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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.

Eat, Pray, Love Hits Theaters Friday

August 11, 2010 in eat pray love, elizabeth gilbert, julia roberts movies, Travel Writers

As I’m sure everyone haImage via Amazons heard, Eat, Pray, Love hits theaters this Friday.  In case there is anyone unfamiliar with this cultural phenomenon, Eat, Pray, Love follows the protagonist, played by the always gorgeous Julia Roberts, as she travels around Italy, India, and Bali.  She starts a “no carb left behind” project, she consumes copious amounts of delicious pasta, she learns to pray and discover herself in India, and she finally finds love in Bali.  But here’s the thing: Julia Roberts isn’t playing some random character – she’s playing a real woman.

The woman in question is author Elizabeth Gilbert, who penned the 2006 memoir/travel narrative/food porn extravaganza that quickly became a best seller.  The book has inspired numerous readers to search within themselves for a deeper strength, and to reexamine their lives, looking closely at what makes them truly happy.

Gilbert starts the book – and the movie – unhappy.  She has just gone through a messy affair and a subsequent divorce.  She’s educated and wealthy, but she is just not satisfied.  Something, an elusive something, is missing from her life.  This realization prompts her to drop everything and begin traveling.  She is lucky enough to have the funds to undertake a project many of us can only dream of, but her story is still relatable.  Gilbert is lacking something, and through risking everything, she finds what she needed the most: herself.

In honor of the movie’s release, I’d like to suggest we all take a moment and think about what it is that makes us truly happy.  For some people, it’s the thrill of travel, or the calm of mediation.  For others, it’s creamy, indulgent pasta or freshly made sausage.  For me, it’s fresh basil, old cotton t-shirts, used books, and red wine.  What makes you feel blessed?

Friday Links: Book News From Around The Internet

April 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Every Friday, the staff at Literary Traveler gathers up relevant book newImage via Amazon s from around the web, bringing it together in a handy post for book lovers to peruse.  Enjoy!

  • An interesting piece from the Jewish Review of Books asks the question: Why are there so few Jewish fantasy authors?  It’s something I’ve never considered, but considering the Christian allegories in Narnia and the like, it’s certainly worth thinking about.  Michael Weingrad argues, “we should begin by acknowledging that the conventional trappings of fantasy, with their feudal atmosphere and rootedness in rural Europe, are not especially welcoming to Jews, who were too often at the wrong end of the medieval sword.”  More thoughts on the relationship between religion and the fantasty world at The Second Pass.
  • Independent publisher Melville House has announced their intention to host an award ceremony for the best and worst book trailers. Book trailers, for those of you who don’t know, are short videos created to promote upcoming books.  Categories include “Best Big Budget Book Trailer,” “Best Cameo in a Book Trailer,” and hilariously, “Least Likely to Actually Sell the Book.”
  • One possible contender for the Melville House awards?  Actor Zach Galifianakis, who appeared in the trailer for John Wray’s Lowboy. Galifianakis and Wray humorously switched places in this short video, with the actor portraying the writer and the writer playing a far more chipper Zach.
  • In 2006, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love became an instant hit, a bestseller, and a defining entry in the travel writing-cum-memoir canon.  As you’ve probably heard, the story of Gilbert’s self discovery is being made into a feature film, starring (who else?) America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts.  Roberts talks to the New York Times about the film, which left her “exhausted when it was all done.”  But “I loved every second of it,” she added.
  • And finally, start this weekend off right by listening to a bit of poetry. Singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant has done something interesting with her newest album, Leave Your Sleep.  Merchant has taken her favorite poems from childhood and set them to music in such a way that both adults and children can enjoy the resulting lullabies.  She chose works by famous poets (like Robert Graves, E.E. Cummings and even  one from Mother Goose) mixed in with those of lesser-known writers, including Charles Carryl and Lydia Huntley Sigourney.

    Friday Links: Book News From Around The Internet

    April 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

    Every Friday, the staff at Literary Traveler gathers up relevant book news from around the web, bringing it together in a handy post for book lovers to peruse.  Enjoy!

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