Top 10 Reads of 2011

These are the top 10 books I read this year, though they weren’t all published this year. This was a really great year for books! I enjoyed a good many of them–I read 168 in all. It was a hard decision for the top 10.

1. Looking for Alaska by John Green

This was the year of discovering John Green. I blew through his books in about 3 weeks and loved each one. Three of them appear on this list. He is now one of my favorite authors.

John Green‘s Looking for Alaska is one of those books that comes along every once in awhile that is really, truly meaningful and affecting. It’s about the beginning of a relationship, the end of one, and terrible consequences to a horrific situation…I maintain that older teens–particularly those just about to leave for college–should read this. It’s mostly rated PG-13, though it stretches that a few times. [See my full review here]

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth’s Divergent sets itself apart from other dystopian tales (such as The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner), establishing itself in its own right as a series with emotional impact, a solid message, and a compelling story… Divergent was impressive. I had known about it for awhile, and I’d put it on my to-read list. However, when in a week’s time 4 different people recommended it to me (2 within 10 minutes of each other), I knew I had to get to it–it was entirely worth it. I’m recommending it to all of my students, as well as the teens at my library. I’m really excited about the sequel, Insurgent, which hopefully comes out late next spring. [See my full review here]

3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

If you played video games in the 1980s and 90s, if you love movies and music from that era, if you role-played in any way, this is the book for you. Ready Player One is The Lord of the Ringsfor all-around geeks. I listened to the audio book (though I own the novel), narrated by Wil Wheaton, and I can’t imagine a better narrator. He sells it thoroughly, really nailing it. Read this book, enjoy it, and revel in the sheer geek. [See my full review here]

4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss‘ astounding first novel captivated me. It took a few chapters for me to get into it. As with any epic, we begin in medias res, without much context, so it took me a chapter or two to really get hooked…What I most loved about this novel, however, is the storytelling. That’s what it’s all about: the power of words. A storyteller captivates his audience, he holds sway over them and can impact them. This holds true with Kvothe and his tale. The world is lush, composed with a poet’s eye for detail and turn of phrase. I could easily see many, many stories set in this vibrant land, populated with Rothfuss’ unique characters. It’s richly drawn through and through, with an intricate system of magic and steeped in deep layers of mythology. [See my full review here]

5. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

My only experience with Salinger had been The Catcher in the Rye, which I detested…And I was more than pleasantly surprised. I think that Salinger works best in short form. He is one of the preeminent writers of dialogue. There are different types of proficiency: true dialogue–the way that real people speak–and informative dialogue. Informative dialogue serves one purpose: to further the story. No word is wasted, everyone speaks only to contribute to the overarching plot. Salinger achieves true dialogue, with slang, non-sequiturs, odd phrasing, vernacular. I continually appreciated this feature of his writing. I will certainly read the rest of Salinger’s stories and novellas, as I judged him too harshly based upon The Catcher in the Rye. [See my full review here]

6. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

Though, I didn’t review this one on the blog, I read it for a Postmodern Lit class in grad school, and I fell in love with it. It’s not just about the Holocaust, but about the relationship between a father and his son, as well as the experiences that greatly and irrevocably affected Spiegelman’s family. It’s incredibly moving, one of the more powerful pieces of graphic literature out there.

7. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I loved this book. Rarely have I identified with a main character to such an extent. I understand a lot of the pain he’s going through; I know exactly what it’s like to really be a romantic but to have my heart broken, to see any small object as a reminder of her, and to be so self-involved that I could not imagine how my circumstances might be partially my own fault. Colin is much the same…[I]t tells the story of a road trip, which I’m always inclined to enjoy. My inclination was correct–I loved this, and I may or may not have gushed about it to my friends and family as I was reading it. [See my full review here]

8. Paper Towns by John Green

The more I think about this book, the more I appreciate it and, again, think that it’s one every teen should read. One of the prominent themes of the novel is identity. Margo calls herself and the people she hangs out with “Paper People,” and her hometown of Orlando a “Paper Town.” Paper Towns refers to a false front, something without substance but fronted by a lot of glitz and glamor–an affliction suffered by many people. There are times in this novel, as with Green’s others, that I laughed out loud, and others where I was emotionally affected by the journey his characters take. It’s an immensely readable and relatable novel. The relationships between his characters feel genuine, as well as the situation–maybe not the elaborate set of clues, but the need for answers and the unrelenting, eager search for truth is right at the heart of the human condition. [See my full review here]

9. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson, the man known for finishing Robert Jordan‘s epic Wheel of Time series, has put out a tome of his own. It is massive, though not unwieldy; it is exciting and absolutely worth the time that it takes to wade through the expansive depths in The Way of Kings. Rarely have I stayed up until 2 in the morning to finish a book. My friends will tell you that I’m pretty much an old man who goes to bed early. However, the last third of this novel kept me absolutely hooked, and I just couldn’t stop. This is certainly a time commitment, but it won’t feel like it. Read it, enjoy it, and eagerly wait with me for its sequel. [See my full review here]

10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This is one of those really unique books that just doesn’t come along every day. It’s written around old, peculiar photographs found by the author which he’s compiled and incorporated into the story. It’s delightful and enchanting, with a great premise and a good number of oddities. It deals with time-travel, the importance of taking a stand and not shrinking away from what the world might fling at you. Riggs’ writing style is humorous and whimsical, and he’s drawn me into a world where the strange lurks just around the corner; and the best part: he’s left me waiting for more.

Honorable Mentions:

The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

Grant Morrison‘s entire run of Batman

Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns

The Blackest Night/Brightest Day Saga by Geoff Johns


2 thoughts on “Top 10 Reads of 2011

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2011 « Elementary, My Dear Reader

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs « Elementary, My Dear Reader

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