Since my reading year is askew, I'm never quite sure how to write up my favorite books of the year. The weird compromise I've created is to do a reading year wrap-up, and then to also make a list of my favorite books written in any given year. I mostly read new(ish) books anyway, so even though I'm leaving out some older books I really enjoyed, this makes the most sense to me. Which I guess is important. This list is in no particular order, EXCEPT for the first book, which was far and away my absolute favorite book of the year.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Oh. My. Fucking. God. I loved this book like crazy. The first read-through went so quickly and so easily that I had to read it again, later, because I was afraid I'd missed things. Looking back, I don't think I really did. But it was so worth reading again (and I suspect again and again and again) that I'm going to buy it.
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. Good book. The ending, though, I thought, was masterful. I have the last line of the book taped over my desk, and I read it every single day. Love it. Love that last line.
- Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. I've created a minor Alice Bliss cult here at work. I can't remember WHY I picked up this book, because I haven't seen it in the press anywhere. But it's wonderful and sweet and sad and overwhelming, all at once. It's a coming-of-age story, done really well. Really beautifully.
- Among Others by Jo Walton. I love Jo Walton's books. (Incidentally, one of my favorite older books this year was by her.) This is no exception. Magical.
- Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I know some people have called this book "Twilight" for adults. I guess I don't agree with that, since it's on this list. I found it...slow at parts, but ultimately, completely compelling. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. (Technically, I'm thinking I found this book compelling because I really BELIEVED in the world Harkness created.)
- Remembrance of Things I Forgot by Bob Smith. Weird book. Weird weird book. But I loved it! Time travel! Evil George Bush and Dick Cheney! Gay men! See, doesn't that sound weird?
- Bossypants by Tina Fey. I had a really hard time coming up with non-fiction books that I loved enough to put on this list. Really. It's not that I didn't really enjoy some of the non-fiction I've read this year, but nothing seemed memorable enough to say it was one of my favorite books of the year. Tina Fey is funny and sweet, and her book was solid and funny.
- After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn. I like Vaughn's Kitty books. But I loooooved this book. Again with the world-building! But seriously, this book is done so damn well. Superheroes. Children of superheroes. A lovely love story, to boot. What's not to like?
- The Heart Specialist by Claire Holden Rothman. Another sleeper pick. Based on a real life, and utterly heartbreaking and compelling. I don't read a ton of historical fiction, because I often find it sleepy and uninteresting. And this book did build slowly to something wonderful. Sometimes it felt very slow. But I ended up really liking it.
- Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff. I've been back and forth all morning about whether or not to include this book. Ultimately, it's on this list because I REMEMBER it. I think others will say Unbroken is the better book (and Unbroken didn't come out in 2011, btw), and maybe it is technically more skilled. Hillenbrand's book isn't as memorable as this one, though. I don't know if it's because her book was about one man, and this book is about a group of people including women, or if it's the element of the Pacific islanders that makes it memorable, but whatever it was, it was.
So here it is. Clearly, I didn't read every book from 2011. I'm still reading books that came out in 2011 (and will probably do so for a couple more months, until I can get my hands on 2012's big books), and actually, I debated putting the book I'm reading now on this list, because I'm loving it. The book is called "How to Live" and it's by Sarah Bakewell. It's about Montaigne, and it's so wonderful. I can't think of another book about such an...odd subject that has captivated me so fully. It helps that I read and liked Montaigne in college. Highly recommended, along with the other ten books above.