While I study top ten lists somewhat obsessively, I haven’t defined the qualities necessary for a book to make my own “top” list. What follows are the first ten books I thought of when I looked back over the year (in no particular order). I have recommended all of them to someone, and would do so again.
1. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson: I’m actually only half way through this, but it’s fantastic, stimulating, entertaining, and creepy. I intend to write a review for the new year, but this already deserves to be on my top ten list.
2. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: I was a little late on the uptake with this one, published in 2009, a mostly non-fiction account of one family’s experiences during Hurricane Katrina. Even a few years later, it is endearing and enlightening.
3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: My mom recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad she did. A long but fast read, it’s ideal book club fodder, with a good mix of substance and fluff.
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I’m surprised how much non-fiction is on my list this year, but these books are so well researched and captivating that I’m beginning to see that truth can be better than—or at least as good as—fiction.
5. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann: A series of connected short stories (does anyone else feel like this form is inescapable these days?) written poetically and artfully, this book made me emit constant sighs of admiration, sadness, and discovery.
6. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: This book is a work of art. I received The Invention of Hugo Cabret for Christmas and while I enjoyed it, I was a bit disappointed by how similar the two books are. In the end, I liked them both but prefer Wonderstruck, quite possibly only because I read it first. [review]
7. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks: This is a solid work of fiction. Framed by the story of a woman verifying the authenticity of a recently discovered manuscript of the Sarajevo Haggadah, it takes the reader through tales of all of the book’s owners and caretakers.
8. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami: This was the first Murakami book that I read, and its puzzling stories have stayed with me. I’m looking forward to reading IQ84!
9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: This young adult novel has everything I love in a book: word play, prep school drama, pranks, a strong heroine…need I say more?
10. The Hunger Games by Susan Collins: Okay, I know I’m late on this one, too, and I did read the first one in 2010, but I was struggling to get to this list to ten, and for me this was really THE book of 2011; I taught it, recommended it, and read it in a seemingly endless loop.