Of the books I read in 2011, these three definitely provoked the most discussion (albeit mostly between me and Jeff).
We read A Parchment of Leaves together, discussing as we went. This is not a book either of us would naturally gravitate towards but our good friend Jim had met the writer, Silas House, and couldn't say enough great things about his work. House is from Kentucky, Jeff's homeland, and lives in the area his family has lived in for generations. The story follows a Cherokee girl's experiences in turn-of-the-20th-century rural Kentucky. The details and insights in this book are amazing, from the setting to the accurate description of Indian life (my father's family is Indian and many of the specifics about daily life are similar to stories from his parent's and grandparent's time). The best feature, however, is House's storytelling. He has a respect for the reader and, for a historical drama, we found the narrative surprisingly gripping.
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird--if you haven't read it yet, like I hadn't, do yourself a favor and get a copy. The movie with Gregory Peck is outstanding, but you have to read the book at some point. I couldn't stop talking about this one for weeks.
The $12 Million Stuffed Shark, subtitled The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson is one of the most fascinating non-fiction book I've ever read. If you are a fine artist, or have any interest in modern art, or the big auction houses, this is a must read. I wish I knew some of this information, or had a mentor with Thompson's insights, as a young art student.
posted by Rachel