Making this list was difficult. Of all the books I managed to read, very few of them were outright terrible and many of them were good books in their own way. Also, I’m bad in general at picking books that are the “best” of anything. I love the majority of the books I’ve read for different reasons. As such, I’m picking ten books that stayed the longest in my mind after finishing them and then list all the rest of the books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed as well. The list includes books published in other years, in addition to those published in 2011. Many of them I’ve written about here, and others I haven’t.
10 Favorite Books of 2011
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
This was the first book I read in 2011, and even then I knew it would be one of the best books I read all year. It’s 19th-century science, monsters, and horror done in the best possible way, written in Victorian-like prose that still manages to be readable.
The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente
I’d read some of Valente’s books before, but this is the one that made me fall in love with her writing and her imagination. It’s a beautifully written book filled with all sorts of peoples, places, and creatures – each with their own stories. This is a book you make yourself read slowly, just to savor it.
The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
I’m cheating and listing an entire trilogy as one entry because it’s one of the smartest trilogies out there and it covers so much ground. Each book contributes to a larger story arc while simultaneously telling a self-contained story. Yeine, Oree, and Sieh are each great protagonists, and I love the way gods work in this world and how they and human societies are inextricably bound such that they contribute to each other’s changes.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
And of course there are two books by Valente on this list because she’s awesome. This is the book I got signed by her when I went to her reading and it is one of the best children’s books ever. Seriously. It’s going to be the kind of book that will make kids lifelong readers and fall in love with fantasy. And there’s a wyverary!
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Again, beautiful language that’s a joy to read. But also there’s an intelligent and clever protagonist, a YA romantic relationship Done Right, creepy swamp magic, and the meta nature of this book with regards to stories, how they’re told, who tells them, and how they’re edited and manipulated.
Among Others by Jo Walton
I didn’t grow up in the sixties or seventies, nor have I read even a fourth of the SF books Mori reads over the course of this book, but it was as if this book was speaking to my soul. Others have called it a “love letter” to science fiction and to reading in general, and that’s probably the most accurate description there is.
Feed by Mira Grant
I don’t normally care for zombies in my fiction, but this zombie book was addicting. However, the zombies were not what made this book awesome. It was the world that people have constructed in order to survive them and the badass that is George Mason. Zombies and bloggers. And conspiracies. It’s a winning combination.
Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
It’s Tamora Pierce. It’s the final book in the Beka Cooper trilogy. It’s Tamora Pierce. Saying anything else is pointless.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
This particular entry is definitely the odd-one-out, not only because it’s not a SF or YA book, but because this is one I read for a class instead of on my own. My reaction to most Classics I’ve read is one of disinterest and boredom, so I was ecstatic when it turned out I *loved* reading this book. Jane Eyre is one of the best characters I’ve read all year. I see why the book’s a Classic – it’s as relevant now as it was back then, and just as well-written.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
This list has turned out surprisingly symmetrical – I began with the first book of the year and am ending it with the last. It’s such a painful book, especially because right up until the end there is so much hope. Taking place in an alien world in which every one can hear everything inside each man’s head, Todd, his dog Manchee, and newcomer Viola go on a journey to escape and warn others of the threat of Prentisstown. It’s written bluntly, but it’s spot-on capturing Todd’s thoughts and emotions. The characters’ relationships with each other make me want to cry. I’ll write a full post about this book eventually.
- Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
- God’s War by Kameron Hurley
- Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
- Plague by Michael Grant
- Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
- A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
- Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht
- In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
- Sky Coyote by Kage Baker
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how this year went, reading-wise. I didn’t read as many books as last year, but I still read a respectable number. Not to mention that I enjoyed the majority of the books I read and was only disappointed in a few of them. Probably my proudest reading accomplishment is re-reading almost the entirety of GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire over the summer in preparation for A Dance of Dragons (I re-read A Game of Thrones last December in preparation for the TV show).
For the next year, my plan is to pay more attention to the types of books I want to read at a given time. Too often, I check out books that I’ve been meaning to read because I’ve been hearing so much about them, but I’m never in the mood to read them, or I make myself read them simply because there’s been so much coverage about them online. So instead, I’m going to read what I *want* to read and not what I think I should read. This means I am not going to feel guilty that right now all I want to read are SF YA books and I’m going to ignore the voice in my head that says I should be reading more adult books. Because YA is excellent.
And hopefully I can keep up this blogging thing for another year, get better at it, and enjoy myself in the process. Any and all who’ve read/are reading this blog – have a wonderful new year.