Best Fiction of 2011
I’m always fascinated by the compilations of best books of the year released in December by various newspapers, journals and retailers. I look to see if my favorites made any of the lists, and to get ideas for the next best read.
I decided to compile the 2011 best lists from the New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Book Page, Amazon and Barnes & Noble to see which titles are mentioned the most. This blog entry will focus on fiction, and I will do another entry about non-fiction.
Several fiction titles stand out as among the best of 2011, according to these lists. Only one book made all seven compilations -- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Middlesex.
Three titles were mentioned six times:
- The Tiger’s Wife by first-time novelist Tea Obreht also received the 2011 Orange Prize, and was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award. However, it failed to make the Kirkus best books of 2011 list.
- IQ84 by Haruki Murakami originally was published in three volumes in Japan in 2009–10. The book, which is a tribute to George Orwell’s 1984 and features alternative realities, failed to make the Publishers Weekly best list.
- Night Circus, set in Victorian England, is the first novel written by Erin Mortgenstern and already has a movie deal. It is a finalist for the 2011 Guardian First Book Award. The only list this book didn’t make was the one by the New York Times.
Three books were mentioned five times:
- Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips, who has written several novels, including the well-reviewed This Song is You in 2009.
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, whose book Bel Canto won the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Pen/Faulkner Award in 2002.
- The Submission by debut author Amy Waldman deals with events following the 9/11 attack in New York City.
Two books made the cut four times:
- The Art of Fielding by first-time novelist Chad Harbuch was named Amazon’s best novel of the year. It is one of my favorite books of 2011.
- The Leftovers by veteran author and screenwriter Tom Perrotta, best known for Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher
Books mentioned three times include:
- Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
- Cain by Jose Saramago
- Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
- Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
- Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
- Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
- Paris Wife by Paula McLain
- Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes,
- Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman
- Zone One by Colson Whitehead.
Books mentioned two times include:
- Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
- Call by Michael Grant
- Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy
- Empty Family: Stories by Colm Toibin
- Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
- Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
- Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
- Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
- Magician King by Lev Grossman
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
- Moment in the Sun by John Sayles
- My New American Life by Francine Prose
- Open City by Teju Cole
- Pale King: An Unfinished Novel by David Foster Wallace
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
- Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz
- Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
- Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
- Stranger’s Child by Allan Hollinghurst
- Swamplandia! By Karen Russell
- This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park
- Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
- We the Animals by Justin Torres
- West of Here by Jonathan Evison
- Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
Notable omission: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, which won the 2011 National Book Award, was mentioned by only the Library Journal. This is not unusual. The 2010 National Book Award winner, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, was conspicuously absent from the 2010 best lists.
My favorites that made the cut included The Art of Fielding, Night Circus, Tiger’s Wife, Marriage Plot, State of Wonder, Caleb’s Crossing, The Paris Wife, Rules of Civility and Sisters Brothers.
I hope this gives you a lot of ideas for new books to read. Were any of your favorite books mentioned? If you want to see these best of 2011 lists, I posted links on our Readers’ Services web page, which you can find by clicking here. I also compiled a list of the Fiction and Reference Staffs' favorite books of 2011, where you also can find on our Readers' Services web page, or you can pick up a booklet at the Reference Desk.