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The Best of the Best of 2011: A List

December 24, 2011 in American literature, children's literature, Contemporary Literature, Fantasy Literature, Literary Books 2011, New Writers

Artwork by Dan Park

Jeffrey Eugenides, Artwork by Dan Park

There are a heck of a lot of “Best of 2011” lists coming out this week. There’s the best music, the best films, and, of course, the best books. But with so many “best of” lists, put out by practically every blog, magazine, and newspaper around, it’s hard to tell which books really came out on top.

But fear not! After combing through some well respected sources’ “best of” lists, it was clear which books were the real winners. The lists consulted included those compiled by Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Review, National Public Radio, Barnes & Noble, The Economist, Paste Magazine, Slate Magazine, Goodreads, the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, the Village Voice, the Los Angeles Public Library, The New Republic, Amazon, The Horn Book, Esquire, and The New York Times.

There were, of course, books that made it onto just one or two lists, but to really be the best of the year, a book’s got to make a bigger splash than that. Therefore, the books that made it onto three or more of these lists are posted below on this compilation of what may as well be called “The Best of the Best Books of 2011”:

The Top 15 Fiction Books:
1. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
3. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
4. Open City by Teju Cole
5. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
6. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
7. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
9. The Submission by Amy Waldman
10. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
11. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
12. The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
13. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
14. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
15. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The Top 13 Nonfiction Books:
1. Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
2. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
3. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
4. Bossypants by Tina Fey
5. Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III
6. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
7. Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson
8. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
9. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
10. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
11. Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
12. 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
13. Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

The Top 11 Young Adult Books:
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
5. Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
6. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
7. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
8. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
9. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
11. Chime by Franny Billingsley

The clear favorite of critics is The Marriage Plot, which shows up on seven different lists. Additionally, 1Q84, Divergent, and Blood, Bones, and Butter all made it onto six. It goes to show how diverse readers’ (and editors’) tastes are across America. Clearly, though, there’s still common ground, and if you’re looking for a good book to devour this holiday season, chances are you’ll find plenty of worthwhile material on this list.


The National Book Awards Go Viral

November 16, 2011 in American literature, Literary Books 2011, Literary News

National Book AwardThe National Book Awards are a pretty big deal. They may not be as publicized as the Grammys or as glamorous as the Oscars, but on the American literary scene, there are few greater honors.

The National Book Award is given to writers by writers, recognizing the best of American literature since 1950. This coveted award has advanced the careers of both emerging and established authors, and many past winners have become staples of American literature, including William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Pynchon, Rachel Carson, and William Carlos Williams – just to name a few.

Each year, the National Book Foundation receives many entries, but to be eligible, a book must be written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year; no entry can be self-published. This year, 1,223 books were submitted to the foundation, which were then narrowed down to only twenty finalists, or five finalists per category: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Judging each category are five reputable authors who are doing great work in their genre, and who are sometimes past finalists or winners themselves.

Although there has always been a ceremony to announce the winners of the award, for the first time in history, the 2011 award ceremony will be webcast live from New York City tonight at 8 pm EST.  There is no registration necessary: the broadcast will be featured on the foundation’s homepage, Here viewers can watch, in real time, the winners in each of the four categories accept their awards, and see Mitchell Kaplan (co-founder of Miami Book Fair International) and John Ashbery (National Book Award and Pulitzer-winning poet)  receive their lifetime achievement awards. If that’s not exciting enough, the host of the event will be John Lithgow, a talented author, actor, and musician who has written ten books and acted in films and television shows such as Dexter, the Shrek franchise, Terms of Endearment, and Dreamgirls.

This year boasts an incredibly talented group of finalists, all of whom are after the hefty $10,000 prize, a bronze sculpture, and the respect of writers and readers all over the country. These finalists are:

For Fiction:

–       Andrew Krivak,  HE SOJOURN (Bellevue Literary Press)
–       Téa Obreht, THE TIGER’S WIFE (Random House)
–       Julie Otsuka, THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC (Alfred A. Knopf)
–       Edith Pearlman, BINOCULAR VISION (Lookout Books)
–       Jesmyn Ward, SALVAGE THE BONES (Bloomsbury USA)

For Nonfiction:

–       Deborah Baker, THE CONVERT: A TALE OF EXILE AND EXTREMISM (Graywolf Press)
–       Mary Gabriel, LOVE AND CAPITAL: KARL AND JENNY MARX AND THE BIRTH OF A REVOLUTION (Little, Brown, and Company)
–       Stephen Greenblatt, THE SWERVE: HOW THE WORLD BECAME MODERN (W.W. Norton)
–       Manning Marable, MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION (Viking Press)

For Poetry:

–       Nikky Finney, HEAD OFF & SPLIT (TriQuarterly)
–       Yusef Komunyakaa, THE CHAMELEON COUCH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
–       Carl Phillips, DOUBLE SHADOW (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
–       Adrienne Rich, TONIGHT NO POETRY WILL SERVE: POEMS 2007-2010 (W.W. Norton)
–       Bruce Smith, DEVOTIONS (University of Chicago Press)

For Young People’s Literature:

–       Franny Billingsley, CHIME (Dial Books)
–       Debby Dahl Edwardson, MY NAME IS NOT EASY (Marshall Cavendish)
–       Thanhha Lai,  INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN (Harper)
–       Gary D. Schmidt, OKAY FOR NOW (Clarion Books)

Tune in to the live feed now to see which four finalists walk away with the prize!

When the Killing's Done, T.C. Boyle

January 6, 2011 in American literature, Literary Books 2011, New release, travel books, Travel Writers

Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.netWhen the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle is a highly anticipated novel for 2011.  But did you know the novel is place-oriented?  In other words, we consider it a “travel” or place-oriented work of fiction.

Boyle’s novel takes place in the North Channel Islands, off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.  The North Channel Islands are considered the US’s Galapagos Islands in regard to its precious, endangered wildlife.  Foreign animal species are brought to the island.  It is Alma, the biologist protagonist, who must kill off these invasive, foreign species who are killing the native species of the Islands.

The novel takes an in-depth look into wildlife preservation of the North Channel Islands.  Biology is at the forefront of the story, including descriptions of the island itself.

We hear When the Killing’s Done is literary fiction and descriptive prose at its best.  Even better, it incorporates a travel/place element.  It’s definitely on my reading list for 2011.  How about you?

Note: When the Killing’s Done is set to release on February 22, 2011.  Order your advance copy today with the Amazon Kindle!

* Here’s a great, LT article on biology entitled Edward Abbey Desert Solitaire in the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve.  Enjoy!

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