I asked everyone on the LT staff to put together a list of their favorite reads from 2011. Here’s what they came up with:
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Listened to this twice through in the car with my son. White simply never puts a foot wrong. The book is perfect.
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Engrossing door-stopper survey of Christianity—with a thousand years of Greek and Jewish civilization thrown in for context.
Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis. A highly enjoyable series of vignettes related to the Founders. Ellis lied about his war record, but he’s still worth reading.
What Happened at Vatican II by John W. O’Malley. Excellent overview of the council from a historical, rather than theological angle, demonstrating, against recent chatter, that “something” did indeed happen.
Xenocide by Orson Scott Card. The only Card book I read in 2011, Xenocide isn’t as good as Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, but it’s still hugely enjoyable. The audiobook version is particularly engaging.
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. Yes, I’m one of the people who didn’t get started on A Song of Ice and Fire until the HBO series came out. But then I got to read/devour all five right in a row, without waiting years for them to come out, like the rest of you. Who’s laughing now?
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I just love Ann Patchett.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Erin Morgenstern writes beautifully, and it’s a treat to enter her fantastical, magical world. (If you liked this, you should probably also read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and its sequel that came out this year, The Magician King).
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. There’s a reason this book is hitting so many “best of the year” lists. An unexpectedly wonderful, woven together story about baseball, college, love, and life.
Bossypants by Tina Fey. This is a book that will make you look like a crazy person laughing loudly to yourself if you read it in public.
I Was Told There’d be Cake: Essays by Sloane Crosley.
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett.
In the Woods by Tana French.
Bossypants by Tina Fey.
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.
The Sugar King of Havana by John Paul Rathbone.
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach.
Colossus by Michael A. Hiltzik.
The Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burt.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.
Back to Our Future by David Sirota.
Decision Points by George W. Bush.
Parachute Infantry by David Kenyon Webster.
Liberty’s Exiles by Maya Jasanoff. Even when I read this in May I knew it would be on my Best of 2011 list. It’s an extremely well-written account of the loyalist diaspora, drawing on a massive amount of new archival research. Full review.
The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips. As I wrote in my review, this novel “includes the text of a newly rediscovered Shakespeare play. Or it doesn’t. Either way, it’s a delightful examination of books and forgeries and Shakespeare scholarship, wrapped up in a meta-narrative and tied with a bow.” Full review.
Then Everything Changed by Jeff Greenfield. I absolutely devoured this set of fascinating alt-histories. What if a suicide bomber had killed JFK outside his house in December, 1960, before the electors had cast their ballots? What if RFK hadn’t been shot in June, 1968, just after winning the California primary? What if Gerald Ford had recovered from a crucial gaffe during a 1976 debate, and won reelection? Greenfield delves into some seriously wonderful political arcana. Full review.
The Story of Charlotte’s Web by Michael Sims. From my review: “If you’ve ever enjoyed White’s masterpiece, or like to know the “story behind the book,” this is a title you should be sure to add to your shelves. It’s a keeper.” Full review.
NB: I always post a top ten fiction and a top ten non-fiction list on my blog on December 31, so check in there at the end of the year for the complete list.
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.
The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett.
The Magician King by Lev Grossman.
What were your favorite 2011 reads? Come tell us here.