Happy (almost 2012) everyone! I’m afraid to admit this, but my house is in complete chaos at the moment. I have book due (eek) Monday, so the shreds of wrapping paper are still piled on the floor and the new books I got for presents (yay books for presents!!) are stacked on the table. But as I look back on 2011, I remember some really fabulous reads. I can only hope the new year is as good!

Here are a few I liked:

Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War

I admit I don’t know nearly as much about American history as I do European, but I found this epic tale, featuring more than 200 characters with distinctive and linked stories, fascinating and absorbing. I couldn’t put it down…

Kady Cross, The Girl in the Steel Corset

Two of my favorite new things in a good fiction read–YA and steampunk! Plus a fabulous heroine and some great dialogue

Jehanne Wake, Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad

I am not sure how I missed the story of the 4 Caton sisters of Maryland (granddaughters of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence), but the story of these Regency precursor’s of the Victorian “Dollar Duchesses” who went to England and married titles is amazing. Marianne married Wellington’s brother (and was said to have been the great love if Wellington himself); Louisa became the Duchess of Leeds and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria; and Bess made her own fortune in the stock market.

Alan Bradley, A Red Hering Without Mustard

The first Flavia de Luce mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, was one of my favorite novels of last year, and this one was just as enjoyable a read. Flavia (a wickedly precocious 11-year-old) and the English village setting of Bishop’s Lacey are tons of fun!

Deborah Lutz, Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism

Who can resist a research book with “sex rebels” in the title?? The Pre-Raphaelites, Richard and Isabel Burton, the poet Swinburne and his favorite flagellation brothels….a great look at a scandalous counter-culture…

Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

I was reluctant to pick this up at first, it was so hyped, but I am so glad I did. Truly a magical and absorbing read.

Chris Adrian, The Great Night

Another magical read! It’s Midsummer Eve in 2008. and 3 humans with romantic troubles get trapped in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park with Titania, Oberon, Puck, etc for some truly crazy doings (and a group of homeless people putting on a musical version of Soylent Green…)

Priya Parmar, Exit the Actress

Another one I was reluctant to pick up at first–I love Nell Gwyn and have read sooo many novels about her. How could I need another one?? But this was unlike any other I’ve read lately, I started it early one evening and didn’t stop I finished it!

Chris Skidmore, Death and the Virgin Queen

A new account of the mysterious death of Amy Robsart Dudley in 1560, utilizing some fascinating new forensic evidence found from the original inquiry. A story I never tire of speculating about!

Cherie Burns, Searching for Beauty: The Life of Millicent Rogers

I grew up visiting Taos, New Mexico every summer, and my parents would take me to the Millicent Rogers Museum many times. But I never knew much about the woman who once owned that house and the fabulous art and jewelry collections it houses (except for the fact that she wore fabulous clothes in the photos on the wall!). It turns out the Standard Oil heiress (who died in the 1950s at age 51) had an incredibly adventurous and glamorous life that reads like an novel…

I haven’t been to the movies much this year, but I did see some I enjoyed very much: Like Crazy, The Descendants, Melancholia, The Mill and the Cross, and the gorgeous Midnight in Paris were a few.

How was your reading year in 2011??? Did you get any fabulous new books for Christmas presents?