Here it is the end of the year and what better thing to look back and reflect on than the books I read over the course of 2011. I read 85 books this year, the second most I've read in a year (I haven't tracked this number all my life but it's probably second most regardless) and 2009 being the most I've read which just goes to show, if you want to read a lot of books, being a librarian is a good way to go about doing it.
2011 had some really fantastic books, as well as some serious clunkers, but all in all I felt that it was a good reading year. I learned a lot, was entertained a lot, revisited some old favorites and found some new authors that excite me. These five, though, stood out.
#1 Running the Books by Avi Steinberg - A clear cut standout. Usually when you get out into the tail of the bell curve, the differences between any two points isn't that large. Not the case with this. No other book I read this year came close.
#2 Eleven by Mark Watson - My feelings about Steinberg's book say a lot because Watson wrote a really good novel. I would almost always rather read a good work of non-fiction, though, and so while Watson wrote what I almost consider a perfect novel, it's still a distant #2.
#3 Blood Horses by John Jeremiah Sullivan - I wish there was one book on baseball even remotely as good as this. This is a book that made me more passionate about something of which I was pretty passionate already. I'd think about making it number two on the list but I may be overweighting it because of its recency. No shame in being third on this list anyway. And Pulpheads will be read in 2012. Of that there is no doubt.
#4 Ghosted by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall - If not for the one scene, this might be #2 or 3. Unlike Eleven which is just done so well but is sort of "traditional" in a sense, Ghosted stands out because of its being so entirely different from anything I've read. And as much as I hated the one scene, it will help me remember this book decades from now (not that the rest of the book really needs help being remembered).
#5 Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer - Those damn Foers with all their writing talent. I can't wait for one of them to write something else.
Art of Possibility and A Barn in New England - I could put these two at 4 and 5 and be fine with it but they are re-reads so I will exempt them from the list. I wrote about them yesterday and so am not relinking.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - At the start of the year I thought it would be hard to top this book. It speaks to how great a year in reading this was for me that this doesn't crack the top 5.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender - My friend and co-worker JJ were looking over our reading lists the other day and we discovered that she had read six or seven of my two-star books from this year after I had read and recommended them. This was the only one of those she didn't like. I said in my review that this is a no-middle ground book and she helped prove that out (my friend Jason read it and loved it). I thought it was great but then I also have a Aimee Bender bias/crush.
How about all of you? I'd love to have some reader input on these for a change? Anything you read this year that stood out to you?