I love to read. If you’re reading this post then you probably do as well, so I’ll skip my section where I talk about how wonderful reading is and get straight to the post. Here is a list of the best books I read this year. Not all of these books were new in 2011, but this just happened to be the year I read them.

Character Development from the Inside Out – I read several books about writing this year. One of my favorites was Character Development from the Inside Out by Scott Morgan. The book is a quick read, but provides a lot of ideas and reminders about how to develop characters in a story. Scott also delves into some of the differences that exist between character development in different literary types. I found that to be a helpful discussion to keep me focused on what works for the story that I’m currently working on.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers – This book by Renni Brown and Dave King is a treasure trove of information. One of the things I like about it is that it uses a lot of examples and then critiques them. I find this more useful than simply reading paragraphs of theory or grammar. And this isn’t one of those books you read and then put away. I read different sections of it from time to time to help me put the ideas into practice. And if you read my stories you can probably agree that I need to keep reading this book.

Poke the Box – This year’s best business book for me was Seth Godin’s Poke the Box. The book is a short manifesto about the importance of trying new things. It reminds us that failure is required if we want to push the boundaries. I’ll probably read it again in 2012 to remind me to keep experimenting. My favorite quote from the book also helps to explain the title – “Life is a buzzer box. Poke it.” My second favorite quote is a good summary of the book – “The person who fails the most usually wins.”

The Girl Who Played With Fire – This is the second book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I have not yet read the third book because I needed a little break from the series. The violence and sensitive subject matter can be a lot to take in at one time. Both of the first two books are good, but I enjoyed the second book more. I like the fact that it brings attention to the horrible issue of human trafficking, but it is also very entertaining reading. The main character, Lisbeth Salander, is quirky and strange and a lot of fun to follow – especially with the wealth she acquired during the first book. I must warn you, though, that I almost didn’t even finish the first book. It starts off slow and didn’t give me any reason to want to keep reading. The only reason I stuck with it was to see why everyone was raving about it. Given the fact that I immediately bought the second book after finishing the first, it’s safe to say the book got much better in the second half.

Up and Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solution – This may be the driest book on my list. It is not riveting prose, but it does a good job of calling out the complexities of addressing world poverty. The book suggests that the various tools in place today – aid, feeding programs, micro-lending, trade policies, etc. – should be used in a coordinated effort, much like a marketing campaign.


Disclaimer: The links to the books are unashamedly affiliate links. 🙂

15 thoughts on “My Best Reads of 2011”
  1. My hats off to you Chuck. It’s obvious your pushing yourself, I like that. I got a few books on writing this year and have read certain sections. I read one a few years back that was about 600 pages… Whew! Of course that was after I finished my first manuscript… Yeah, I have issues with getting the cart ahead of the horse so to speak. That first book sounds the most interesting to me. I’ll check it out. Thanks.

    1. I think you’ll like the Character Development book. It’s hard to know with writing books as there are so many. I usually just hope to pick up one or two things that I can remember to put into practice. BTW, the most enjoyable book on writing that I ever read was call How Not to Write. It was fun because the author picks on bad writing as a way to learn good writing.

      Do you have any plans to do anything with your manuscript?

  2. Your warnings about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo echo why I put it down. Reading about your entertainment with the series as it progresses, I’m glad I kept my copies. I’ll have to give them another shot next year.

    1. Yeah, I will usually abandon a book if it doesn’t pull me in, but this book had so much buzz before I started it that I stuck it out. I feel pretty sure that if Larson had been alive, someone would have edited and modified that beginning to the first novel before it got published.

    2. I think the third book is a little easier to take from a subject matter point of view, but I know what you mean about needing a break from it. I felt the same after Without Warning (John Birmingham) but for different reasons.

  3. Character Development from the Inside Out & Self Editing for Fiction Writers both sounds good. I will add them to my list.

    And I haven’t even tried the dragon book yet, no matter how many people are raving about it.

    1. Hi Sonia. I think you’ll enjoy both of them. Do you think you’ll ever read the dragon books? Or is there something you don’t like about them?

  4. Hey, Chuck, thanks for commenting on my blog! Adding the character dev book to my wish list too. The Larsson — no. Got 111 books on my Kindle, of which the majority are TBR 😉

    1. I’m the same way. I have my kindle app loaded with books that I’m planning to read in the near future. 🙂 (I also sent a sample of you “Poor Rocco…” story to my kindle.)

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