Yesterday, Amazon announced its Best Books of 2011. From their web site: “So many books. So many choices. It’s not easy putting together a list of the year’s best books, but we’ve held many meetings and votes, we’ve pored over the books and occasionally poured our hearts out to get you this final Top 100. For every book on the list, there has been an impassioned plea and an argument made–so don’t just look at the Top 10 or 20. There are great books all up and down the Top 100 list.”
Here’s the “Best of” list, but there are category break-downs as well (Mystery & Thrillers, Nonfiction, Quirky & Strange, etc. — actually, there are bound to be some great finds in there!).
1. “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach: “The Art of Fielding” is the veritable baseball book that’s actually about much more than baseball, and it’s on par with the work of Bernard Malamud and David James Duncan. It’s rare to see a debut so confident, intimate, unpredictable and wholly memorable.
2. “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami: Murakami has created a sensation: a nearly 950-page novel that is ordered and scrupulous, and reads like a meditation. “1Q84” is the story of two people living in parallel, who we know must meet each other eventually, and their twisting arcs drive this magnum opus by one of the world’s finest novelists.
3. “What It Is Like to Go to War” by Karl Marlantes: The veteran marine and best-selling author of “Matterhorn” draws on his brutal experiences in foreign jungles to look at the nature of combat with unflinching honesty. Balancing novelistic descriptions of fear, power games and courage with a thoughtful prescription for our soldiers’ well being, Marlantes lifts the bar for understanding the experience of war.
4. “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larsen: Master storyteller Larsen describes the life of America’s first and only ambassador to Nazi Germany, along with the scandalous adventures of the ambassador’s carefree daughter. “In the Garden of the Beasts” is an historical portrait that is as entertaining as it is important, and it reads like the best of political thrillers.
5. “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides: Eugenides’ third novel, and his first after the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” describes the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 1980s. It is a thoughtful, and at times disarming, novel about life, love and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seemed filled with deep portent.
6. “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor: With this young adult novel, National Book Award finalist Taylor has created a magical world that will sweep up even the most jaded of readers. The story of 17-year-old Kalou is an enchanting tale of magic, star-crossed love and difficult choices with heartbreaking repercussions that could make it the next hot YA sensation.
7. “Before I Go to Sleep” by S.J. Watson: Suspenseful from start to finish, Watson’s ”Before I Go to Sleep” — the story of Christine, who wakes up every day not knowing who she is — presents profound questions about identity and is one of the best literary thrillers of the past few years. Compelling, immersive and chilling.
8. “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson: Few in history have transformed their time like Steve Jobs has. In this timely book, Isaacson paints a vivid, compelling portrait that pulls no punches — the end result is satisfying, complete, and gives insight into a man who managed to turn his contradictions into potent strengths.
9. “Lost in Shangri-La” by Michael Zuckoff: A riveting story of survival and deliverance from a notorious valley in the New Guinea jungle, Zuckoff’s ”Lost in Shangri-La” deserves its place among the great survival stories of World War II.
10. “The Tiger’s Wife” by Téa Obreht: Croatian native Obreht tells the story of a young doctor seeking answers around her grandfather’s death, delving into a land of storytelling, mythology, and conflict in her extraordinary debut.