Sorry it has been so long since I posted here, but another retail Christmas seemed to suck up all of my time. 2011 was a fantastic year of reading for me, I read 73 books - averaging 1.4 books a week. Any of my top three books this year could have been a number one in another year, they were that strong. You can click on the title of the books to see my original review of the books.
1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. A beautifully written debut novel about so much more then just baseball. Reminded me of some of John Irving's best work. This finished on several Top 10 lists for the year and Amazon picked it as the book of the year.
2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. As much fun as I have had reading a book in many years. I have started drifting back into more science fiction the last couple of years and have been enjoying it immensely. This isn't any great literary work, but I had a grin on my face from page one.
3. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. Westerns have never been one of my favorite genres, I can only think of one other true Western appearing on one of my Top 10s over the last 10 years. Quirky characters, amazing dialogue, some major weirdness - the Coen brothers really need to make this into a movie.
4. Swamplandia by Karen Russell. Another wonderful debut novel about a family of fake American Indians running a two bit alligator themed park. A real park, Gatorland, was a favorite destination when I was a kid and that drew me to this title. At times laugh out loud funny and at least once disturbing enough to make me want to put it down and walk away. But I could not leave these characters for long. One of the NY Times 10 best books of 2011.
5. Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt. Great children's book about finding your own strengths in life. It also works as a love letter to librarians and art. Wonderful read even for adults.
6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. One of the best books of King's career - great sales and fantastic reviews. I loved the feel of small town life in Josie, Texas. Dallas and Fort Worth don't fare very well in the story, but feel real. Don't think of it as time travel story, or a horror novel, or a JFK history, it is just an amazingly well told story. One of the NY Times 10 best books of 2011.
7. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Very cool story of a family of performance artists. Alternates between when the kids were young and their later lives. These are probably the literary characters from this year's books that I would most like to meet in real life. Finished on Top 10 lists by Esquire, Time, People, and Kirkus Reviews.
8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Not a very plot heavy book, but an amazing setting and enticing characters. I would love to be able to find and visit the Night Circus one day. A magical book for adults who love the worlds of Harry Potter and Ray Bradbury
9. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier. I have very much enjoyed all three of Frazier's novels, with "Cold Mountain" being one of my all time favorites. This is a scaled down story compared to his others and the only one set in more modern times, but still a great read. Not much dialogue, these characters aren't very talkative, but a beautiful setting and wonderful adventure.
10. Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. A teenage girl lives on her own along a Michigan river after her father dies. At first depending too much on men she meets along the river, then slowly learning to live independently. The river is as much a character in this one as Margo.
A few honorable mentions: "Fuzzy Nation" by John Scalzi, "Iron House" by John Hart, "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher, "The Floor of Heaven" by Howard Blum, and "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. Oh, and jeers to "Micro" by Michael Chrichton and Richard Preston, easily the worst book I read this year - avoid it at all costs!