Our Top Picks 2011 – Staff Recommendations

Happy new year!

As is traditional in the new year, we are looking back at the old year; living in the past is what we do. This is further evinced by the presence of quite a few books, films and albums from before 2011 making it into our ‘best of 2011’ list. What can we say, even librarians can be slow readers.

Anyway, here’s some tips, comments and suggestions from various staff members on the media we’ve enjoyed in the last year.


Alex says: 

The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

I hate to say ‘like Jane Austen on x’, but essentially, Eugenides is rebrewing the Austen tradition for the modern era. A gorgeous nineteen eighties period piece, full of monstrously realistic characters that you will actually fall in love with, despite everything. I genuinely almost damaged this book.

Kraken – An Anatomy – China Mieville

While I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, this book actually felt like the story Neverwhere should have been. A riotous, esoteric, cult filled underground London chases after a missing Squid god. Will trap you in its tentacles and not let go.

Pigeon English – Stephen Kelman

I wrote about this already here. This book took me to another world, that was quite vividly the world I live in from a totally new angle. Can’t really say much better than that.

Mark says:

London Triptych – Jonathan Kemp

The interweaving of three men’s lives from three different eras makes for an emotional, realistic, well written gay themed novel. 

Dead Man’s Grip – Peter James

Every book in the Roy Grace series is a gripping winner – this latest one excels. 

Dawn says:

Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

An insight into the world of suppressed Iranian youth and issues of censorship in publishing, where metaphor can be as suggestive as you could ever imagine whilst authors are not allowed to write two characters of the opposite sex into the same room. Unusual authorial techniques include striking through the “censored” sections and bucket loads of metaphor and magical realism.

Jake says:

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Dystopian, darkly humouress novel that runs parallel to Oryx and Crake, her previous novel. This book bursts with imagination and is a great story, detailing a possible near future of genetically modified mayhem and ruthless corporations ruling the planet.  

Ann says:

The Hare With Amber Eyes – a Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

Karen says:

Sherry Cracker GetsNormal, by D J Connell

Lou says:

When I forgot by Elina Hirvonen


Non Fiction

Jake says:

Slavoj Zizek – Living in the End Times.

Philosopher cum cultural critic Zizek’s take on our current predicament of impending economic, ecological, social implosion. At times hard to grasp being quite a wordy academic tome but plenty of interesting ideas, on the money incisive analysis, and dark humour make for a fascinating and inspiring read.  

Alex says: 

How to be a woman – Caitlin Moran

Even as a ‘not a woman’ I found this to be one of the most educational, inspirational, challenging, hilarious and moving books I’ve read in a long time.

Frank says:

Alberto Manguel – The Library at Night

The best book I’ve read this year. Manguel’s reflections on reading, collecting, and obsessing – in short, on living – are as varied and illuminating as his numerous wonderful anthologies of short stories.

Rebecca says:

How To Drink  – Victoria Moore

Useful enlightening and funny

Karen says:

Knitty Gritty, by Aneeta Patel

Lou says:

Just Kids by Patti Smith


Jo says:

Julie and Julia

Film about the two cooks and the struggles and fun they have with cookery writing. Julia Child is the professional cook, writing ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and Julie Powell the amateur who attempts to cook all 524 recipes from Julia’s book over 365 days. Julie chronicles her experiences in an online blog.

Jake says (with bewildered agreement from Alex):

Love Exposure

Twisted Japanese tale of unrequited obsessive love. As epic as it is demented. Funny and surprisingly touching.

Alex: Possibly the strangest thing you could ever think brilliant.

Alex says: 

Black Swan

Aronofsky’s vision is just marvelous. I didn’t expect this year to be the one where I started wanting to get into ballet, but it absolutely has been. (Although it also makes me worried for all ballerinas everywhere).

Karen says:

In Search of a Midnight Kiss 

Connie says:

Burn After Reading

Sue says:


Lou says:

Exit through the giftshop


Music CD

Alex says: 

Floreat – Mara Carlyle

Gorgeous record, deceptively light, but rich production wraps around one of the loveliest voices you will ever here. Quirky, but in a way that would melt the stoniest heart.

Karen says:

Earth, Wind and Fire Greatest Hits

Lou says:

You’re speaking my language by Juliette and the Licks

Young Adult Fiction

Elly says:

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In a future society in which everyone is sorted into a faction that places one value above all others, Tris isn’t sure where she fits in. After choosing an unexpected faction, she faces difficult mental and physical challenges before she can find her place in the world.

This kept me gripped throughout and brought up some really interesting questions about what we as a society value compared to the traits we value as individuals.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

A Jack the Ripper fan seems to be haunting his old favourite spots inLondonbut no-one can catch the culprit. American teenager Rory arrives right in the thick of it for her year at a boarding school in the area, and she has a special ability that might just help The Shades solve the case.

An absolutely terrifying read, I had to read this exclusively in daylight hours! There are no big messages or morals, just a fantastic ghost story.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thomas is placed into a contained area called The Glade with 40 other boys and one girl. Every night, the maze opens and the Grievers are let loose. As a Runner, Thomas’ job is to find his way out of the maze that changes every day, but he doesn’t know what trials will await them once they find their way out. Although not technically a 2011 book, the trilogy was completed last year and is well worth reading.

Dystopian YA fiction is becoming more and more popular; this trilogy is one of the better ones and there is a mystery held throughout the series that kept me reading ravenously right up to the very end.

Lou says:

Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis


Lou says:

Lip by  Catherine Smith


Jo says:

Cook it! : 30 yummy recipes for scientists of all ages  by Jon Milton ; photographs by Stuart Cox

This was a great book which kept my children amused for hours. We had fun soaking an egg in vinegar for 24 hours and them testing its capacity to bounce. The book offers a really interesting mix of science and cookery for children and adults who enjoy ‘kitchen experiments’.

Lou says:

Instructions by Neil Gaiman


Follow the links to find all the recommended items on the library catalogue, available for loan or (where already popular enough) reservation. Thanks go to Elly for posing behind a selection of our staff picks.

Please let us know what you think about your picks of the year (or what you think of ours) in the comments below.

Feel free to send any reviews or other library related tidbits to libraries@brighton-hove.gov.uk, with ‘blog submission’ in the subject if you’d like to be included in future blog posts!


About Alex

Digital comms officer
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