Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best Books I Read in 2011

This list gets harder and harder to compile every year, but I love going back and looking at the books I've read in the past year--what books have stayed with me, which ones I've passed on or recommended to friends, what new authors I've discovers, and which characters have become my new best friends. Usually I only choose five books to share, but this time I wanted to share the five new authors I discovered this year. That doesn't mean these authors debuted this year--a couple of them stopped publishing years ago--but all of them are new to me.

Stephanie Perkins

My year was bookended by Perkins—I read Anna in January and Lola in December. Perkins' books leave me completely contented and totally mushy though I don't usually get all warm and fuzzy from a good romance. So why I love these books so much is a bit of a mystery. Maybe it's because they're all at once funny and meaningful, totally real and a little magical, typically romantic and full of longing. They capture what it's like to be a teenager in love while possessing a depth of character that leaves you knowing not only that the characters have become something better but also gives you hope that you can be something more in the end as well.

Il Sung Na

Na is my favorite new illustrator; his books are just beautiful. The plots are so simple yet clever, which makes them the perfect board books, though Rabbit hasn't yet been released as a board book. I'm always looking for illustrators who can create something innovative yet familiar, and that's what Na has done to perfection.

Jennifer Donnelly

I first heard of Donnelly years ago when her novel A Northern Light received a Printz Honor, but I never got around to reading it. With my goal to become more versed in audiobooks and being familiar with Emily Card's work, I made it a point to listen to this one. And the audiobook blew my mind. Really. I couldn't wait to listen to Card and Bering give a new outlook on a fascinating historical period with beautiful accents, perfect rhythm and infallible timing. Their skills should make every recording artist green with envy. (It probably also helped that Donnelly referenced some of my all-time favorite bands in the same sentences as my most beloved classical composers.)

Adam Gidwitz

I'm a sucker for a good re-imagining of the Brothers Grimm. This book has perfect comedic timing (who know that was even possible in print), and the elements of the macabre that defines the Grimm tradition are well balanced with morality and tenderness. I laughed out loud and even found myself reading aloud to an empty room just so I could enjoy my favorite passages all over again.

Norton Juster

I still can't believe I had never read this book before. For years people told me I'd love it, but there were always so many other good books I wanted to read. So for the 50th anniversary of its publication, I thought I'd take a spin through the Tollbooth. And oh what a ride it was. This is a fantastic (and fantastical) novel about word-play and numbers and adventure, which equals the perfect book for me.

Five Old Favorites Made New
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan: Eleven months after finishing this novel, I'm still thinking about it.
The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima: And I thought I was over high fantasy.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr: No one understands losing yourself and finding home again like Zarr.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: Sight and sound take on new meaning in yet another amazing novel in words and pictures by Selznick.
Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems: A bitter-sweet ending to my favorite stuffed bunny.

Reading List Analytics
Out of the 132 books I read this year, about one-third were picture books (48), another third were audiobooks (44), and the final third were novels (40). I gave 38 books five stars, 53 books four stars, 29 three stars, 10 books two stars and only two books received one star.

Best Books of 2010
Best Books of 2009

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