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My best/your best

John stole my thunder and pointed out the New York Times Best of 2011 list last week, but more are pouring in. The Globe and Mail has named theirs. Early Word has its children’s book lists up. Publisher’s Weekly is breaking it down category by category.

And already, a few things are clear: as more of these lists come in, we’ll be seeing lots and lots of mentions of the new Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, and Jeffrey Eugenides novels. Maggie Stiefvater and Laini Taylor will dominate the young adult lists. And I’ll personally dedicate at least five hours to mourning the fact that there isn’t enough time in the world to read every book I want to. I could choose to be positive about this and be happy that there are enough good books that I know for sure I’ll never run out of new worlds to explore. But let’s be honest: that kind of radiant positivity just isn’t my style.

Meanwhile, I want to know what YOUR favorite book was this year. And don’t worry about when it was published. I just want to know what the most transcendent reading experience of your year was. I’m torn between a completely commercial young adult novel that I found compulsively readable and endlessly entertaining (Marie Lu’s Legend) and an adult novella that sneaks up on you with its depth and beauty before delivering a heartbreaking sucker punch of an ending (Justin Torres’s stunning We the Animals). One kept me at the edge of my seat. The other made me cry like a small child.  But I’m asking you to choose a single book, so I’ll do the same and go with Torres.

Of course, the problem with making these calls is that as soon as you do, I start to feel bad for other books that I didn’t choose. The Art of Fielding stands out. Man, that book was great. But what about you? What’s the most exciting thing you read this year?

14 Responses to My best/your best

  1. Thomas Wolf says:

    THE FLORIST’S DAUGHTER by Patricia Hampl

  2. Plain Kate, by Erin Bow. Made me cry. A lot.

  3. C. says:

    Pseudo-literary: We the Animals (made me cry)

    Literary: Freedom (late to that party) (made me laugh and call my parents)

    Commercial: Working for the Devil (Lilith Saintcrow) (late to that party) (made me cry, turned me on)

    Non-fiction: Forest for the Trees (late to that party) (made me happier than ever to be a writer)

    Agent blog: You, because you have such a voice. (don’t tell my badass, but voiceless agent)

  4. RamseyH says:

    Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann. Combined a spot-on vision of contemporary China with a kick-ass female protagonist. It’s gotten mixed reviews because of the protagonist, but for me, Ellie worked spectacularly. I’ve never encountered a female lead who actually thought the way I do, so it was a refreshing surprise.

  5. Oh, it’s so hard to pick this year! Most of the books I really liked were sequels to other books I really liked. I was pretty unoriginal in that regard for the first half of the year. Patrick Rothfuss’ THE WISE MAN’S FEAR had gorgeous fantasy writing, while Mira Grant’s DEADLINE kept me on the edge of my seat. And Robert Charles Wilson’s VORTEX was a huge experience for me because I’ve been so invested in the saga begun in SPIN and the last 10% of the book had my jaw dropping in wonder.

  6. Suilan says:

    “Twilight Robbery” by Frances Hardinge. It is just so imaginative, from world building down to sentence level. Some of her metaphors are so funny, I had to laugh out loud. I was so glad she wrote a sequel to “Fly by Night” after a two unrelated novels I did not finish (well, I am not exactly part of the target audience, which is middle grade), and it was even better than the first, despite that my favorite character (Saracen the goose, unbeaten in battle) hardly appeared…

  7. Kim says:

    I just finished The Night Circus and found it extremely vivid and imaginative, and sorry it had to end. (No thanks to the reviewer who gave away a key plot point that didn’t ruin the book but did ruin the surprise. Where’s THAT list?)

  8. Mardi says:

    I got lost in Bonnie jo Campbell’s “Once Upon a River.” Maybe because she is a fellow Michigander and writes about the heartland but more likely because it is such a big-hearted book with a tough and tender main character. Kinder somehow than her brutal but great short stories.

  9. Andrea says:

    Not one book, but a series of four (quartet? quadrilogy?). If I have to choose one book, it´ll be the third book, The Crow. I was getting a little fantasy-tired and then a friend of mine recommended the Pellinor books by Alison Croggon. Fantasy, but a bit different. I was struggling to find fantasy novels with interesting, developing characters, by authors who aren´t desperate to be original, but who just deliver a good story and actually have something to say.

    Croggon writes excellent characters, and is very good at describing friendships, something I learned from her for my own writing. It was a delight to read her work after almost being snowed under by “original” and “fresh” fantasy with flat characters and weak plotlines.

  10. Kaitlyne says:

    Room was amazing. I just loved everything about that book, and overall I think it was my favorite of the year. Her voice was just so darn authentic, and the hopeful nature of the story was incredibly satisfying.

  11. Kathi Taylor says:

    I’m actually putting Stephen King’s new book on my Best Of 2011 list, up there with Room, and Christopher Moore’s Coyote Blue.

    I’m counting the Game of Thrones books as a single long volume because I came to them late in the game, and I gobbled up all of them in as short a period as possible, and am now waiting anxiously for the next installment(I hope I live long enough).

    On my really really really late to the game list, I’d add: Tarzan the Terrible. I listened to the first 8 or 9 books in the series while I worked out on the treadmill, and was enchanted. It’s no wonder that Tarzan, that paragon of handsome manly strength, is still part of our popular culture. The books are absolutely silly and totally over the top, filled with the most unbelievable coincidences and resolutions, and yet I couldn’t stop listening. TTT is, perhaps, the pinnacle of the action/adventure/cliffhanger story.

  12. Only One?

    Let’s see.

    Forgotten Garden brought me back to my childhood days of being so engrossed by a story that I couldn’t wait to stop all other activities (eat, sleep) so I could re-immerse in the world.

    People of the Book captured my mind and heart and intrigued me with cultural ideas new to me.

    Atonement was a fun read that made me chuckle at the end at how everything worked together.

    Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake mesmerized me with the writing.

    I think I’ll go with People of the Book.

    I always enjoy your book lists, and those of your readers who respond. Thanks!

  13. I can’t pick one.
    I tried.
    Andrew Smith’s STICK is sad and difficult and joyful and hopeful, and it should be required reading for 9th graders. I am working on this.
    Sara Zarr’s HOW TO SAVE A LIFE is luminous.
    I am a better human being because of these books.

  14. Anjali says:

    I loved, loved, loved Amy Waldman’s The Submission. I couldn’t have been more engaged in a book, and I nearly cried when it was over because I wanted to keep reading.

    Also, I met Amy Waldman at a book festival recently– she couldn’t have been a nicer person!

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