. And they’re all written by debut authors. Not to mention, they’re some of the best books of 2011.
The Arrivals, by Meg Mitchell Moore
It’s early summer when Ginny and William’s peaceful life in Vermont comes to an abrupt halt.
First, their daughter Lillian arrives, with her two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely when Jane ends up on bed rest. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood — only this time around, their children are facing adult problems.
By summer’s end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family — and the old adage, “once a parent, always a parent,” has never rung so true.
The Art of Forgetting, by Camille Noe Pagan
A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?
Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha — beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.
And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory — dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago — Marissa’s own equilibrium is shaken.
With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.
Girls in White Dresses, by Jennifer Close
Wickedly hilarious and utterly recognizable, Girls in White Dresses tells the story of three women grappling with heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love — all while suffering through an endless round of weddings and bridal showers.
Isabella, Mary and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday — at bridal shower after bridal shower — they collect ribbons and wrapping paper, coo over toasters and eat minuscule sandwiches and doll-sized cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink Champagne by the case, but amid the celebration, these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, dizzy with the mixed signals of a boss who claims she’s on a diet but has Isabella file all morning if she forgets to bring her a chocolate muffin. Mary thinks she might cry with happiness when she finally meets a nice guy who loves his mother, only to realize he’ll never love Mary quite as much. And Lauren, a waitress at a Midtown bar, swears up and down she won’t fall for the sleazy bartender — a promise that his dirty blond curls and perfect vodka sodas make hard to keep.
With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering, what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood.
The Violets of March, by Sarah Jio
A heartbroken woman stumbles upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.
In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: She had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ and a one way ticket to happily ever after.
10 years later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune. So when her great Aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.
My Jane Austen Summer, by Cindy Jones
Lily has squeezed herself into undersized relationships all her life, hoping one might grow as large as those found in the Jane Austen novels she loves. But lately her world is running out of places for her to fit. So when her bookish friend invites her to spend the summer at a Jane Austen literary festival in England, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself.
There, among the rich, promising world of Mansfield Park reenactments, Lily finds people whose longing to live in a novel equals her own. But real life problems have a way of following you wherever you go, and Lily’s problems accompany her to England. Unless she can change her ways, she could face the fate of so many of Miss Austen’s characters, destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.