■ Coriolanus (William Shakespeare)
Play, classic. The family book club decided to tackle this one, and, honestly? It's so compelling that I don't know how we missed before. So, thank you, Ralph Fiennes. Thank you very much.
■ The Autobiography of an Execution (David R. Dow)
Non-fiction. One word: Un-put-down-able. All right. That's not really a word, but it ably describes how I felt about Houston lawyer David R. Dow's memoir / meditation on the death penalty. The casually familiar narrative style might seem at odds with the subject matter, but it coaxes readers through otherwise difficult material. You'll find a NYT review here.
■ The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (Nicholas Carr)
Non-fiction. You may remember the stir Carr created three and half years ago with the publication of the essay "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (The Atlantic, July/August 2008; related M-mv entry here). The book is every bit as compelling as the article led me to believe. Chapbook entry to follow. Until then, two links -- NPR's "All Things Considered" on "'The Shallows': This Is Your Brain Online" and Carr's blog, Rough Type. (Bookmark that last one; a great site for readers, thinkers, and autodidacts.)
■ Artist's Journal Workshop (Cathy Johnson)
Art. Subtitled "Creating Your Life in Words in Pictures," this beautifully illustrated introduction to art journaling includes examples in a a range of media from the notebooks of twenty-seven artists. Johnson's text is both practical (Collage over an entire offending page, if you must) and encouraging (Celebrating the everyday is one of the loveliest uses of an artist's journal).
■ The English Teacher (Lily King)
Fiction. Apparently, this novel was chosen by both Publisher's Weekly and the Chicago Tribune as one of the best novels of 2005. I missed it then and cannot begin to remember how it ended up on my TBR stack, but I will tell you that I appreciated King's skill from the opening line: That she had not killed him in her sleep was still the great relief of every morning. She narrates a compelling character study in the taut, measured tones of psychological thriller -- and delivers.
Note: I had already closed out "The year in books" for 2011 when I finished The English Teacher on New Year's Eve, so it is now the first book on my 2012 list, with Artist's Journal Workshop second, Coriolanus third, and The Autobiography of an Execution fourth.