Great Reads

Just a Thought.. Best Debut Novels of 2011

2011 has seen a lot of wonderful novels, many of them by well-established authors. But there have also been quite a few break-through successes for brand-new authors. Many of the most popular and well-reviewed books of the year have been debut novels from first-time authors or authors who had only published short stories or memoirs previous to their novelistic success. Here’s hoping the years to come bring more great novels from these rising stars!


Benaron, Naomi.  Running the Rift

Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding

Morgenstern, Erin.  The Night Circus

Obreht, Tea. The Tiger’s Wife

Russell, Karen. Swamplandia!

Torres, Justin.  We The Animals

Waldman, Amy. The Submission

Just a Thought... Authors Who Died in 2011

Well, it’s 2012, amazing as that may seem, and most people are looking ahead to the new year, making their resolutions…and resolving not to break them this time. But before we move forward, let’s take a moment to look back over the last year and remember some of the great novelists and writers who passed away. Though they themselves are gone, here’s to hoping their great works of fiction and nonfiction survive for many years to come!


Brian Jacques, 2/5/11

Diana Wynne Jones, 3/26/11

Joanna Russ, 4/29/11

William Sleator, 8/3/11

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, 8/26/11

Anne McCaffrey, 11/22/11

Christopher Hitchens, 12/16/11

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Just a Thought...Classics Meet Graphics

The phrase “comic book” still conjure visions of Batman and Archie for many people. But comic books have grown up and spawned a whole new generation for readers to enjoy. Normally known as “graphic novels” to distinguish them from the comic books of our youth, they are not a static genre but a format which, like regular “word only” books, comprises a wide variety of genres and content.  A good starting place for someone interested in giving these grown-up comics a try would be one of the many graphic novel adaptations of classic literature.  The visual illustrated content provides these familiar stories with an extra level of depth and interest that many find very engaging! Frequently, these classics are shelved under the name of the artist or writer who produced the adaptation, so for your reference, the original author will be included in parentheses in our list.


Appignanesi, Richard.   Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare)

Butler, Nancy.   Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)

Chwast, Seymour.   Dante’s Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri)

Edginton, Ian.  The Sign of the Four (Arthur Conan Doyle)

Hamilton, Tim.  Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

Hinds, Gareth.  The Odyssey (Homer)

Kuper, Peter.  The Jungle (Upston Sinclair)

Mairowitz, David.  The Trial (Franz Kafka)

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Kaling, Mindy. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).

So you've read Tina Fey's what? Feed your appetite for another humorous read with Mindy Kaling's honest memoir. The Emmy-nominated writer and actress on The Office tackles everything from growing up chubby to her unabashed love of chest hair. The randomness of  the amusing topics covered is anchored by the important eras in her life as well as her friends, family and evolution of her career.

Kaling doesn't hold back on exploring her faults, her ego (which she is always trying to keep under control) and the million other things that make her human. Her smart and witty prose will make you laugh-out-loud more than a few times.

Benjamin, Melanie. Alice I Have Been.

You may have heard that Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland was based on a real life Alice who, while taking a boat ride on a lazy summer day, asked Carroll to tell her a story which then became the iconic children's tale. The daughter of the Dean of Oxford University, Alice lived both a charmed and restrained life next door to Dodgson, a.k.a Carroll, who was a mathematics professor at the university and a close family friend of the Liddells. Melanie Benjamin removes the idyllic lens that covers this myth and reveals the more complicated nature of the relationship between Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson, one which was speculated to be darker than it appeared.

The book follows Alice from childhood to old age as she struggles against the confines of Victorian culture and her family, naively navigating her strange relationship with Dodgson and the impact it has on the rest of her life; the strained connection she has with her competitive older sister and mother, as well as the opportunities and misfortunes she experiences in the realms of love and family.

If you are looking for a charming tale, you will not find it here. Rather, Benjamin paints a picture of a girl who became entwined in something far more damaging than she imagined; a memory that would come to haunt her for the rest of her life. For historical fiction fans, this is a gem. Benjamin is a wonderful storyteller who balances fact with human feeling very well. Prepare to have your perspective of this children's classic changed forever. Make sure to pick up Benjamin's latest novel, Mrs. Tom Thumb.