BBL’s Books of the Year: Our Favorites

Each week in December, Books for Better Living will feature our list of top books for the year in the following categories: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, Healthy Life and Best Books of 2011. For the last week in December, we’re sharing our personal favorite books of the year–the ones that made us laugh, cry, and, yes, even take a trip to Bhutan–with you!

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

The Bird Sisters is a novel that often reads like a poem. The languid pace, evocative description and immersive storytelling transport the reader to sleepy Spring Green, Wisconsin during a 1940s summer. The relationship between the sisters, Twiss and Milly, is the heart of the story and the strength of their bond is incredibly touching. This bittersweet book is perfect for book clubs and a great story to share.—Catherine Cullen

 The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

The breakout literary darling of 2011 deserves all the praise it’s received, and all the praise it’s bound to receive. Telling stories within stories, Obreht creates a narrative of community, memory, mythology, and the Balkans.—Pam Cortland

I am always dubious of books that get a lot of early hype but this one completely delivers. A powerful exploration of love, violence, and the power of history, I couldn’t stop turning the pages during a 15 hour flight—even for Horrible Bosses.—Julia Pastore

 Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

I love food memoirs and this is one of the best that I’ve read in a long while. A real page-turner and if you don’t want to go to Prune after reading this—or take off for an extended trip to a moldering villa in Italy—then you need a stiff Bellini.—Julia Pastore

 The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo

Roland Merullo expertly follows the life of Marjorie, a young girl born into rural poverty and abuse, and tells us her story of overcoming the odds, gaining self-confidence and breaking free of a vicious cycle. It’s inspiring, uplifting and will open your eyes to the hidden world around you. Make sure to grab a box of tissues; after reading this book, I dare anyone not to have a good cry.—Katie Conneally

 The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Fussy, old Edith Wharton, am I right? WRONG. If you’ve ever considered buying an overpriced party dress, credit card balance be damned, for the sake of keeping up with a milieu you have no business being a part of, this novel will set you straight. Its subtitle could be “How Not to Make It In America.”—Pam Cortland

 Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

Not only is this book a great read but inspired my recent trip to Bhutan where I found my own happiness in the happiness kingdom on earth.  This proves how powerful one book can be!—Camille Collett

 There But for The by Ali Smith

Smith is a new discovery for me this year. I read her Booker Prize-winning novel Hotel World for my book club this year and having loved that so much, picked up her latest. I was not disappointed. Her wit and insight into the human condition are only getting sharper.—Julia Pastore

 The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The book the I’ve loved the most in the past five years is THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach. There are five main characters and I couldn’t decide which one I liked the most. When the book ended, I wanted to spend more time with each of them. So I read it again, and I cried the second time, not the first, from the raw emotion of human bonds Harbach puts on the page.—Mary Choteborsky


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