Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of 2011 - Final List

It's time for the unveiling of my Top 10 fiction and nonfiction lists for 2011.  I am especially happy with this year's lists, and just reading through them brings back great reading memories about the discovery of new authors, the return of some old reliables, and the great fun I've had here on Book Chase in the last twelve months.  So, here goes with the lists:

2011 Top 10 - Fiction
1.  Nemesis - Philip Roth (October, 2010, novel set in 1950s New York)
2.  Saturday - Ian McEwan (2006 novel set in London)
3.   Remember Ben Clayton - Stephen Harrigan (novel set in 1920s Texas)
4.  The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach (coming of age baseball novel)
5.  The Sisters Brothers  - Patrick deWitt (western noir novel)
6.  Love at Absolute Zero - Christopher Meeks (comic novel about science and love)
 7.  Doc - Mary Doria Russell (realistic western about Holliday and the Earps)
8.  Lost Memory of Skin - Russell Banks (novel about registered sex offenders in Miami)
9.  The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides (college novel set in 1980s)
10. The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb - Melanie Benjamin (novel about little people and P.T. Barnum)
I just realized, while putting this list together, that my reading taste seems to be evolving because there is no detective or crime fiction on the list despite how many books of that type I still read.  Too, I'm slowly moving away from listing books published in prior years - only two on the fiction list for 2011 - but I think that books published late in the year are often considered for the next year's list, so I have only one "ringer" on the list this year,

2011 Top 10 - Nonfiction

1.  If Trouble Don't Kill Me - Ralph Berrier (August, 2010, dual biography of two musician brothers from rural Virginia)
2.  Wolf : The Lives of Jack London - James L. Haley (Jack London biography)
3.  Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens (memoir republished in 2011)
4.  A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents - and Ourselves -  Jane Gross (a brilliant how-to manual)
5.  Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers - Todd Schultz (biographical analysis of Capote's mind)
6.  Chinaberry Sidewalks - Rodney Crowell (loving biography of the country singer's parents)
7.  We Were Not Orphans: Stories from the Waco State Home - Sherry Matthews (adults remember their childhood years in Texas state home)
8.  Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year - Charles Bracelen (Grant's race against cancer to finish his memoirs)
9.  He Stopped Loving Her Today - Jack Isenhour (creation of the greatest country song ever recorded)
10. What It Is Like to Go to War - Karl Marlantes (Vietnam war memoir) 

And, that's it, a fond farewell to 2011, and an enthusiastic welcome to 2012 (the last year I plan to hold a full-time job, by the way, so it's bound to be a memorable one for me).  


  1. Thanks for another great year's reading - in both senses of that! I'm looking forward to the next for sure.

    Happy holidays, Sam. And, wishing you all the very best for 2012. I'm sure it's going to be memorable for all the right reasons.

    A thankful reader,


  2. I like looking back over the reading year this way, too. I've not yet made up a list--need to think about it a little, still. Interesting what you say about reading crime novels and which books actually ended up on your list. I think I tend to do the same thing. I'm very curious about the Eugenides book--have read so many things about it, though, I think I may wait to read it until some of the opinions have faded away. I'd also like to read Melanie Benjamin--this one or maybe even her earlier novel. Happy Holidays!

  3. I need to branch out and read more non-fiction. I read more crime fiction this year than any year prior. I enjoyed it, but not much of it will make it to my final list. I'll publish mine on New Year's Eve.

    Last year of full time work! Good for you. That year is probably 20 years away for me still, but I am finally getting serious about planning for it, at last.

  4. Thanks for sharing your favorites with us. Hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday and that you will have plenty of time for reading!

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Nik. I'm looking forward to next year...can't wait to get it started.

    BTW, I can't wait, either, to get my hands on a new book of yours. All the best in 2012.

  6. Danielle, I'm looking forward to your list. There's not usually much overlap with mine - you are much more highbrow than me. I'm curious as to what your reaction to the Eugenides book. I'm consistently a tiny bit disappointed in his work because of all the good press he gets, but the man can definitely tell an interesting story.

  7. James, it is my intention every year to read more nonfiction, but I always seem to come in around 35 titles, no matter my intentions.

    Next year should, indeed, do it for me, I've been working since the day I turned 16 in the summer of 1964 and I can't wait to retire the alarm clock.

  8. Kathleen, thanks for the holiday wishing. I hope you have exactly the holiday you wished for me.

  9. Interesting books, Sam! What a wide range you read and considered your top books for the year. As you say, surprising to see no mysteries or crime there, either.

    I have to do my list still. It's a fun way to review the year in reading, isn't it?

  10. I'll look forward to seeing your list, those things. It always surprises me that I've completely missed so many good books.