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What Are The Best Books of 2011 So Far?

the tiger

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

So far in 2011 I have read 32 books. I’m losing my touch as this is well below my preferred pace. I might have to rectify the situation by raiding the library’s children’s section and reading all of the Roger Hargreaves books in a day just to get my output up.

So, what’s the best book of 2011 so far? I couldn’t say because I honestly haven’t read a lot of this year’s releases. But I can tell you what the best book I have read in 2011 is at this point:

Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of The Wind. (I’m not counting my yearly read of A Confederacy of Dunces, which I have already been through this year).

It had everything I enjoy in a book. A fabulous story, lots of well-written pages, a new take on familiar themes, a seemingly-bottomless library that you can only prowl by lamplight, and two more volumes to come.

Other books read for the first time in 2011 that I have enjoyed/loved/pondered on/all-of-the-above:

  • A Confession by Tolstoy
  • This is Water by David Foster Wallace
  • The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
  • The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  • War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Christopher Hedges
  • Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen
  • The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick
  • The Tiger by John Vaillant

Non-fiction is in the lead this year. A rare occurrence for me.

Over to you. What is the best book you have read this year, irrespective of when it was published? I am definitely interested in anything good that has actually come out this year, if you are one of those people who stay on top of things.

Tops books 2011. Let’s hear it.


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  • Johan May 16, 2011, 10:24 am

    I haven’t read as many books as you. I did reread Julian May’s series of Saga of the Pliocene Exile, Intervention, and the Galactic Milieu for the first time in more than a decade, but that was just entertaining.
    However, I read two books this year that will change the way I look at the world around me:
    – “Bad Science – Quacks, Hacks and Big Pharma Flacks” by Ben Goldacre
    – “Hardcore Zen – Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality” by Brad Warner
    Both are non-fiction, a rare occurrence for me too.

  • Jodi Kaplan May 16, 2011, 3:29 pm

    So far:

    * My Own Country by Abraham Verghese
    * Agent ZigZag by Ben McIntryre
    Both non-fiction (also unusual for me). Anybody see a trend?

  • Steve M May 17, 2011, 7:05 am

    Since you have opened up the discussion to any book, regardless of publication date, I’ll offer Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World. It’s a 200 page book for young kids that was published in 1975. I first read it aloud to my son in the mid-80’s and this year have been reading it to my granddaughter. I know it’s quite different from the other submissions you’ll receive, but I recommend it as a delightful diversion from our current post-modern fare. The story involves a terrific adventure narrative in the context of a wonderful father son relationship.

  • Sarah May 17, 2011, 9:27 am

    I’ve read 43 books so far this year, but what I’ve read is mostly YA stuff that I breeze through in one day. The best book I’ve read this year would probably have to be The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. It was my one book break from YA Fantasy and it was a fabulous read. The canonical blending of The Great Gatsby was a fantastic touch.

    Other than that, the best books I read this year would be The Hunger Games series, but if I have to pick the best book I read that came out this year…the title would have to go to A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I loved her historical accuracy, and she succeeded where a lot of authors fail, by making it believable that her characters have been alive for many lifetimes.

    Another book I just finished yesterday that I loved because of it’s accuracy was Spellbound: The Awakening of Aislin Collins by Margeaux Laurent. It’s a self published novel, and it was recommended by a local newspaper because it’s set in Burlington, NJ (not far from my hometown). She spent a long time getting her setting correct, down to the foliage there during the set time period of the 1730’s. The story was engaging, and while there were a lot of typos in the ebook I read (I forgave them due to the self-published aspect), I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 17, 2011, 2:40 pm

      Wow, you are blazing right along. Thanks for the recommends.

      • Sarah May 19, 2011, 9:10 am

        I’m guilty of being anti-social at work during lunch hours 😉

        No problem…I hope that if anyone picks one of them up that they enjoy them too. If anyone tackles “Spellbound,” keep in mind that a friend of her’s edited it. There are mistakes galore, but if you can get absorbed in the story itself it’s great fun. I think she has promise for the future, especially if she can get a proper editor behind her 🙂

  • Jen H May 17, 2011, 2:21 pm

    I haven’t read many books so far this year, not sure why that is.
    Of the few I have finished 2 stand out:
    Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, a good twist on the “typical” novel about slave life on a plantation the protagonist is actually an indentured servant from Ireland who becomes the property of the plantation owner and is raised in the slave quarters. A couple of really nasty villains in this book, wish I could remember their names!
    And another that was published this year: The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke. ’nuff said about that, though: Mr. Burke has been discussed already in the villain post.

  • Pauline May 18, 2011, 1:54 pm

    One of the best I read this year is River Town by Peter Hessler (2003). It’s a beautifully descriptive account of his two years in a small town in China, soon to be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam project. His students at the small university are fascinating and they teach him a lot about Chinese people.
    I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in preparation for seeing the final movie. At 700+ pages it’s long but well worth it. Ida B by Katherine Hannigan (2004) is memorable.

  • Jane June 20, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I just finished “The Year 3107: Reign of the Supreme” by Lauren Lee, and I absolutely loved it! My friend gave it to me as a gift for my birthday. She said its a book by a new author and she thought it was the best story she’s read in a long time, and wanted me to have it. I would have to agree with her. It’s a post-apocalyptic type story but so gripping that I finished it in one sitting while I was out in the pool and got a really bad sunburn, but I just didn’t want to put it down. I highly recommend it!